Referring to Marco Rubio’s primary challenge of Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the criticism of Crist from the right:
‘What has gone wrong in this country when even if you’re a Republican or a member of the party that’s not in the White House that all of a sudden you have leprosy because you’ve hugged the President of the United States. He’s the President of the entire country… It’s absurd and I keep thinking that people who are just right of center and just left of center have to be thinking “What’s wrong with the country…” ‘ –Michelle Bernard, Independent Womens’ Forum on Hardball
(Hat tip to the Knight Foundation.)
Previous studies had indicated that trends in technology have us growing more distant from our more diverse local geographic neighborhoods in favor of dispersed weaker electronic ties.
This Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community survey finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. Peopleâ€™s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine peopleâ€™s full personal network â€“ their strong and weak ties â€“ internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.
On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in yesterday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat argues that, now free of any real external threat, western capitalism has definitively won, but doesn’t quite know it yet.
On the right, pundits and politicians have cultivated a persistent cold-war-style alarmism about our foreign enemies â€” Vladimir Putin one week, Hugo Chavez the next, Kim Jong-il the week after that.
On the left, thereâ€™s an enduring fascination with the pseudo-Marxist vision of global capitalism as an enormous Ponzi scheme, destined to be undone by peak oil, climate change, or the next financial bubble.
Meanwhile, our domestic politics are shot through with antitotalitarian obsessions, even as real totalitarianism recedes in historyâ€™s rear-view mirror. Plenty of liberals were convinced that a vote for George W. Bush was a vote for theocracy or fascism. Too many conservatives are persuaded that Barack Obamaâ€™s liberalism is a step removed from Leninism.
These paranoias suggest a civilization thatâ€™s afraid to reckon with its own apparent permanence.
Perhaps we should keep in mind that exaggerating threats can yield exaggerated responses…
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So began the late-life correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers described in the HBO mini-series “John Adams” as “the north and south poles of our revolution.”
Once friends, differences in opinion and political competition had taken a toll.
They, like others in the founders’ generation, had deep philosophical disagreements. But as they went about the business of building a country, an endeavor that if unsuccessful would surely lead to their hanging, they hardly had the luxury to stop talking to each other.
So they agreed where they could, disagreed where they had to and kicked a lot down the road a bit (toward us, in fact).
Despite the differences between them and the odds against them, the founders managed to cobble together their opus – and ours – the Constitution, which despite all probability still guides this diverse group of people forward together.
But, alas, “politics ain’t beanbag” and two election cycles later, Jefferson and Adams had no tolerance for one another.
Fast-forward a couple of centuries and most of us are likely to relate to the fix Adams and Jefferson found themselves in. We, like they, have deep disagreement with – and sometimes little tolerance for – one another. Even our understanding of the founding document we all revere is riddled with fundamentally different viewpoints.
The two founders ultimately died friends, having given history the gift of their final correspondence. They died on the same day, July 4th, 50 years to the day after the nation they built was born. Not knowing that Jefferson had passed on just hours before, Adams last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives,” providing one of history’s most poignant lessons to us across the centuries.
If we continue to choose the path of this legacy – the uneasy yet unbreakable partnership of opposites that is our unique birthright – it will never be easy. Maybe a big part of our problem is that we’ve grown far too accustomed to easy.
“Whether you or I were right,” Adams had written to Jefferson, “posterity must judge. Yet I ask of you, who shall write the history of our revolution?”
The philosophical descendants of Jefferson and Adams are alive and well today in us, in this amazing American experiment “in the course of human events.”
And we are still writing the history of their revolution.
Like the founders before us, we hardly have the luxury to stop talking to each other.
Liz Joyner is the Executive Director of the Village Square in Tallahassee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Through the month of November, leading up to our December 1 fundraiser roast Allan Katz: The Roast, we’re going to give you an endless supply of reasons we think we deserve your financial support. Forgive the bragging, we’ll go back to our neighborly (and oh-so-humble) selves once we’ve reached our goal. So, without further ado, Reason #1:
â€œBy gathering local and state politicians of mutually opposed political persuasions under one roof and asking them to break bread together, The Village Square is supporting an ancient and durable principle of civilization: It’s harder to hate the enemy face to face. In reasserting that principle, The Village Square isn’t just promoting better government. It’s helping to lay the foundation for a better America.â€
—John Marks, Journalist, Novelist, Former 60 Minutes Producer and author of â€œReasons to Believe: One Manâ€™s Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behindâ€
(As with every great quote we ever have, h/t to Lea.)
