In his wonderful book On Writing, Stephen King advocates any writer to discipline themselves and jot down at least that much daily. When I look at the infrequency with which I’ve been posting lately, I think it’s clear that I don’t self-identify as a writer. However, some of my friends consider me to be one, and part of me wants to buy an iPad based almost exclusively on the Writer app. Whether that’s my desire to communicate ideas through the written word or my appreciation for good design, I’m not sure.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a writer, but my goal has always been more that of a raconteur. Like Garrison Keillor or Kinky Friedman or possibly the greatest of them all, the little-known Sam Clemens. I like to entertain. I like to educate, or at the very least stimulate some thought or discussion. I have no desire to publish a novel, as I don’t really have any stories of that length to tell. Publishing a coffee table or waiting room book, with a new short and clever thought on each page would fine by me. And I very much love talking about really big, heated topics like politics and religion in frank but good-natured way.
There was a time where I would have considered myself as right-wing as could be. I still lean heavily to the political right, but I consider my positions more carefully and with reason now. And it largely happened because through circumstance I found myself on a date with a woman that was reasonable, politically liberal, and a brilliant conversationalist. Oh, and the circumstance was that she was gorgeous and I was a young man with all the motivations that accompany youth.
The point is this: over a few Coronas and the largest plate of nachos Maricopa county has to offer, people can come to common understandings if they’ll talk things out and quit calling each other names. The single biggest reason I want to punch Bob Beckel in the mouth has nothing to do with his political beliefs, but because he’s a snide, smarmy son of a bitch. But if we could get away from the bullet points, bumper sticker arguments about issues, and time constraints of a spot on a television news show… If all the name-calling were to be dropped, or if people could set aside their passions for just a short while and talk through why they were insulted and come to a common understanding of terminology… If Bob and I could have a few Coronas and a massive plate of nachos, I’d like to think we could both leave that table with his teeth still intact.
Now, this is just in relation to American politics. And there are two truths that simply have to be lived with. The first is that you can’t negotiate with everybody all the time. The second is that American television is all politically slanted and I believe the public is manipulated into passionate fighting over red herrings.
You can’t negotiate with everybody all the time. I’m going to start a fight here, but I don’t care. People who believe unequivocally that all problems can always be discussed into resolution are, in the medical sense, idiots. While well-intentioned, they forget that real discussion requires both parties be rational and willing. This is the all-too-common of projection; thinking, “I can discuss this calmly, so they must be able to as well.” This is what leads to political correctness, and bumper stickers that tell us to “coexist” in a stylized fashion. Because it’s a religion of peace that flies planes into buildings and saws off the heads of innocent civilians. Because it’s a benevolent government that would imprison it’s own population. There is such a thing as evil in the world, and no amount of rational talk will keep it at bay. Monsters must be fought and defeated, or they will surely consume us all.
We’re manipulated into believing who is or isn’t a monster. Even Michael Moore can be correct from time to time. In Bowling for Columbine he comments on the news media in America and the constant fear-mongering. “Coming up after the commercial break: what you don’t know just might kill you!!!” The hype machine we live with as Americans is ridiculous and ever-present. Constantly telling us that this is a threat, or that isn’t, and by all that is Holy the future of mankind hinges on the upcoming issue. Because we’ve seen monsters in the past. We know they’re real. Now we just have to figure out if we’re really being told about a monster, or if it’s tales about the boogeyman to frighten us into acting like the storyteller desires.
How many on the left truly believe the Tea Party movement is nothing but a bunch of racists that hate Obama? How many on the right believe that Occupy is nothing but a bunch of homeless hippies demanding Socialism and freebies from the government? (For the record, I do think most Occupiers are Socialist idiots despite it’s repeated historical failures but I also agree that CEO bonus packages in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown and US Gov’t bailouts were criminal.)
And maybe this is the best example. Here we have two distinct camps, both making news, and roughly over the same issue: money. Tea Partiers really just believe that a person is entitled to what they earn. While the Occupy message may have started out with good intent, it’s now seen believing they’re entitled to what somebody else earns (which is theft). Occupy lost me because of the 99 vs 1 percent argument, and truly devolved into drum circles and hippies. If they’d have stayed on-message about theft and crooked dealing of specific CEOs and companies, they’d have won a lot more people over. But instead it became Beckelesque bomb throwing about “evil corporations” and “we are the 99%”. It’s a clever bit of marketing, succinct and memorable. The problem is it fundamentally strips away the idea of being able to elevate oneself through hard work to a better financial standing, and instead comes across as Winston Churchill’s view of Socialism: a philosophy of failure, gospel of envy, and equal sharing of misery. Occupiers message becomes one of preferring to tear down the successful. In contrast, the Tea Partiers want less government intrusion and state-sponsored theft in the form of income taxation. (Right now I lose 35-40% of my paycheck to taxes.) This is on top of the taxes we all pay for property, telephone bills, taxes included in the price of gasoline, tobacco and alcohol, your vehicle registration… The list goes on and on. Services like roads, sewage and electricity are services we already pay for: they are NOT provided for by income taxes as Tea Party detractors would have you believe. But the Tea Party had the unfortunate timing of forming after the election of America’s first, and long-overdue, non-caucasian President when their message was just as applicable decades earlier.
I know my summary of the two camps wasn’t equitable, but this is my blog, my lens, and my point remains this: Both of these ideologically opposed groups fundamentally want the same goal, which is a little bit more money in the hands of the everyday Joe. The problem lies in the methods and words used, and the retelling of the story by the news media. I wonder what would happen if we could get both sides to calm down, talk rationally instead of emotionally, and share some beer and nachos.