San Diego — There is a sorry screed from the Daily Kos that is making the rounds on Facebook that basically tries to argue that people opposed to Obama have put their hatreds ahead of their love of country and that those on the right are only motivated by hatred as an inherent component of their philosophies. I honestly would expect no deeper thinking from writers for that group, but I confess I did expect better from some of my friends and students participating in that vast display of philosophical brilliance masquerading as a social network.
Setting aside for the moment that writers and readers of the Kos Kool-Aid (with apologies to Kool Aid for the association) are so blinded by their partisan biases that it is impossible for them to even conceive of the idea that someone could have analyzed the policies of the administration, compared those to historical ones and the results of them, and decided that it was THOSE POLICIES that were not good for the country, what is really at play is a purposeful substitution of labels for issues.
Calling someone a “Hater” or “Bigot” or any other ad hominem negative is the fall-back debating device of someone who has too poor an understanding of the issues or of the facts surrounding them to discuss them straight up. And what it does, to avoid a meaningful, educational, serious debate on critical issues — skills with which they have, by engaging in these label-slinging approaches, admitted to being completely unburdened — is to take the focus immediately off of their failure to support their own side and tends, unfortunately, to immediately place it on the person defamed to see how they will defend themselves. The approach appeals on an emotional level to others equally ignorant of the full story and, better yet, allows them to self-righteously and vicariously join in the fray as if they had some basic clue as to what was at stake and how all the parties and all of the competing philosophies fit into the mix. They know nothing other than primitive “us and them” verbiage and, in fact, are no less narrow minded, short sighted, small time thinkers, than would be the individuals they accuse of being haters and bigots if they had been correct.
In this day and age of sound-bites and quotes taken completely out of context, the media provides ample fodder for such mental midgets on all sides of the fray… and they do inhabit all sides. That they would attempt to devolve the discussion to their own inept levels is not surprising; it is a revelation, like swearing, of the extent of their knowledge and vocabulary, and to be expected. What is surprising is the ease with which individuals I would have thought more intelligent than that, not only fall for it, but, apparently only because it is coming from someone they perceive as a political ally, parrot it as if it had any substantive value or accuracy at all. That pathetic state of affairs is both surprising and massively disappointing.
All sides seem to agree that this is a critical turning point in our country though they disagree on which direction is good for us. I agree that this may be one of the most important elections in our history and that the stakes are as serious as any faced in my lifetime. So we are apparently agreed on something. Then can we not agree on something else? Can we not also agree that such a serious situation deserves, perhaps demands from all of us, better thinking than this fatuous labeling? It demands that we do our deep research into core philosophies and their derivations, into the historical record to see what has worked and what has not and question why things worked or not, and that we apply the results of that inquiry to our discussions?
Serious and even brilliant thinkers over history have disagreed with one another and come to competing conclusions which they have supported vigorously but often without resorting to this sort of intellectual immaturity.
So here is the question that will only be answered by behavior: have we so completely lost our intellects and ethics that we can only attack each other on such scurrilous grounds? Have we so devolved from the days of the founders, who also argued passionately for varying approaches to this bold new experiment, that we cannot take our discussions as seriously as they did? Has our educational system left us so intellectually impoverished that all we are left capable of doing is shouting ugly names at each other because we truly have no idea what informs the other side or to what conclusions they may have legitimately arrived?
If the participants of this churlish, childish discourse on Facebook are truly examplars of the greater voting populace, then it will not matter who wins: we and our country will all be doomed anyway.