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Moving Toward Political Peace

Posted by Roberta Grimes • September 22, 2018 • 16 Comments
Human Nature, Media, Understanding Reality

Elissa Slotkin is the Democratic candidate in Michigan’s 8th District Race. She had assumed that her campaign for Congress would be built around pocketbook issues such as the rising cost of health care, stagnant wages and unaffordable college tuition.” Instead, her campaign events are “therapy sessions.” “Voters say they are tired of the anger and polarization emanating from Washington. They say they crave compromise. Yet these same voters view the rival party with disdain and frequently punish politicians for reaching across partisan lines. They want the anger to stop but can’t stop being angry.”

 The two malignant centers of righteous indignation in the United States are politics and religion. American politics has devolved from what once was a cordial biennial sport into continuous all-out warfare! As one of Ms. Slotkin’s supporters said, “How do you deal with friends and family that are constantly posting things that are not accurate or that go blatantly against what you believe?” How, indeed?

America’s Founders warned us against allowing political parties to form. George Washington said it best: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” It was as if he could foresee today!

When you study America’s racial problems, you find that all of them were caused by politically-motivated blunders over the past two centuries. Every one of them. Seeing how that tragedy unfolded has made me realize that politics has to be the worst way to manage any country! It isn’t only that political fighting can poison our personal relationships; and it isn’t so much that having political parties makes it easier for George Washington’s posited “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” to seize power. No, the worst thing about having political parties is the way their battling obscures the facts and makes wise decision-making nearly impossible.

 You cannot expect to hear facts from politicians. Informing you is not their job! Our system of government assumes that all citizens will inform themselves, and we will then choose our leaders based on what we know about our problems and which candidates seem best able to solve them. Back when voters understood their responsibility to inform themselves, our political system did kind of pretty much more or less work a lot of the time. Now, however, it does not work at all. The big difference between politics today and politics decades ago is that in recent years two political parties have taken over the dissemination of information in the United States. Isn’t “the news” supposed to be about facts? Yet if you watch MSNBC and Fox News on the same evening and attempt to reconcile their different sets of facts, your head could explode. Each of them calls the other “fake news,” and on that one point they both are right! As was said by the woman quoted above, “friends and family… are constantly posting things that are not accurate or that go blatantly against what you believe.” Since most of us now depend on a few politically biased sources of information, for Americans to suffer repeated bouts of righteous indignation against those who happen to live in a different political reality is inevitable!

One of the wisest politicians of the past century was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” One of the few things on which most people still agree is the fact that facts are factual. Somewhere there is an objective truth! The problem is that neither political party and no other major source of information really focuses on discovering that truth. For example, in the area of race in America here are two spectacular facts!

  • Scientists can now confirm that black and white Americans are all one race. There cannot be any differences at all between people based on skin color.
  • Racism is not a human trait. We inadvertently teach it to our children, so we can stop teaching it and soon bring an end to it.

If either of these facts surprises you, then you have discovered our urgent need for a source of objective, nonpartisan truth!

Building a repository of unbiased information about political issues should be easy. Voters might go to a website called, for example, SeekFacts.org, and look up any point of political differences. There they would find independently verifiable information, and also information on the political positions of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Surely there is an American philanthropist who sees a well-informed electorate to be our most urgent need of all?

Nearly all decisions that are made politically can be demonstrated to do more harm than good. Politics has nothing to do with actually solving complex problems! And the more we have politicized the decision-making process in this country, the more we have obscured the truth. For example, here are four highly politicized areas where I would love to have better information:

  • Gun control. I am open to the possibility that stricter gun control laws might be a good idea, but I will need to see solid evidence because the fact that Hitler first disarmed his victims to make the Holocaust possible was drummed into me in childhood. Why do we need more gun control? And what methods should work best?
  • Climate Change. I have done some research on possible human influences on the climate, and now I am even more confused. There are studies that show us soon frying eggs on the pavement in December. Other studies make an ice age seem to be more likely, while still others convincingly present a case for very little change at all. There is even some evidence that man-made global warming might be a wonderful thing! Surely there are scientists who can provide objectively verifiable information and help voters start to clear this fog?
  • Transgenderism. As someone who before the age of fifteen would have given my right arm to be a boy, I have followed this issue with interest. Some say that childhood sex change is a kindness, while others cite high rates of suicide following youthful gender transitions. There even is the disturbing possibility that experimenting with changing genders has become a teen fad. Where the lives of our children are concerned, we need the most objective information we can get!
  • Socialism vs. Capitalism. We are in the midst of a political debate about whether the United States should become a more socialist nation. Having lived through most of the twentieth century, I have seen enough history unfold to have developed a pretty strong opinion on this one, but younger voters need objective facts. As was probably said by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

On each of these topics, FindFacts.org might provide a Factual Summary, links to sources on which that summary is based, and both Blue Corner and Red Corner sections that would showcase each political party’s positions. The parties would be invited to write their own Corner statements, and they even could devote their Corners to political refutations of the Factual Summary. If they found new information to share that would pass FindFacts.org’s rigorous vetting, then of course the website’s Curators would accordingly revise their Factual Summary. In this way the political parties could use facts-based advocacy for their own positions as a way to help us better zero in on what is actually true. And with FindFacts.org available to them, voters could efficiently learn enough to develop their own informed opinions and head to the polls as more confident and much more open-minded voters.

