“Americans are being held hostage and terrorized by the fringes. That’s what’s going on here. It’s not like fifty percent of Americans thinks one thing and fifty percent thinks another thing. No, fifteen percent on each side are effectively controlling the conversation and seventy percent of us don’t hate each other.” -Arthur Brooks, president of the “center-right” American Enterprise Institute
I don’t know where Mr. Brooks got his numbers, or whether the number is dead on seventy, but I agree with the assessment. There is a very vocal and active group on both sides of the political spectrum, far removed from the center, sowing seeds of division and we are allowing it. We are embracing the fringe not realizing, it is the fringe…it is not the mainstream, but I fear the mainstream is shrinking because of it.
Any anarchist, white-supremacist, radical, reactionary, religious nut, atheist nut or Russian troll, can sit behind a computer, pound out a meme reflecting the worst-case scenario or out and out lie, and we just pass it along, accepting it is fact. Any talk show or talk show host can scream at the top of their lungs and do the same. Why?
One, we are lazy, and I’ve been guilty of assuming the source is on the side of the “angels” instead of assuming they are playing the angles. After all, it must be correct, it’s on the internet. It must be true, so and so has a radio program and he/she said it was true. We are too lazy, or busy, to actually take the time to do research. I suggest if you are too busy to research you might be spending too much time on social media.
We seem to be into worst case scenarios and conspiracy. A recently proposed abortion law in Virginia brought out howls and vivid “pictures” of babies being ripped from their mother’s wombs and murdered. The intent of the proposal was not to give women the last minute, “free out” to motherhood but to give them a choice if their life was endangered or if the baby could not survive. The proposal has been put down, it is not law, but women in Virginia will not have the choice of saving themselves or saving their child. A terrible choice at best, but one that has been taken out of the hands of the people who should be making the choice.
We broad stroke everything. “All Republicans are racist or Nazis.” “All liberals want open borders and abortion on demand.” “All Christians want to turn the US into a theocracy.” “Muslims are taking over our country and want to institute Sharia Law.” “The Trump administration is full of Nazis and everything is ‘fake news’.” “This radical Representative wants to turn us into a Communist nation.” “The wall, the wall, ad nauseum.”
While there may be kernels of truth espoused by the fringe, it’s not THE truth for most of us in the middle are believing, those on either side of the political center, even most of our elected officials…but I fear the middle is shrinking…fearing the fear.
The hardest untruths to overcome are our own biases. The extreme fringe plays on our biases. Propaganda is not new, and it was never our friend. We live in an age where propaganda assaults us in ways even Hitler and Goebbels couldn’t envision. Whether it is a liberal or conservative bias in a news source, an active Russian agent, or little Johnny sitting in his momma’s basement trying to be cute, we must learn to recognize when a used car salesman or talk show host is puffing. We must realize EVERYTHING IS NOT A CONSPIRACY, and every point has two sides and both sides may have valid beliefs.
What I’ve noticed? Some of the worst offenders are “seasoned” folk like me. We seem to want to hold on to what is more comfortable…what we are familiar with…even it is wrong. We are uncomfortable with change or with different. I understand why I really do. The problem? The world is changing faster than we can accept and we don’t recognize it anymore. The world we live in vastly different than the world we grew up in…and it is not going to change back no matter how much we kick, scream and drag our feet. That doesn’t stop us from “wanting”. We latch on to rabid headlines or graphic talking points supporting “the way it used to be” or the “way we think it should be.”
Despite a changing world, we don’t have to change our core values, but we must become aware that there are people living in our world trying to destroy us, internally and externally, using our core values against us. We can also hold on to our core values without assuming everyone who does not share them are “out to get us and need to leave the country.” They have core values too that may not too different from our own…if we get to know them. We need to research over a broad plane instead of looking through the wrong end of a telescope.
I am much more assured we will withstand the external assault than I am the internal division. I am saddened over our apparent hatred. As we call each other inflammatory names, my heart breaks a little bit every day. I am not a libtard and you are not deplorable but we can be hateful to each other. We don’t have to be. We can find common ground.
Words do carry weight. Before you throw a verbal stone, at least check your sources. Do we need to help Boris and Natashia catch “moose and squirrel?” Do we need to help ourselves destroy each other? Do we really need another civil war?
Postscript: This post was written prior to the State of the Union Address and will be posted the morning after. I won’t watch the President’s speech and the Democrat’s response…or Bernie on YouTube. It is easier for me to read the transcript without hearing the emotion. I fear both sides will be heavy on puffing and light on substance anyway. I read that the President will call for unity and nonpartisanship. I hope he will follow through and that both sides listen. I’m sure the fringes will explain everything you and I need to know in the days to come.
The initial quote came from an interview by Politico. The entire article, ‘Americans are Being Held Hostage and Terrorized by the Fringes’, An exit interview with the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks may be accessed at https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/13/arthur-brooks-american-enterprise-institute-interview-218364
If you are unfamiliar with the term, “puffing” refers to “extravagant claims made by sellers in order to attract buyers.” It is the exaggeration of the good points of a product, a business, real property, and the prospects for a future rise in value, profits, and growth. https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/puffing/
Please take an opportunity to peruse Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM