“The Deaf Speaking To the Deaf:” A Critique on Politics

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Republican Sound Bite. Democratic Sound Bite.

Imagine the usual cliché. Two people meet, most likely possible mates, and their initial attraction to one another invites them into harmless discourse. After an hour, or maybe even two, it has become evident to both people that this is a good match. After a tenuous start filled with awkward moments they were both surprised and delighted with how smooth and easy it went. It seemed too good to be true. Their mutual love for dogs, the outdoors, and their shared guilty pleasure for TLC reality TV shows has established respect for both mates. Further discussion ensues and now they are not only amazed by their commonalities but each other’s intelligence. Now that recognized respect begins to enter dangerous waters as they begin to talk about socially heavier matters. And now it’s as if all the attraction and respect the two have begun to develop for one another is about to be thrown overboard now that person 1 knows that person 2 is a Republican. The opposed thinkers began to ask themselves “could I really live with someone who is so wrong?”

How different are we from these two people who will disregard all the respect that they have taken the time to construct for one another just because of their contrasting political views? The question of whether people can like and respect someone, even with someone they disagree with is at the heart of a phenomenon that has turned into a social disease threatening our political system.

It seems that as a society we are fragmenting because we emphasize our differences rather than our commonalities and these differences define us and prevent us from seeking accommodation and understanding. They distort our judgments of each other inducing us to think of those who disagree with us as stupid or evil.

“People confuse the intensity of their beliefs with the likelihood that they are right.”

–Michael Josephson 

As I have been budding out of my youth, I have been invited to participate in adult discussions—and due to our current election, the diverse and often contemptuously articulated opinions of our running candidates fans the flames of partisanship.

No one really listens or considers what the other side is saying except to formulate a new put down—I’ve gotten pretty good at that myself.

I have personally observed extremely intelligent people descend to insults rather than insights during political discussions.

I have grown to understand we are unfortunately accustomed to allowing our political views to dictate our opinion of a person’s morality and intelligence.

You're Not Stepping On It Right

My father is an ethicist—don’t feel bad if you don’t know what that means, most don’t—and he had a radio show where he was given every morning to voice his opinion on any matter he chose. So hearing my father publically announce his beliefs became a routine and taught me to fearlessly share opinions of my own. But as I have become more educated and passionate about my beliefs, I have found it hard to not immediately disregard opposing views.

In one of my dad’s radio commentaries he discussed this problem with a name: blind partisanship. He said, “Blind partisanship is a toxic disease that threatens to destroy our democracy. It turns politics into and endless competition and generates a win/lose mentality that does not allow for compromise. This is fatal since the most pressing issues of our day are bound to generate disagreements that are is so wide and certain that compromise is essential.”

It’s one thing to share our political opinions but it’s not helpful if all we do shut down the conflicting views. These turns would be a discourse into a battle and produces the fallacy that political positions are about right and wrong rather than just opinions on what is right and wrong. What’s worse, we use these opinions as a measure of one’s character and intellect.

We have allowed ourselves to disregard the fact that political opinions not only deal with ethics, but accessibility as well.

Ms. Burney, do we have anything on right and wrong?

Seeing everything in the binary light of good and bad, or even right and wrong, prevents us from seeing the multi-dimensions of politics. The goal of politics is to find a solution, but because we are unable to address the complexities of the issues, including the possibility that differing views may be right and the necessity of democracy that we find compromise solutions, we ultimately never find a solution at all.

It seems to me that before we can even tackle controversial issues in politics, we must stop associating our beliefs with truth. If not, we see everything only through the lens of our pre-existing opinions – that’s a form of prejudice.

“There was a universal language in the world that everyone understood … It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.”

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

We must realize that there are other lenses that cause us to see different things. Ours is just one of the many ways you can look at that problem. Blind partisanship has hindered the progression of our society and has altered the meaning of compromise to become equivalent to a lack of integrity. We must realize that honor does not require stubbornness or close-mindedness or arrogance.

If we truly listen to and seriously try to understand the values and beliefs of those we disagree with, we may find that we actually have more common ground than we think and we may be able to find solutions we can all live with. If not, at least we can realize that even smart and good people can disagree with us.

Incidentally, those two potential mates have learned to tolerate their differences and celebrate their commonalities and they’ve been happily married for 23 years—they go by the names of Mary Matalin and James Carville and their living proof that blind partisanship can be overcome.