Thomas Jefferson had a contentious relationship with the heavily politicized press of his day, but still he said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” On the topic of political parties he said, “The greatest good we  can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people.”  Perhaps foreseeing our present rabidly partisan moment, he also said, “He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

Political battling is a terrible way to make any kind of decision. And while we may not be able to move at once from a politics of destructive rage to a wise and benevolent form of government that is based in thorough study of objective facts, at least we can improve our political process and tone down the current level of righteous indignation by making it easier for all citizens to inform ourselves. It would be good, too, if we all realized that adamantly holding to our own beliefs is always a vice and never a virtue. Next week we will talk about the poisonous role of holding a deeply-held faith in anything….

 

photo credit: Johnny Silvercloud <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/116193477@N08/31976748254″>Divided</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

photo credit: Thomas Hawk <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/41758252662″>Corporations Are Not People</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Roberta Grimes

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16 thoughts on “Moving Toward Political Peace

  1. I love this post! I feel politics is the core of what continues to divide this nation (and the media is its rocket fuel). Finally, something worthy of my time to read (and share)! Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your lovely thoughts, Katalina! I think most Americans now feel as we do – that politics is the problem and not the solution – and for all Americans of good will to come together and develop a love-based and not a fear-based way to truly solve this nation’s problems is going to give us a whole new beginning. What an exciting time this is to be alive!

  2. Dear Roberta,
    Thank you for your wise words!
    Yesterday, I saw a advertising on TV, where siblings praise the political opponent of their own brother, who is running for office!
    That made me think of Luke…There will brother against brother…..or Matthew….A man’s enemy will be members of his own household.
    My best friend’s Professor brother is ” politically on the wrong
    side ; ) the anger is profound.
    Now, with Thanksgiving coming up, let us pray for guidance, that we may choose our words wisely without insulting our brothers and sisters
    everywhere. ( Guilty myself )
    Thank you for your straightforward and humorous words!
    You were my favorite Teacher at the Symposium in Scottsdale last year!
    Your books are really enriching my life!
    Love and Peace
    Heidi

    1. Dear Heidi, your words delight me! Someone who is so clearly steeped in the Gospels is at the same time free of fear-based dogmas and can see the signs of what Jesus said would happen and confidently face what is to come. I wish we were neighbors and could talk this through over lunch! Perhaps we are going to find that there are many others who also are empowered thinkers grounded in facts and not in dogmas; I certainly hope so. And meanwhile, I hope you are teaching others!

  3. Roberta, once again you inspire me with your courage in facing truth and leading us to the higher ground where I believe God wants us to be. We are all in this together so why do we reduce ourselves to tit for tat exchanges, social media tirades, anonymous sources, poison arrows… yes we are all sick of it. Your term is spot on.. righteous indignation. Thanks to your bold messages over the last few weeks, I see it in me, my family, work, the tv I watch. It’s everywhere yet getting us nowhere! I will keep this knowledge in the forefront along with a plan to be more loving, and understanding. I hold that image from the 60s where a flower child placed a flower in the barrel of a pointed rifle during a protest. These times feel a bit like those in my personal history. We need a new Beatles role model. All you need is Love! Lord help us all. And thank you again Roberta for your inspiration.

    1. Dear Abbie, thank you for sharing your thoughts! You know, I recall watching the news one night and seeing that picture for the first time. It was San Francisco, I think. All hell was breaking loose! Being young then made you wonder if the world would survive long enough for you to grow old; and being reminded of first seeing that picture makes me very happy to be able to say that, yes indeed, I did grow old! Politics was as much of a mess back then as it is now. Colleges closed early and didn’t even hold graduations in 1968, so I picked up my diploma from a table and went home. We survived that, though, and we will survive this; only this time around we will begin a genuine healing and not just survive. We will learn how to thrive!

      Here are three more great twentieth-century philosophers:

      The Youngbloods – “You hold the key to love and fear all in your trembling hand. Just one key unlocks them both. It’s there at your command.” (Get Together, 1967)

      Marvin Gaye – “For only love can conquer hate.” (What’s Going On, 1971)

      And of course John Lennon had the whole vision: “Imagine all the people sharing all the world. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will be as one.” (Imagine, 1971)

  4. Could it be that people so hate politics nowadays that there aren’t a rash of comments here? If you had called this something else and talked about the purpose if self governance, maybe there would be 66 comments rather than 6 at this point. The Dalai Lama says often that he admires the United States not for our size or might but for ozr system of self government. But what happens when the idea of self governing turns so in on itself that we, each of us, behave like we’re sovereign with no responsibility for the other “sovereigns”? Nationalism is just selfishness under a magnifying glass. I will have more to say after I get another cup of coffee.

