Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Politically Bizarre

I lament that reasonable, legitimate concerns about policies of our government cannot be raised these days. The bizarre has triumphed; rationality is dead.

I have several concerns with policies and practices of our government, but I am reticent to raise them in any public venue, for fear of how they will be received. It is such a strange climate in our nation, and it is just getting stranger and stranger.

An idea has floated around here and there that the issue is “the extremes” on both ends of the spectrum. If the vast “center” would just claim our voice and speak against the extremes, the problems would be solved. “Both sides are in the wrong,” is the slogan of this view point.

I disagree. As I see it, the issue isn’t “the extremes.” The issue is “the bizarres.” (Side note: both of these would make great band names.)

“The extremes” would be the natural extension of a spectrum that runs from one “side” of the political viewpoint to the other. In this paradigm, one might be either an extreme conservative or an extreme liberal. However, to label the current governmental dysfunction as a problem with extremism does a great disservice to rational conservatives and liberals, some of whom are quite extreme in their perspective, and yet who are legitimately trying to lead a nation, or a state, or a county, or a town.

Good governance is possible, even by a group that represents a range of viewpoints. People with varying political perspectives can manage to govern, if (and only if) they do so reasonably, rationally, sensibly. And good governance can be achieved in that mix, even if some of those perspectives are on the extreme ends of the conservative-to-progressive spectrum.

No, the issue isn’t extremism. The issue is bizarreness. (Is that a word?) Public officials say truly bizarre things, and we actually listen to them. Celebrities carry more political weight than elected officials. A politician will state as fact something that is totally untrue and nobody challenges it. Or they will articulate a position that just weeks earlier they were completely opposed to, and we do nothing but nod at them.

Our short attention spans are mixed into the 24/7/365 news cycle and multiplied by technology that allows instantaneous, global connectedness. It’s just weird.

A sign of the times – there is a tumblr called “OfficialsSay the Darndest Things” that is just pages and pages of bizarre quotes uttered by politicians. To be sure, many of them are hilarious, but that’s beside the point.

You know, my mom used to tell me all the time, “If you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything at all.” Maybe we could adapt that for today’s political discourse. “If you can’t say something that isn’t bizarre, just don’t say anything at all.” Never mind that the cameras are on, that the tweeters are drooling for a quote, that everyone’s a journalist now. Just Stop. Talking. Nonsense.

Of course, you and I need to stop listening to it, too. It’s like a pimple; if you keep picking at it, it will just get worse and worse. Probably get infected. We need to stop paying attention to politicians who say bizarre things and maybe they will wither up and go away from lack of spotlight.

Or maybe we can stop responding to them as if they are rational people with a legitimate perspective. Maybe we just need to look at them funny and say, “That’s just bizarre. You cannot possibly expect me to take you seriously,” and move on.

Honestly, I have so much that I’d like to discuss about the state of affairs in our nation. I enjoy that kind of stuff. Or I used to, anyway. Back before the bizarre.


KC Bob said...

Good stuff Andy. Doubtful that sanity will rule the day anytime soo though.

bob said...

Maybe the problem is that we can't even define bizarre. If we can't define bizarre the opposite extremes are going to seem to fit the category.

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