Thursday, May 3, 2012

Discourse is one thing.

The beauty of writing a blog that often takes a political slant is that I am graced with responses from people who agree with me as well as people who strongly disagree with me.  I'm fine with being called an idiot and told my opinions are stupid, that doesn't bother me and, in fact, it actually brings a smile to my face because a pissed off person visiting my blog to tell me how dumb I am means traffic, clicks and, inevitably, money in my pocket.  To that end, I encourage those who disagree with me to share my blog with as many people as possible and visit daily to make sure I'm not writing anything else that might piss you off and demand an immediate and angry response.

See, trolling and being trolled, hating and flaming on the internet is par for the course when one dares to make their opinions public.  It's a fact of life that one must either deal with or avoid entirely by never posting anything that anyone would want to comment negatively on, ever.  You can either lurk in silence and watch other people catch hell for saying things you silently agree or disagree with, or you can wade out into the muck and open yourself up to the same anonymous abuse and insults by legions of internet tough guys.  I can understand why the majority of people who frequent web forums and other opinion sites don't post anything themselves, it takes a thick skin to deal with being flamed for everything from the ridiculousness of your viewpoint to your improper use of punctuation.

But, like I said, the internet is where the trolls dwell, discussions on the internet will almost always devolve into flame wars, random insults and general douchebaggery.  It's a public forum, open to contributions from all segments of the population, from people with serious, well thought out points to smart asses just looking to get some attention by saying whatever shocking or outrageous thing they can.  However, the internet is also the best place for these scenarios to play out.  A public forum is also a self-policing forum.  Trolls are outed and bashed, bad opinions are argued with good ones and there's always the option to just pull the ripcord and stop feeding the trolls by refusing to add to the discussion any further.  Most of all, though, the internet is not that serious.  Arguments on forums might get people angry in real life, they might cause people to get their feelings hurt or angrily repost said conversation in hopes of getting friends and others in agreement to rally to ones defense, but at the end of the day it's just words and arguments and comments and it's not seriously affecting anyone's lives.

Politics, on the other hand, is a different story.

When there are disagreements in politics, work shuts down.  Progress is halted and the country gets put on hold while our elected leaders are expected to reach an agreeable compromise as quickly and effectively as possible in order to get back to the business at hand and get our country moving forward again.  Historically, this has been the case and it's been an integral part of the democratic process.  Opposing political parties have differing views on the best way to deal with the issues facing our nation, they have differing priorities regarding which issues should be addressed or which policies should be implemented first.  In spite of these disagreements, our legislators have always found some common ground and while not every agreement has been equally satisfactory to all parties involved, agreements have always, ultimately, been reached.

Our political system today is less like the traditional political discourse that has shaped our nation and more like a bunch of angry, anonymous forum trolls looking for attention and playing to their "fans".

The spirit of compromise and agreement has all but been tossed out the window and replaced with a new attitude of unflinching contrarianism.  Civil discourse and polite, respectful disagreements have been replaced with public trash-talking, name calling and wild hyperbole.  All the while, the business of the people sits on the back burner while the people we elected to serve us bicker and argue like children and nothing gets done.

The bottom line is this.  If you sat down and talked with the average person on the street, more than likely you would find that you both agree on more issues than you disagree on.  You would find that we all have much more in common with each other than we have at odds.  Sure, everyone has different values and priorities and we all feel that there are different paths to take in order to move our country forward and make our lives better, but we all want to move forward and enjoy a better life.  The relatively minor disagreements about how best to move forward and better ourselves as a society can easily be resolved when we all share that same, positive overall goal.  However, the "business" of politics prospers from conflict, not cooperation.  There is far more to be gained by keeping the voting public at odds with each other than there is by helping us realize we all really want the same things in life and perhaps these jokers we put in office are the biggest barriers between us and our American dreams.

I know that I have engaged in some very biased political rhetoric.  I don't apologize for that, nor will I retract my statements or change my beliefs.  My politics are flexible, my principles are not.  What that means is, I'm willing to agree with anyone who has a good idea that would move our country forward and I'm definitely willing to disagree with anyone who's ideas would only push us backwards, regardless of what party those ideas come from.

What I am saying, though, is that conversations that don't advance the discourse and move us in a positive and constructive direction might have value when it comes to creating drama and electrifying the partisan bases, but they have no value when it comes to progressing our society.  Therefore, while I have no intention of compromising my core principles or softening my rhetoric when I feel some tough criticism is warranted, I intend to focus on finding solutions instead of just creating drama for drama's sake.  I still welcome any and all criticism from people who think I am an idiot who needs to be set straight, but I would encourage anyone who disagrees with me to offer solutions instead of just piling on more problems.  Yes, this is the internet and trolls, flamers and keyboard warriors abound, but there are also intelligent adults with real ideas too.  If we're ever going to expect our leaders to get their shit together, then we must expect no less from ourselves.

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