Works Cited

Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. [San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993. Print.

Doherty, Brian. “HIT & RUN BLOG.” Reason.com. N.p., 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.     <http://reason.com/blog/2011/03/23/one-advantage-of-blind-partisa&gt;.

Josephson, Michael. “Blind Partisanship.” KNX 1070 News Radio. Address.

Malcolm, Andrew. “Top of the Ticket.” Dear Abby: How Do Mary Matalin and James Carville Stay Married without Homicide? Los Angeles Times, 29 Dec. 2009. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. <http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/12/mary-matalin-james-carville-marriage.html&gt;.

Mankoff, Robert. “Republican Sound Bite.” “Democratic Sound Bite.” Cartoon. The New Yorker. N.p., 1977. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/Republican-sound-bite-Democratic-sound-bite-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i8478913_.htm&gt;.

Mueller, Peter. “You’re Not Stepping on It Right.” Cartoon. The New Yorker. N.p., 2 Mar. 2009. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/You-re-not-stepping-on-it-right-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i8546338_.htm&gt;.

  1. Hi Aby

    I am a Vice Principle in Manchester (UK) and found your incite into US politics extremely interesting. Over here in the UK we do hear quite a bit about US politics but it is REALLY different to UK politics. The main difference being our Monarch and the role she plays within her Government. I’m sure you’d find it very interesting!

    I was given the book ‘The Alchemist’ a few months ago and it is my top drawer of my bed side table. You have inspired me to get the book out this evening and start to read it!

    I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your post – Keep blogging… There is an audience out there that is genuinely interested in your voice!

    Keep Blogging!

    Mr. Mitchell
    Deputy Head Teacher
    Heathfield Primary School
    Greater Manchester

    • I second The Alchemist recommendation, David. Enjoy it. Thanks for the comment here.

    • Mr. Mitchell–
      Thank you so much for reading my blog. Your mention of UK politics really resonated with me and I am very interested in learning more. Do you recommend any websites or articles?

      In regards to “The Alchemist,” I highly suggest you read it. My English teacher told me to read it in the tenth grade, and since then it has had a profound impact on me.

      I thank you again for your kind words and I look forward to hearing from you.

      Aby Josephson

  2. The Alchemist is indeed a good book. Concerning the blog, great to read it. I enjoy the way you write, and I will for sure read you article about globalization. For what I have seen it is kind of linked to mine about global issues.

    • Nadia–
      I’m really glad you enjoyed my blog post. The article on globalization was actually written by my classmate Sierra, but you should still give it a read (I just thought I’d put credit where it was due)! I took a look at your global issues article and I found a lot of interesting insights. In my Global Studies class, I’ve recently been discussing the correlation of human rights and the economy; your article seemed to overlap those concepts. I also believe cultural intolerance contributes to many of our problems.

      I look forward to continuing to follow your blog.

      Aby Josephson

      • Thank you for your feedback Aby. For sure there are more global issues. There is so much to be said, so I picked the ones I considered to be the basic ones, because together they create an interconnected net that involve so many others. For example, poverty and the growing population together lead to emigration, which leads to an increasing criminality when it’s not well-integrated, when they are excluded. The hegemony of international companies generates employment, but also generates employees’ exploitation. One of the reasons for capitalism to fail has to due with the fact that several human rights are not respected. Finally, I have excluded cultural intolerances, because I considered them a source of conflict/problems, and thus should be treated as so.

      • Let me know more about my overlap and what you think I could have added. It’s always good to get to know other perspectives.

  3. There is something in us that requires us to draw lines in the sand and dare each other to cross. When you couple that basic ‘need’ with our innate ability to make decisions based on little or no information you have the prefect opportunity to argue over politics. I suspect that mostly we don’t argue about the politics, we use the politics as an opportunity to argue.

    • William–
      I appreciate your comment. Your last line struck a chord in me. I really find truth in the concept that we hide behind the topic of politics. You summed it up so perfectly. Before we can even step into the arena of politics, we must recognize why we feel the need to argue in the first place.

      Aby Josephson

  4. As an independent in a hugely liberal part of America, I find that at first there is a lot of friction. However, when we discuss actual issues instead of slogans, the conversation becomes more productive and we find we actually agree more than we disagree.
    The best form of democracy is one where people can discuss issues openly; I find that politicians and their slogans/party platforms make that less so.

