Time to reclaim our birthright

There are three sides to every story. My side, your side, and the truth. And no one is lying.
–Robert Evans

Politicians – those we elect to office and those we throw out of office – expend a lot of rhetoric on what it means to be an American.

So do pundits – this reporter included.

But I wonder in all this heated debate over Americanism, patriotism, totalitarianism, socialism and whatever-else-ism if we haven’t forgot that America was founded by people from diverse cultures with diverse opinions and differing viewpoints.

Instead we have become a culture of "either you’re with us or you’re against us." Those with differing viewpoints become an enemy to be ridiculed, threatened or banished.

Truth becomes absolute within singular points of view. If you are a conservative, anything that spills out of the mouths of moderates of liberals is a lie or treason or both. Liberals feel the same way about conservatives and moderates and moderates share the same opinions about liberals and conservatives.

I’m as guilty of this hypocritical fantasy as anyone. As a self-proclaimed political agnostic, I treat everyone with a bias as an unmitigated partisan who must be distrusted or ridiculed.

What too many of us forget is that people truly do have strong beliefs and those beliefs, whether we agree with them or not, should be respected and considered in context without immediately dismissing them as hogwash, hyperbole or lunacy.

I do not agree with many of the actions, decisions or policies of President George W. Bush but I do not hate the man. Yet I have written many words that suggest that I not only hate him but wish him eternal damnation.

I felt the same way about former President Bill Clinton. I didn’t care for his politics but I didn’t hate him although I wrote in ways that suggested I did.

Hyperbole can be a useful tool for writers, particularly those who write about politics. But does hyperbole add or detract from rational debate of the issues? Obviously, I felt it added.

I was wrong.

We cannot continue the coarseness that defines the national psyche. We cannot expect to find answers through taunts, insults or threats. We cannot resolve the many issues that plaque this nation by espousing hate or intolerance towards others with differing points of view.

In 40 plus years of dealing with elected officials as either a journalist or a political operative, I’ve met opportunists, con-artists and outright thieves. But I’ve also met sincere men and women who honestly believe they can make a difference. Those true believers include Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents and even a socialist or two.

The answer to America’s problems does not lie in rigid belief or acceptance of any singular political point of view. That answer can only come through careful consideration of all points of view and then using the best of those diverse perspectives to build a real coalition that deals directly with the issues without the taint of partisanship or political extremes.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of contributing to the anger that makes rational debate impossible. I was wrong and I’m sorry I did so. I can’t change the past, although I intend to go back and edit what I have written before, but I can use the future and this web site to try and promote civility and coalition building for a better America.

Because when all is said and done we’re not really conservatives or liberals or moderates. We’re not really Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians or any other stereotyped political label.

We’re Americans. It’s past time to remember that and reclaim our birthright.