Do we really hear ourselves?

Monday, January 30, 2006
While reading MHA's post The Centrist Canard it occured to me that many of us simply do not hear ourselves. We are so busy trying to make a point, so sure of our own rightness that we do not hear what others hear. We talk past each other.

Not long ago we had a discussion {I admit I do not remember the post} and the subject of how we view each other came up. I said that the other party or people holding certain views in line with the other party were our political opponents. A discussion ensued and I was informed that no, they were the enemy.

I have to admit this unsettled me in a very profound way. After all, if someone calls me their enemy, just how do I relate to them? Are they my enemy as well? What does this kind of rhetoric do to public discourse?

I think one thing it does is drive away those less passionate people MHA was talking about. The people who do not want to get involved with politics or even vote because it is all so distatestul to them. I know people like this, they are not stupid or slackers or lazy or disinterested...they just run screaming when the two parties start going at it.

I do consider myself a moderate because I know that too many things in this world are out of our control. We can not plan everything or control everything and so holding tight to rigid positions year after year in a constantly changing world does not mean you will stay in the same place anyway...that is only an illusion.

I do think that most Americans have a sense of ourselves as a nation. Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We are more than squabbling Republicans and Democrats, we are the hope of the world.

35 comments:

Eric Blair said...

In someways it is how serious one takes the talk or rhetoric, and what words one chooses.

Opponent, foe, enemy, other guy, evil wretches, Dhimmicrat, Rethuglican, etc...all are words to describe the same thing. But not to the same people.

I does polarize 'public discourse' but one can find plenty of examples of similar rhetoric throughout US history, from Democrats and Federalists in 1800, to the Abolitionist/Slave owner debate (and yes, look how that turned out), to anything you can think of in the last 30 years.

Another thing. "Public Discourse" used to consists of whatever the Media decided it was, up to and including letters to the editor, but all of that has been completely undermined now, beginning with Cable TV, but now also by the internet, and all of the possibilities for discourse available from blogs to forums to webpages. This is a sea change, and we're all in the middle of it.

I think we are now getting to see much more of what people think than was ever possible before. It isn't all going to be pretty.

flenser said...

I think the point of the ongoing discussion below is that everyone considers themselves as a "moderate", including people with views quite different to yours.

As for the enemy - I'm quite comfortable with describing those who call for "a million Mogadishu's", or the defeat of the US Army, or the overthow of the "Bush regime" by whatever means neccessary, as the enemy. And I think you should be too.

terrye said...

flenser:

I was not talking about that. I don't think that you would want to associated with David Duke either.

I am talking about saying that the other party is the enemy, or for that matter people who might hold some of the same views on certain issues.

I think AlQaida is the enemy, not Russ Feingold. I don't agree with him on very many things, but he ain't Zarqawi.

flenser said...

terrye

I keep waiting patiently for you to join me here in the center, but you persist in staying out there on your extreme fringe. Why is that?

David Duke- you are being ridiculous. The people I'm talking about are scattered all throughout the media, the universities, and even some branches of government.

If you want to pretend that they are some minor lunatic fringe then you are in deep, deep denial.

David Duke, my ass.

Knucklehead said...

There's no doubt we talk passed each other sometimes, don't stop and listen well enough other times, and other times just flat out disagree. That's nothing peculiar, it happens all the time in all human interaction. It is work to figure out our own positions, and evolve those as we learn or become exposed to different things.

I'm not sure that evolving and changing positions on various issues is what really constitutes being a "moderate". I just don't know. I'm not sure I am a "moderate" (I have awful strong opinions about a lot of stuff!) but I do know that my positions on some things have evolved and changed radically over time.

