a lot has been said about how divided this country is. i'm not so sure that is the case. our vote was divided to be sure, but i don't think that is because there is no common ground between us. during the campaign, i was trying to get non-voters to participate and nader voters to change their mind. one of the things i said was "it isn't a choice for the lesser of two evils, but for the better of two candidates." well the better candidate won. that doesn't mean i think he will be a better president, just that he was a better candidate and ran a better campaign. more than half of america voted for the guy. that is a fact, regardless of irregularities at some polls and the closeness of the ohio vote. most people who voted, voted for bush.
the nature of a political campaign is to accentuate differences between candidates and attempt to convince people to adhere to one side or another. the problem is, most of the issues where we differ are not the core ones. so what candidates do is try to come at the issues where we essentially agree in such a way as to create the illusion of a divide. they need us to take sides, so even if there is a consensus on an issue when it is presented in a non-partisan way, candidates spin it to create division.
here are some basic things that i believe the vast majority of americans would agree on:
1 - the world would be a better place without war, and we should try to eliminate it.
2 - the world would be a better place without hunger and we should try to eliminate it.
3 - the world would be a better place without disease and we should try to eliminate it.
4 - the world would be a better place without homelessness and we should try to eliminate it.
5 - the world would be a better place with a healthy environment and we should try to protect it.
6 - the world would be a better place if all people were guaranteed basic human rights and we should try to promote that.
7 - the world would be a better place if everyone were educated, and we should try to promote that.
what politicians do is pander to our fear, competitiveness, and selfishness to create divisions where, on a basic level, there are none
as jon stewart said on crossfire, "it's not an honest debate". he is absolutely right. the two sides figure out how to best promote themselves with respect to each issue, and then they repeat those lines over and over. there is no discussion, just a collision of slogans. there is no nuance, only black and white, red and blue. the basic commonality we share is buried beneath superficial semantics of division.
i'm not trying to blame some abstract entity for this problem. it isn't the media. it isn't politicians. we are all full participants in this. countless times over the last year, i heard people repeat the talking point of the week as if it were their own original thought. i did the same thing. over and over we post and crosspost the articles and email propaganda tailored for us so we don't have to think for ourselves. how easy it is for me to post maureen dowd's latest editorial instead of thinking through the issue and making up my own mind. i am guilty of this as much as anyone else. i also usually skim over the posts that came directly from moveon or the like, and i suspect most other people do as well. i usually, however, read posts that are the result of the blogger actually sitting down and thinking about the issue.
somehow, we must as a country, and as a global community, find a way to identify and embrace our common beliefs. somehow the nature of the discourse must change to one of common goals and honest debate about how to achieve them. we have become so obsessed with our differences as to methodology that we have lost sight of our unity of purpose.