During yesterday’s President Obama talk show Round Robin:
Andâ€” unfortunately, we’ve got, as I’ve said before, a 24-hour news cycle where what gets you on the news is controversy. What gets you on the news is the extreme statement. The easiest way to get 15 minutes on the news, or your 15 minutes of fame, is to be rude.
And that’sâ€” that’sâ€” something that I think has to change. And it starts with me. And I’ve tried to make sure that I’ve sent a clear signal. And I’ve tried to maintain an approach that says, look, we can have some serious disagreements but, at the end of the day, I’m assuming that you want the best for America just like I do.
He also called ugly controversy “catnip” to the media. Ya think?
At this week’s Dinner at the Square we gave away door prizes by picking cherries with numbers on them out of a bowl. It was our little way of coming down firmly against cherry-picking facts.
Cherry-picking is epidemic these days. People use it as a launching pad for their fury. You see, if you can ignore the context of the many facts surrounding a problem, a situation, a person, an organization – then you can continue in your self-righteous fury unabated. And self-righteous fury is sooo the new lazy.
Gone are the old-fashioned days when more of us sought to understand each other, tried to grasp the facts, and might have even given putting them in context a go. Anger is sometimes the appropriate response after all that, but these days it’s out-of-the-starting-gate-de-rigueur.
Our institutions are beginning to reflect our hair-trigger fury and bent towards preferring only the facts that support how we want to feel. The market-tested-out-the-wazoo-uber-individualized culture we live in knows exactly what we want and we want fury. And they’re all about giving us what we want. Fury is good for ratings. We have whole evenings of programming devoted to cherry-picking in service of fury. It sells newspapers too. (Or maybe it doesn’t because really furious people aren’t usually mollified by being thrown bones. They’re like fury crack addicts who will just want more.) Maybe we’re getting the television, the newspapers, and the Congress we deserve.
Picked cherries lately?
There are always moments amid the wreckage of what is worst in the human race, when we see clearly what is best in it. Even on 9/11.
There were those who walked toward trouble to allow the rest of us to walk away from it – the fire fighters, police officers, and in the case of 9/11, EMTs and Port Authority Police. They, like us on that day, had other concerns. . . kids to raise, bills to pay, oil to change. They put it all down and walked toward the horror to help strangers. There were the people who found themselves on a plane in Pennsylvania with an opportunity to save people they didn’t know. They did.
But there is a story of human kindness from 9/11 you probably haven’t heard yet.
The Masai tribe of Kenya had raised money to send their native son Kimeli Naiyomah to medical school in the United States. He happened to be in downtown Manhattan on 9/11. They didn’t understand the full import of what happened that day until months later when he returned to Kenya.
“What happened in New York City does not really make sense to people who live in traditional huts, and have never conceived of a building that touches the sky,” explained Ibrahim Obajo, a freelance reporter working in Nairobi. “You cannot easily describe to them buildings that are so high that people die when they jump off them.”
What then did the Masai do for the people in most powerful nation on earth? They gave us cows. “They gave what is truly sacred to them,” Obajo said.
Across oceans, across language, across culture, their gift could not have communicated more clearly to total strangers.
Today as we remember the senseless horror of 9/11, I can’t help but think that the task ahead of us has a lot to do with summoning in ourselves the generosity of spirit shown by those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” that day in New York, in Washington and in Pennsylvania. And it has something to do with summoning the kindness of the people who gave us cows. We have to keep walking away from the darkness of human nature exemplified by the terrorists of that day. It will require everything in us to not become the hatred and intolerance we’re fighting.
I think we’re up to the task.
And maybe while we’re at it, we can save a bit of that generosity of spirit for each other.
(The above poster is from www.artaid.org)