There are no end of examples. As a young man in the army the very idea of male homosexuality was a heebie-jeebies matter. My "position" on that was "there's something really freakin' wrong with those people, keep 'em away!". Thirty-plus (a rapidly growing plus) and I cna only shake my head and laugh sadly about the Position I once held. I've long since ceased to care the least little bit about homosexuality. Yet I remain opposed to SSM for a list of reasons I've spent a good deal of time examining and have arrived at as carefully as I can do so. So my position has softened radically over the years, gotten quite muddled in some areas, but I still retain dug in heels about the only aspect of it that I feel strongly about. Does that make me a moderate? My position on SSM does not get me any points for moderation from those who support it. They still label me as much a right wing lunatic wingnut as they would have back when my position was, "YUCK! Get those wierdos outta here!"

My position on illegal immigration was once pretty darned Buchananite. Don't let 'em in and round up the ones who are here. Illegal is illegal, bust 'em and toss 'em back where they came from. A decade or so of actually meeting and talking to and being exposed to immigrants both legal and illegal suggests to me that while some are clearly "illegal" most are something other than "criminals" and I would not support the massive changes in our law enforcement system that would be necessary to round 'em and get rid of them. As far as closing the border goes I have no idea what the ultimate cost of that would actually be so I'm not entirely certain that I favor it completely. I lean in that direction though. I'd like to say I've developed some "nuance" but all I've developed is a list of conflicts I have no clue how to resolve. None of my changes would get me "moderation" points from either side of the political spectrum.

Affirmative action? I was once a solid believer that it was just a euphamism for reverse discrimination. A couple decades of being involved with hiring and the legalities around that have taught me that there's a lot more to it than reverse discrimination. If nothing else (and there is a lot of "else" and not much nothing) personal legal liability concerns will force one to pay attention to the matter if one is actually in a position of direct involvement. Have I moderated? Idunno. I still think busing was a huge mistake that shouldn't be repeated under any circumstances.

I have a good friend who is an intelligent and thoughtful person about most things. But he thinks the vast majority of the health care industry is a huge fraud machine and does not hesitate to claim that "doctors killed my brother and mother". Howso? Doctors failed to cure them of chronic disease and, along the way, misdiagnosed the diseases and, therefore, didn't start treatment soon enough to have extended their lives by some amount. But it isn't that medicine is an inexact science, that doctors are imperfect, or that chronic diseases tend to kill people eventually, it's that doctors don't know what the heck they are doing.

We tend not to stop and think about the things we haven't been exposed to. For example, some people live in areas where property taxes are low. To someone living on SS payments of $1200/month annual property taxes of $600 might be no big deal. But $500/month in drug costs are crushing them. Yet there are other people, and probably a similar number of them, who live on the same $1200/month SS payment, don't have big drug bills, but are subject to $500/month property taxes for a very modest home.

Of course the taxed to death person can move whereas the drugged to death person can't, but that's largely "theoretical". Sell out and move somewhere else is not a valid answer to a lot of people, especially when they've lived their entire lives pretty much where they are.

So one answer to some people's drug costs is to tax other people. But for some people the taxes are as unaffordable as the other person's drugs and, for all intents and purposes, just as inescapable.

How's that for wandering?

Buddy Larsen said...

It may not all be pretty, but heck, we already knew that--it's just the coming to grips with it that is hard, and that causes the pigeonholing rhetoric.

Terrye, for example--how many blogs are blessed with someone whose work brings her to grips--literally--with those out-of-sight, out-of-mind end-users of government 'helping' policy?

The plight of the Palestinians, for example, is of the same kind (if not degree) as the plight of the ten-dollar Kleenex buyer--somebody, somewhere, in some way, is gonna pay for every unit of value that changes ownership, that transacts.

The poor are in many ways treated pretty much like inventory by the poverty-pimps (as Bill Cosby calls government middlemen), and sadly it takes a kick in the butt to remember that they have names, and lives, and mammas, and babies to care for.

Sometime when you have a notion, look into Tommy Thompson's "Wisconsin Plan". The results are in, and very, very interesting.

terrye said...

flenser:

My point is that you do not deserve to be compared to David Duke any more than my neighbor who is a Democrat deserves to be compared to some insane professor calling for a million Mogudishus.