    The only way this will ever improve is if people raise awareness stop it. If verbal-bomb throwing becomes less effective for politicians, people won’t feel the need use it either.

    • Patrick–
      I find a lot of truth in your post. In our present society, we often hide behind catchy phrases and advertisements to lure in an audience but a commercial jingle can not sum up the complexity of a political view.

      Aby Josephson

  5. Humans seem to have a tendency to split themselves up into neat groups of opinion- from past experience, I have observed that ambiguity or apathy is generally frowned upon. Additionally, once we have made a decision, we are loath to accept that we are wrong, and argue, even if our arguments are irrational.

    • Mukund–
      I think you are correct about the human experience. People tend to harp on a issue even if they find the facts to be incorrect just so they don’t have to admit they were wrong. When did being wrong correlate with surrender? Just because you argue your belief with irrational points, does not necessarily mean your belief is irrational. I think there is a very thin line between the two, but arguments do not just fall in a black and white category.

      Aby Josephson

      • “Just because you argue your belief with irrational points, does not necessarily mean your belief is irrational.” I absolutely agree with that statement. However, if you base your argument on irrational points, do you change your views about your belief, possibly rendering it irrational as well?

  6. Unfortunately, in recent years, the vast majority of politicians who would compromise with the other side and work for a common goal in Congress have lost their seats. What has resulted is that the senators and representatives either lean far to the left or to the right. This allows almost nothing to get done, as humans generally tend to believe that they are right and those who oppose them are wrong. I truly hope the people who are willing to work with the other side shall be elected in the future for this country’s sake.

    • I believe you have addressed the reality of our current political situation. If you look back on political history, the facts even show that radical beliefs do not create a radical solution. For example, I just recently finished a research paper on radical lesbianism and it was very telling of the extremist downfall. It seems that very radical beliefs, or like you said, very left or right winged thinking, actually hinders the progression of any effect. Super exclusive parties seem to get so fixated on their own niche, that they begin to overlook the reason they formed their beliefs in the first place.

      Aby Josephson

      • Aby,

        You are definitely correct in that super exclusive parties seem to get fixated on their own niche. I find it laughable though that we are even in this situation. Our so-called leaders and policymakers sit around making policies for their own party to not negotiate with the other side while most families suffer because of the economic slump… I am truly at a loss at how the same people in the suffering families elect these officials. Any ideas?

        -David (shoults076)

  7. Hi Aby,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post! Not only was the topic itself interesting, but the examples and personal stories you used were both engaging and relatable. Like you, I have witnessed many people use insults on people with opposing opinions rather than creating an in depth conversation. No matter where we go we are going to run into people with different political beliefs, and despite having different beliefs we could learn so much from them.

    Once again, this was such an insightful blog post!

  8. Hi!
    I am a student at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile. I and other classmates will be commenting on your blogs. I think as an adult you have to put your opinions aside and realize that others also have one. Sometimes even the most heated topics (politics being one) you need to respect others political views. I was always taught religion and politics were not discussed, but respect other views. I really like your post. It shows politics in a new way. I believe you can over come different ways of thinking and reflect on commonalities.
    Tina Behel

  9. Hey! I am a student at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile. I really enjoyed reading your post and it gave me a completely different view of politics. I loved your examples and personal intake because it gave a something to relate to and made the post more meaningful. I completely agree that we are always going to run into or talk to people with different outlooks and instead of criticizing them, we need to learn more about them and have a deep conversation. I loved you post and look forward to seeing more of them in the future.

  10. Hey!! My name is Ashley Zaworski and I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your post and I couldn’t agree more with you. My dad is also very much opinionated and speaks his mind as well. His favorite topic is politics. He has lots of opinions about the people and way our country is ran. I’ve heard it all my life, so therefore, I’m just as opinionated as he is. I do think that in people’s political views, we focus too much on the differences and who we think is right and what we think is wrong. That is why nothing ever gets done and problems are never solved. Our country is still in tons of debt, many people are still unemployed, taxes are still high, and the rich are still getting richer while the poor sink into poverty. I think that if we took a step back to look at the big picture of needing a solution and what can we do to fix this, things might be resolved.

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