Tag Archives: still divided

Sad That We Can’t Discuss Politics

closed minds2

Today I went to the post office and I ended up being there for quite a while because I used the wrong envelope and I had to start over. I let people go ahead of me but by the time I finished my new envelope the line had not moved at all. Someone was getting a passport, apparently a very exacting and time-consuming task. If you ever get behind someone filling in passport paperwork and having it checked over you might as well leave, do another errand and then come back. There was one other clerk but she had an Aussie gentleman with very complicated insurance and packaging issues. So we stood in line. (At least we had a counter to lean on.) We began to discuss our pets who are, apparently, all spoiled rotten.

As our wait continued we began to discuss the conditions that were keeping us waiting. We were nice and did not try to make anyone feel too badly. The man next to me in line knew that the desk was one clerk short because the missing clerk was his wife. She had a vacation day. We were pleasant and civil and just chatting. But it was primary day so I mentioned my anxiety as I waited to find out the results of the voting. I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing Hillary Clinton win the New York primary. I was hoping people would pipe up and say who they would like to see win.

I know that politics is not a topic that is supposed to be discussed in polite company. But I, of course, can’t help myself. I wanted to know what people were thinking on this primary day. Sadly I believe it has become more difficult for us to discuss politics than ever. We should at least be able to talk about what we think we know about the candidates and where we got our information.

However, as soon as I said Hillary’s name a woman down the line made a sour face and said Hillary is a liar. Now I don’t think this woman knows Hillary personally. I could not really ask where the woman was from, although she had an accent, because as soon as I said Hillary’s name she made that disapproving prune face. If she came from another country maybe Hillary did something there that had upset her. After all, Hillary was the Secretary of State. I tried to probe gently, because I couldn’t accept an insult without some kind of backup, but the woman just repeated that Hillary is a liar.

Perhaps Hillary Clinton is a liar, after all everyone says she is, but I just tried to argue that the only way we know about Hillary is through the media and that it is always important to consider the slant of the particular media that is supposedly offering evidence against Hillary. When I have traced many of the “proofs” back to their source I have found the media to be right wing media. I would bet that the main source of news for this woman was FOX news. I will never know if that is true though.

The woman made an instant decision to dislike me because I had an opinion about Hillary Clinton that did not agree with hers. I would have loved to listen to the reasons why she had concluded that Hillary is a liar. I would have loved to share my reasons why I do not believe Hillary to be quite the monster that the media paints her. But the conversation was over and it was over with rancor on the part of one of us and dismay on the part of the other. Everyone else in that long post office line (we were there for about half an hour) said not one peep either during or after the exchange.

I can’t help thinking that it is sad that we can’t talk about politics at all in our free society, at least with anyone whose opinions differ from ours. People have chosen their favored media outlet and are not the least bit curious about what other media outlets have to say. We no longer take in all sides and try to make sense of all of the evidence. We make up our mind and any attempt to offer another point of view meets with a stone wall of anger and defensiveness. I know this has probably been true of every society from time to time when passions run high and answers are tough to come by, but it’s a shame and I hope such inflexibility disappears and that we will be able to try to analyze and decide important cultural matters with some sophistication and a spirit of mediation at some point in the near future.

By Nancy Brisson

What Does This Off-Year Election Mean?


What did yesterday’s election tell us? Our sample of outcomes was so small that there is little that we can say that would predict 2014 or even the more distant 2016 election. Yes a Democrat won in New York and that might show an urban exhaustion with the extremism of the Tea Party, but that is not all that unusual for a northern urban area, and Lhota is no Bloomberg. New York City mayoral elections are not, I think, a bellwether for future national elections. Bloomberg served a long time in NYC and the city was probably ready to change parties.

Many of us believed that Terry McAuliffe would win handily in Virginia over Ken Cuccinelli, but the election was actually very close, too close to draw the conclusion that Virginia will be a reliably purple state in the future. Ken Cuccinelli’s prissiness about 21st century sexuality may have been the sword that impaled him. He wasn’t the most lovable guy even if his puritanical statements and policies are set aside. But as feelings about the Affordable Care Act are running high, those feelings may have given him back some of the vote. As for Chris Christie in New Jersey, he is still riding the waves of his pretty much stellar behavior after Sandy tore apart the Jersey shore. He is not all that lovable when you get right down to it and if we are so enamored of sarcastic and outspoken men it is mostly a sad commentary on how few politicians speak their minds or show individualized personalities. To me, except for that Sandy support, he is just another extreme Right Winger, not really moderate enough to help bridge the partisan divide. If America ends up with what he’s peddling we will soon be an unhappy nation.

What I am seeing is that the fever has not broken. The groundwork laid by those ever-so-popular radio hosts, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and now Mark Levin runs deep in America and these guys continue to contribute extreme and hateful nonsense to this steamy pile, this celebration of white male supremacy day by day on, of all media, in this century, radio.

The very first time I happened to tune into Glenn Beck on FOX TV, before he lost his show, I was shocked to hear someone express these messages that were so wrong, but so carefully crafted to appeal to white people who were learning that they would become the new minority in America. This is not even true. Unless all the minority groups in America merge into one special interest group that votes as a bloc, and how likely is that, no one minority group will overtake nonblack/brown, non-Hispanic/Latino Americans. However, these groups really do live in America, they are citizens, they have been discriminated against, and they are gaining in education and influence, a very scary prospect for those who turn on the radio daily to listen to reminders of how white Christian Americans could and will lose control of America unless they rise up.

These talking guys have done a great job of riling up blue collar Americans, and white collar American men are quick to capitalize on the break they are catching due to these vituperations. These pundits are guys who have put their “warnings” in writing, whose message is that the America we all know and love is dying, being subverted, and that the vigilant must stop the corrosion and “take America back”. There is no doubt that their tireless energy and their message, however reactionary, has resulted in the Tea Party phenomenon we are trying to understand today. It is a movement of nostalgia, a movement that longs to recapture supposedly simpler times, like the 50’s (and for big business the 1890’s). It is a movement that even wants to put American women back in their “proper” place.  This actually may be the last hurrah of white paternalism or the beginning of a Fundamentalist state, depending on which way America jumps. The 2014 election may give us a better picture of whether we will be undoing everything we have done over the last 5 decades (undoing everything that we will eventually have to do over again) or moving forward, however reluctantly. Every planet goes retrograde sometimes. This election did not show us what will happen next. The partisan divide holds.

This is the view from the cheat seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioniblog.blogspot.com