In fact you make my point very well.

terrye said...

knucklehead:

You wander very well.

I know just what you mean.

It is hard to keep up isn't it? Just when you think you have it all figured out something happens.

Buddy Larsen said...

Sorry, the link to Wretchard (in my comment above) was a 'part 2'.

Here's part 1. Looks o/t but it ain't at all.

terrye said...

buddy:

Cosby is an interesting man. Did you notice how many women came out of the woodwork to go after him after he stated the obvious about not blaming the white man forever for everything?

Syl said...

knuck

Bravo. I agree.

But, please, share. How does one 'soften radically'? :)

terrye

I know exactly what you mean by people just being totally turned off by politics.

In our family we were taught never to get into discussions about either politics or religion.

And my father was a minister!!

Buddy Larsen said...

Terrye, yes--Cosby suddenly became *The Man*--rich, white (Oreo), totally unable to 'understand'.

Exactly what the Palis are saying: "You can't understand!"

Not 'you don't understand, but the end-of-argument 'you can't understand'.

Knucklehead said...

Beyond sophomore year of HS I can't recall ever holding any idea that was remotely "leftish". Yet since that time much of my thinking about people, and politics, has more or less softened - I've become an increasing "liberal" person by any measure of classical liberalism I can think of.

And yet, over those years, I have become increasingly hostile toward the Democrat Party. I find that interesting. I should be a natural case of having gravitated toward the Dems over the years. Instead I want them hounded into impotence. They've driven me from being an Independent to being a Republican and starting to mull over becoming and active one. Very odd.

Which party liberalized and which veered off into... who knows what.

flenser said...

No, terrye you are missing the point.

David Duke was not embraced by the GOP. The Republican senators did not rally to his side. The Republican party did not accord him a place of honor at their convention.

You are twisting yourself into a pretzel to excuse the Democratic party for its actions and to construct a false moral equivalance between the parties.

terrye said...

buddy:

Bill is saying something along the lines of God helps those who help themselves and needless to say that is pissing some people off.

I really have no idea what his party affiliation is.

I don't really seeing him "fit" anywhere.

The country is [supposedly] 37% R 37% D and 26% I. That means neither party is even close to a majority..but then again right now the Republicans hold the majority of seats.

The Palis are the next best thing to hopeless. I wash my hands of them.

I still remember the dancing in the streets when the Towers fell. They are a good example of where fanaticism leads you... Off a cliff.

Buddy Larsen said...

Right-o. Cosby is the WTC, and the dancers are only waiting. Both targets say something that helpless and angry (bad combo) people cannot let themselves hear.

terrye said...

flenser:

Oh puhleaze.

I said it was not fair to compare you to Duke even though a guy like mark undoubtedly would do just that. By the same token saying the average Democrat wants a million Mogudishus is no more fair.

Right now the country is 37% D 37% R and about 26% I. Right now the Democrats are ahead something like 11% in popularity to win seats in 2006. Now whether or not that will happen is debatable but the fact is most people do not see the Democrats as the enemy.

People are not that monolithic in their thinking.

And you know what? You have every right to disagree with me, but you do not need to be so rude.

Buddy Larsen said...

They're angry because they're helpless (I don't want to say 'useless' but there it is, in the sense of being shut off from that great human emotion, being 'needed'), and they're helpless because that is exactly what their leaders--from Yassir to Teddy--want them to be. But at least it's nothing personal on those leaders' part--it's just business. It's just using the law to spend society's hard-earned money in order to profit personally from destroying its most vulnerable members.

Peter UK said...

Terrye,
Why do you not start a Democratic "Not in My Name" movement to disavow the crazies? It is not so much a case of talking past each other as allowing the extemists to dictate the agenda.

terrye said...

Peter:

I voted a straight Republican ticket just like a lot of other former Democrats, that should tell them something.

In fact if the Democrats would put some sane person in there {like Warner or Bayh} and concentrate on domestic issues they could win again.

People like change from time to time.

