My friend Ari, has his own blog, but for whatever reason he has yet to catch the blogging bug. He hasn't written a post in months and his blog is gathering dust. He does however have a series of people he corresponds with through email, and he occasionally forwards me his exchanges.
They are often filled with nuggets of wisdom and insight. Here is a recent one that I felt like sharing.
I've been in the wilderness politically (to sort of riff off your forest/trees metaphor), and my journey away from the political fray taught me a lot. or maybe just one thing, but it is a huge thing: political discourse (rhetoric) and critical thinking are diametrically opposed to one another....to wit: if we are asked what is the hallmark of critical thought...most of us would say something about a type of thinking that can see multiple dimensions on a single theme, even if those dimensions are disparate, conflicted, contradictory. in short, an advanced pro-con list. ...in politics, however, law makers and media hacks (glenn beck, rush limbaugh, dobson, et al--insert the left wingers you hate here) speak in absolutes. dick armey is a perfect example. and so is rand paul. there is NEVER any discussion about...say, how the free market needs to allow individuals to buy and sell products, and agree on a price, without outside intrusion...AS WELL AS there needs to be some regulations placed on the so-called free market in order to ensure the values of america--social welfare, personal liberties, maximization of freedoms are protected. in short, politicians and hack(neyed) pundits ALWAYS speak in absolutes and NEVER in on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand-that.
...so what? you ask. A LOT. because politics (as it exists in this country) forces us to be partisans...to ONLY see our side of the issue, and to denigrate the other side, totally refusing to see the veracity of the other side(s). and thats just not how the human brain works, or at least, works best.
...our particular gift as primates is the ability to hold competing ideas in our minds at the same time....politics doesnt allow for this...again, by politics, i am talking about political discourse...which drives/fractures our country into blue states and red states...into people who believe their issue/party is always right and the other side is always wrong.
...heres the thing: take the iraq war. the way our political leaders have set up the system of debate...its you are either for it or against. recall bush saying: "with us or against us." genius. ...because that negates any philosophical debate on the issue, and instead turns it into an ideological foodfight where its waring camps who scream at each other in absolutes. but a fair-minded person, as i like to think of myself, would think the following about the iraq invasion: "i am against war, but i do believe in protecting myself and country. it seems we have intelligence that saddam has WMDs...so i'd be in support of getting rid of those, but i also believe in the sovereignty of nations, so i dont think we can get rid of their govt, and even if i think i might support it, at what cost--both financial and human? ...i do think the president should be given the benefit of the doubt, but i also think citizens are the last defense against tyranny. america has a right to defend itself against a clear and present threat, but perhaps we can use NATO or the U.N. to ensure peace through strength."
...or something like that. instead, dan, i get called anti-military, or anti-american.
please please PLEASE dont respond to my minor points or examples. my main thesis is politics is a big, epic fail in this country because it traffics in absolutes and disallows the idea that a person can, say, believe in environmental protection AND economic growth.
no. one is either a tree hugging commie...or a callous cost-benefit pig who puts profits before people.
coda: the more our nation continues this foodfight of ideological absolutes, the more we slouch toward idiocracy.
imagine if we lived our life the way we live our politics. for me it would look something like this: the lakers are ALWAYS good and any other team is ALWAYS bad. cycling is ALWAYS good and any other for transportation is ALWAYS bad. fruits, veggies, diary is ALWAYS better than eating animals. non-fiction is ALWAYS better than fiction. woody allen ALWAYS makes good movies (hardly).
you get the idea. the only way to make sense of the world, the issues, and who you are in this world is to step outside of the maelstrom of political warfare...and rediscover how your brain really likes to think--namely a person who can see the benefits of something but still, in the final analysis, choose to vote against--with your vote, dollar, etc.