    1. I think you are right, Mike, that people are altogether fed up with American politics! And the core reason seems to be that what used to feel at least reasonably rational has of late become nothing more than nakedly emotional warfare. It is no longer about self-governance, and certainly it is not about our debating the best ways for us to solve particular national problems. Nothing about it is facts-based, nor even is it remotely rational!

      What is interesting to me is that while people aren’t posting as many comments here, they have been emailing me more about this series. Their messages fall into two categories. I have heard from several people in the past two weeks who were shocked that I would talk about politics at all, most of whom seemed to be ardently anti-Trump and believed they could discern details about my own political views from the fact that I had mentioned the President as an example in the previous post without bashing him. They were all quite nice about it. They saw me as misguided, and they kindly took time to explain to me in detail why they were certain that our current President is the worst thing ever to happen to this nation. I tried sending a few of them links to articles I have been gathering for the post I am currently writing – just factual analyses, including one from US News that uses statistics to suggest that this President may be having the most successful first term in history. Nothing about my own political opinion, which is valueless. So far, none of the people I have tried to shift from emotion to rational analysis has responded, and I assume now that I may have lost them for life. I feel bad about that. If I didn’t see this conversation as so essential to the future of this nation, upsetting friends this way would be causing me to drop it in a heartbeat!

      What is wonderful, though, is that I have been receiving heartfelt emails from people who said essentially what Abbie, Heidi, and Katalina have said here. They had arrived at love and reason in the area of politics long before I did! For me, until now, this whole field was so distasteful that I have mightily tried to ignore it. A pox on both our political houses! But my work in the area of race made me see that every racial problem we have is the result of political battling tracing back to long before the Civil War; and now as I look more closely, I have come to see that literally every other problem in America has also been caused – and never cured – by the political process.

      So now I abruptly realize that politics is this nation’s core problem! It is the political process itself that is the biggest danger we all face now, so how can anyone who loves humankind and reveres America’s founding vision not feel the need to point that out and propose that we come together and find a more productive way to govern ourselves?

  5. I love this article, righteous indignation is such a good description of what we see in politics today. One of my best friends who very much leans democratic and once lived in San Francisco but now lives in a small town in the Midwest, sees the breakdown on both sides. He was once one of the most liberal persons I knew, but now we both agree that both parties are guilty of righteous indignation which weakens their message and any chance of appealing to those on the other side.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Timothy! I have been surprised to find that many people resonate, as you do, with the term righteous indignation. And it does give us a way to talk about how dysfunctional politics has become without our needing to blame either political party. It exists on both sides, and in fact each party’s righteous indignation further stimulates it in the other party! finally understanding that mechanism will be our first step toward moving beyond it, so for me, seeing how many people who have never reached out to me before have posted comments here or have sent me emails feels like an amazingly positive development. Thank you!

  6. Keep them coming!
    Also, another form of righteous indignation gone awry is the vindication people feel if someone goes to jail. People also sue one another these days for the silliest things that could be settled easily. This vindictive spirit I see everywhere, this thirst for revenge, whether in raw forms by the extremes of school shootings or through the so-called more “civilized” justice system, is nevertheless very destructive to our already damaged human civilization, as it is far removed from the wiser approach of forgiveness, reconciliation, and correction through unconditional love, not via the road of just punishment. Jesus gives the best examples of this. Jail is not exactly a place where people truly heal from their aberrant behaviors. Some come out having learned a lot from their fellow criminals and feel empowered.
    A problem I often encounter is that people are extremely bad listeners and display a very unhealthy dosis of ADD, also caused by our too fast paced lives and society. We don’t give or allow the time to listen well. Everything is instant, short, one-liners, even in humor. We are so distracted by ourselves.

    God bless, and I look forward to the next article. When you’re all done with them, I hope to see them in a pdf file we could download and then share with others.

  7. Dear Adri, your talking about our appalling criminal justice system really strikes a chord with me! This nation has less than 5% of the world’s population, but we are home to 25% of the world’s prison population. Nearly 40% of inmates are black, despite the fact that blacks are only 13% of our population. Most of them are imprisoned for minor nonviolent crimes, and for many their first imprisonment happens before they are old enough to vote… so then in most states they never will have the right to vote. One-third of African-American men now cycle in and out of prison! One in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, and thereby becomes much more likely to carry imprisonment forward by another generation. A very compelling case can be made that in fact no nonviolent offender EVER should be incarcerated! Adopting a good program of in-community penal custody which will let prisoners finish school, parent their children, and advance in their careers while they also are paying their debt to society would so richly benefit us all!