But people have their prejudices and I know Democrats who still swear that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggert run the Republican party. Except of course for the part that is run by the oil companies and the neocons.

Poeple need to lighten up. The people who do the most screaming about the other party work with and are related to people from that other party. It is not as if they are aliens.

If we want more people involved we need to make the whole process a little less like a contact sport.

Peter UK said...

Terrye,
The Democrats have a leadership whose utterances are indistinguishable from those of Zawahiri,you have to take your party back from them.
The leadership prostrating itself before the acned legions of Kos,is a most unedifying sight,there is an air of desperation,chasing the chimera of popularity whilst at the same time alienating the middle ground.
Take your party back.

terrye said...

Peter:

A guy like Congressman Harold Ford from Tennessee could help take it back. He is a Dem... he voted for the Iraq war resolution, he said there should be an up or down vote for confirmation of Alito. He is intelligent and personable and to the right of McCain on some issues.

He is respectful and that is what the party needs.

The Democrats know they are in trouble and they know people want them to get it together but they will have to break from the Cindy Sheehans before they can get people like me to come back. And they seem helpless to do that. Picking Howard Dean was a huge mistake.

The Republicans have had some strange folks too, but at least they figured out what it took to win and did it.

Unless of course certain people in the GOP want to make a point of alienating 60% of the country.

Peter UK said...

Terrye,
It is the fault of the "Let it All Hang Out" generation,hippiedom evolved into the New Age,the sixties saw the beginning of the death of wisdom and the birth of fadism.Not onl was everyone entitled to an opinion but every opinion was equally valid.
The fringe became the centre,now sensible people like youtself have to listen to the outpourings of those who in previous times would have been under medication.

terrye said...

Peter:

You are right I think.

The baby boomers strike again.

flenser said...

Well, terrye, if we are speaking of rudeness, your entire "I'm a moderate centerist, but eveyone else is a bunch of wacky extremists" schtick is getting pretty darn tedious.

Do you really hear yourself?

terrye said...

flenser:

If you bother to read my post you will see that I ask if any of us do. That is my point. We don't hear ourselves.

Besides I have been called a left winger and a right winger within the last 6 months so I guess it does not matter what I say anyway. Someone else will label me.

Speaking of rude...I voted a straight Republican ticket, what else do you want from me? A blood oath?

Knucklehead said...

what else do you want from me? A blood oath?

That would be a good starting point. We can work with that. What else you got?

terrye said...

And flenser, in the future if I am such a pain in the ass, just ignore me.

I will do the same for you.

terrye said...

knucklehead:

Well my virginity is a dim memory so that is off the table.

Knucklehead said...

Well my virginity is a dim memory so that is off the table.

Darn!

With the right sort of costuming, however, we might be able to work around that. Give it some thought and get back to us.

Buddy Larsen said...

Harold Ford is a good 'un--I disagree with probably 99% of his ideas, but he is not a quasi-traitorious liar like Kerry, Kennedy, Reid, Pelosi and so many others. the thing that Dems need is a few leaders who aren't hate-merchants, who undersatand basic foreign-policy and economics, and are 'left' in that narrow center-band where the economic interests of their constituents are legitimately 'democratic'.The economic-policy interests of the country--and every single soul in it--in actual science-of-economics fact, do not diverge as much as many people suppose, between legitimate left and legitimate right, between legitimate useages of taxation, and legitimate help for those who need it.

Peter UK said...

One of the problems with modern politics is the use of focus groups,it pays politicians to be totally devoid of principles so they can go with the flow,Clinton was the perfect example of this,and of course our own Dear Leader Tony Blair.
It would be good to see the return of conviction politics.

Buddy Larsen said...

So, what would virginity look like if it was *on* the table? I guess it'd be a 'center piece'?
\;-D

Knucklehead said...

It would be good to see the return of conviction politics.

Isn't that what Senator Kerry-Heinz just demonstrated - conviction politics?

Peter UK said...

No that was Ted Kennedy, nearly a conviction politics.