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You Call This Civilized Debate?
by Adversary

It seems everywhere you look, political animosity runs amok. Flame wars are rampant on the net. The Opinion and Editorial pages pages howl with increasing fury. Pundits are ripping into each other with a gleeful fury. There's no escaping it, and the intensity is slowly escalating with each new dawn.

The Conservatives are proclaiming their dubious victory. Liberals are shouting their indignation and frustration. Moderates are quickly finding that it's easier to choose a side than to avoid the rising din. Finding any sort of middle ground is nigh impossible. But for all of this tremendous din, no one is doing any listening, and as such, they're making it worse.

The tactics used by each side are identical, a fact both sides refuse to acknowledge. Recently, Jesse Jackson has been demonized by a mistake he made in his personal life 20 years go. However, many of those pointing their fingers at Jackson have themselves been shown as having cheated on their spouses. As these actions increase, each side ends up ignoring the points of the other, no matter how valid they may be. Instead, each accusation is met with another. If one, both, or neither of the claims prove true, it doesn't matter. Just by voicing the allegation somehow deflects any attacks being aimed at your side, regardless of their validity. If our country is to get through this period without doing damage to itself, people are going to have to listen to the other side and consider their point of view, even if they don't like what's being said.

Conservatives need to realize that the current President won the Florida election through less than rosy circimstances, and he then made it worse by fighting every attempt to clear the muddy waters of Florida's election system. The subsequent decision by the Supreme Court to stop the recount, make a non-binding deadline a binding and impossible to meet deadline, and then exempted their ruling from affecting anything else only made the situation worse. Despite all his speaches about compassion, bi-partisanship, and uniting the country, their candidate in his inaugural speech dismissed all his detractors as "fringe people", and then sent out an executive order that followed his party line on one of the single most politically divisive topics currently around. These are not the actions of someone attempting to bridge the political divide.

On the flip side, Liberals need to understand that their political opponents are extremely frustrated after the last 8 years. They've had to suffer having every proposal of theirs either foiled or stolen by the Clinton administration. Conservatives additionally feel that their entire way of life is under attack, especially on the religious front, as their publicly supported religious displays are proclaimed unconstitutional. They've had these displays for decades, and many have come to believe that these displays are integral to their way of life, regardless of any constitutional violations.

Feeding this firestorm of words is the media. Their lassez-faire attitude towoards investigation, and increasing fascination for the "scandle of the day" flavor of stories ends up burying the truth. Through endless repetition by pundits, correspondants, and anchors, the truth is dismissed as a fabrication, and lies are accepted as facts without so much as a cursory review. George W. Bush breezed through this extremely long election cycle without being pitched any tough questions about his missing days in the National Guard, or why the number of years he claimed to have been drug free kept shrinking. Many of the fabricated allegations against Gore went uninvestigated, or had the results of the investigations killed after a single news cycle. The national media decided for us that it was better for us to hear endless accusations and surreptitious claims, rather than do their jobs and investigate the truth of the matter.

So where does that leave us? Just as our country was immediately before the Civil War, we are a country politically divided. But there are no clear geographic lines from which we can draw sides. And as the Industrial Barons fanned the flames that started the Civil War, the Media is greedily driving us to a frenzy, to reap higher ratings and greater advertising revenue. However underneath it all, we all claim to be fighting for the same cause: Democracy. Let us hope that it is not destroyed in the process.

 

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