Guilty On All Counts

Like too many people today, I get caught up in the hyperbole that passes for political debate.

In anger, I throw in buzzwords and epithets designed to inflame passion and, frankly, piss off the other side.

It’s a cheap trick, a lazy one in fact that adds no substance to the discussion and serves only to increase the rancor that has taken over any attempts to discuss the issue of the day.

And when I really want to get under people’s skin and dig my nails in to where it hurts, I’ve compared President George W. Bush to Adolph Hitler and the actions of his administration to what was happening in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.

It generates a lot of email, visits to this web site and debate on Internet bulletin boards.

But it’s still a cheap trick and, in retrospect, a stupid one.

In today’s superheated political atmosphere, we should be looking for ways to resolve our problems, not create new ones or increase the festering of existing sores.

America is divided. Republicans blame the Democrats. Democrats blame the Republicans. Conservatives decry liberalism. Liberals warn abut the threat of conservatism. The right hates the left, which is fine with the left because they can’t stand the right.

Everybody is shouting. Nobody is listening. Nothing can be accomplished because no one is willing to stop screaming long enough to stop and say: “Hey, wait a minute. How can we work this out?”

The sad truth is we can’t work it out. Not as long as we think only in divisive terms and speak only in the language of anger.

Republicans claim today’s political dissension is caused by Democratic hatred of President Bush. But the vitriol you see directed at the current President is very, very similar to the anger Republicans focused on President Clinton for eight years. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when civility left politics, if in fact it ever existed.

But the rancor we see in politics reflects a growing hostility in our day-to-day lives in a society where lawsuits dominate, “in-your-face” confrontations accent professional sports and high school students take a gun to class to settle differences with classmates.

Our society thrives on conflict, on an “us versus them” mentality – rich vs. poor, haves vs. have-nots, Republicans vs. Democrats, conservatives vs. liberals, right vs. left.

Amid all this anger, we loose sight of what our country’s founders defined as “truths that are self-evident,” that all of the citizens of this country are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Perhaps “happiness” is the key word here. Not much of that flowing out of Washington these days. Not much of in a society where anger is the norm and insults are part of the daily discourse.

You can’t find happiness in anger. You won’t find it by insulting those with different beliefs or philosophies and you sure as hell ain’t gonna find in any modern political discussion.

I know. I’ve been as much a part of the problem as anyone in this business. I’ve started the fires, fanned the flames and then warmed myself by the fire.

That was wrong. I’m guilty as charged. I’m sorry.  The sentence for my crimes is to stop contributing to the anger and start contributing to ways to find a solution.

Won’t be easy. Took a long time to get here. But, like any journey, it starts with a first step.