    Sorry… i had to say that. Almost no one realizes what a deep and appallingly wasteful and damaging travesty our criminal justice system has become!

    Thank you for your suggestion that these articles might be made available for download. People have suggested that they could be the basis for another Fun book, but I like your suggestion better. Aren’t we having fun, Adri? Finally figuring out why problems exist is the first, essential step in fixing them, as I learned when we did The Fun of Living Together. I do have a sense that things are going to change now, thanks to all of us, and that thrills me!

  8. It is possible to arrive at 2 very different conclusions and still be factually right. I was very confused when my history professor told me that, but he proved it.

    Personally, I don’t trust science and especially psychology precisely because of not only that, but also because it not only changes every few years, it reflects societal views.

    10 yrs. ago gender dysmorphia was a official disorder.

    40 years ago homosexuality was also officially a disorder.

    As a 18 yr old man I can tell you it is a fad that came from the Obama eras Supreme Court.

    It’s very sad….

    It’s one thing to be a tomgirl or a classy guy…. But mutilating yourself to reflected a fantasy is…. Just…. I wish I grew up in your time Roberta…

    As far as socialism….

    Socialist dystopias, Islamic caliphate’s and cartel empires will define the political maps in the coming decades and centuries unless something very very very drastic happens…

    1. Kurt, your comment that the same facts can lead to different conclusions reminds me of what is among the stranger aspects of the greater reality (we call it the afterlife, but in fact it is real life). Apparently in the greater reality it is possible for two opposite things to be true simultaneously! We are told this will make sense to us when we get there….

      The dishonesty that you believe you see in science is actually all political. On Saturday I will post a discussion of the insidious influence of beliefs on our public thinking. In fact, politics is just another religion, and like all religions it is now dying, so it will be our duty (and our joy!) to invent the next stage of human progress.

      It’s surprising to hear someone so young saying he would have liked to have been young long ago! It was astonishing to be there when the future began. I grew up in the fifties, which in the United States has to have been the most settled, stable, cheerful time in all of human history. I entered a women’s college in 1964, when in my freshmen biology class we were taught about pregnancy and things like the right trees to plant when we were on tree-planting committees. By my graduation in 1968, America’s cities were burning, there were anti-war marchers in the streets, women were being liberated (whether we wanted that or not), and colleges were closing early without holding formal graduations. Reading about it doesn’t even begin to convey how confusing, alarming, and invigorating it was to live it!

      Be of good cheer, dear Kurt. What is happening now is not even remotely as bad as things were back then, and we survived it. I have had a wonderful life, much improved by changes that at the time felt destructive. They were not, though: as Jesus said, they were birth pangs. And now, dear friend, you are going to be a part of deciding that this time around, the coming birth is going to be of a truly very much better world!

  9. Roberta, I’m a bit late to the party but just wanted to say bravo for tackling this very contentious subject. The political arena has always been a rather dismal place, and public life in the West now seems to be getting ever more polarised and angry.

    One factor I think is that the internet (wonderful though it has been for all of us in other ways) has allowed huge and mutually hostile camps to form around hot-topic issues such as race, immigration, gender and the rest. It has become hard for those who argue from a nuanced position, when they come under fire from their own “side” for not being extreme enough.

    And there are also the tragic limitations of language, which can make bitter enemies of nominally “left-wing” and “right-wing” people who could otherwise have been natural allies and colleagues.

    Idealism and access to factual information can play their part, I’m sure, but am not certain that they will be enough on their own. What could be a game-changer, eventually, is a growing general awareness that there is a vastly bigger picture available and that life is not a mere fight for survival, ending in extinction. Clearly that ties in with your fine work and that of others in spreading the word and making this field of knowledge mainstream.

    Alex (aka ForeverAutumn on the forum)

    1. Hello Alex/ForeverAutumn! Welcome, and thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I believe the only solution in the area of politics will be the same solution that is working in the area of religion: when enough people have had enough, things will indeed change. I am very much cheered by the emails I have been getting, and by the comments being made on this series of posts! There seem to be more people than I ever had imagined who are coming to these same conclusions, and indeed many have come to them before I did. There is nothing in the world more powerful than an idea whose time has finally come!

      The fact that the Internet has given playground bullies a place where they can attack and destroy people with impunity does seem to be a problem, but on the other hand as I read people’s emails I think that an Internet that can bring everyone together might in the end be a great blessing. People are becoming so fed up with a political system so profoundly dysfunctional! And – as you say – the dawning on the earth of the fact that all human minds are eternal is every day coming one day closer and it will be a game-changer as well. All of this is being orchestrated far above our pay-grade! And it begins to gather steam now. All that you and I need do is to find and carry out our own parts to play!

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