|November 11, 2004|
Going to a Gunfight with a Rubber Mallet
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
America is lost and nothing moral is saved – some conventional wisdom au contraire. Whether on the side of us or them, Americans remain shaken by another shot heard round the world – a sort of tectonic plate shift that hit with a frightening blow, leaving a schizoid fallout in its rubble. Many Americans, on both sides, are left wondering if they went to a gunfight with a rubber mallet.
Democrats are now busily working through the stages of grief. Republicans are busily working through victory’s spoils: booty collections and favor repayments. Most politicos know their fifteen (15) minutes of fame are almost up; but, some of the rest are already planning their "kool-aid" futures.
Election Day was the tragic moment America mistook fanaticism for morality, & tolerance for girlie-manhood. The Ages of Enlightenment and Reason had given way to Irrational Arrogance, Religious Supremacy and Absolute Impunity—tyranny’s triumvirate. How can America find her way back? The answer may just be: Fifth by fifth, my citizens – to paraphrase Adrian’s "brick-by-brick" advise about how to build the proverbial Rome.
FANATICAL IS THE NAME – SHAMELESS IS THE GAME
The political party of the common man (as Jefferson called it), decorated by history’s bravest stances, gets performance results more suited to an incoherent, tentative, and implausible marionette. The political party of corporate elitists and extremists, fueled by trophy victories of shadowy secrecy, scurrilous scandals and sanctimonious tyranny, gets performance results more suited to a strong, decisive and moral compass. Ah, the delicious irony!
While fanaticism trounced tolerance, the party of the common man divested itself of the revolutionary cry that gave it life, and swapped it out for blurred babbling that barely rose above a whine, or an occasionally lukewarm me-too. Conversely, the rabid fanatics drove their assaults right at the core of the common man’s strongest values; yet, the counter response they got was a sort of deafening (consenting) silence. Tolerance had never been mistaken for immorality before. It stood as an ever-fixed mark of reverence and respect. But, in a fanatic world, it’s all about a parallel universe of relentless ridicule: making America afraid of seeking far-reaching respect, and telling America who is to blame for too much tolerance.
The consequences are profound: shameless co-option from unwitting consent, plus fanatical deceptions mixed with constitutional suppression of selective rights. Who does America see about all this? America is burning, and the arsonists are being exalted for their fire-fighting values. Yes, Alice, it gets curioser and curioser.
FALLING FOR THE "EITHER/OR" TRAP – AGAIN & AGAIN
The common man’s story is a luxurious tapestry of not falling for the extremist ultimatum of either/or on any issue under discussion or decision-making. Portions of recent developments provide some relevant examples. Planet Earth and its inhabitants scored meaningful victories only when analyses and conversations concluded that certain proposed geo-political policies were worthwhile for both the environment and the economy. Solutions arrived more easily when nobody fell for the sum-zero game of either/or.
On every single wedge, cultural or social issue that raged during this last election cycle, the absolute best answer to the not-so-tender "either/or" traps would have been: both. Period. For instance, any type of marriage union has both a civil and a spiritual component, the former protects the rights of citizenship, and the latter protects the privileges of spirituality. The long-standing traditions the law supports and recognizes are (once again) both the duty of the state to promulgate its civil union laws, and the duty of religious institutions to promulgate its sacred, sacramental/spiritual rites. If two people wed in a spiritual institution of their choice, they must also unite their bonds in a state-recognized ceremony. Therefore, every person who contemplates a committed union will likely fulfill both components; but each such component is best left to the respective jurisdictions, thus ensuring a separation of church and state as required under the constitution.
The insidious traps consist of snaring the discussion into the spider web of either/or. The more productive retorts consist of applying or extending a "both" condition. For example, rather than tilting at windmills about the compartmentalized use of the word "marriage" (allowing form to trump substance), would the debate not have gained more quality traction by probing from within the private sector?? Why not ask corporate America what did their terminology of "domestic partner" mean exactly, when it came to state recognized civil law?? Was it not the legal equivalent of rights derivative of a civil union?? Would not domestic partners have the same legal insurance, pension and death benefits that also apply to married persons?? In any of the 11 infamous states that banned all form of gay unions, what will all those corporations do about their domestic-partner rights and benefits since they would no longer be protected under the law of the state??? America needs to take the fight right to the corporate bread-and-butter basket. That corporate constituency alone would help focus the discussion on the validity of extolling the "both" answer. Who wants to bet about how little of a hoot corporations give about these fanatically extreme infringements when weighed against their need for competent employees to enhance their bottom line??
If extremists were unmasked of their obsession to force their views and judgments unto others and to oppress most Americans by depriving them of their constitutionally guaranteed rights, would not the spotlight then be more properly on the leopard, and not on some out-of-context spot??
The same preposterous pro-life arguments focus on a myopic view of some particularly selected life, framing the argument again as an either/or. Truly ethical people invoke the "and/both" solutions in this debate. Isn’t the life of a mother just as sacred as the life of a child? If life is to be championed at all times and under all circumstances, how can someone "pro-life" ever support the death penalty with any kind of intellectual honesty or universal moralism?? How can a pro-lifer send anyone to die in war?? How can a pro-lifer take pride in executing people?? When exactly does the pro-life position become optional or negotiable, and by whose relativist judgment??
These jousting traps of "either/or" as well as "us/them" appeal to the basest instincts and to the highest hypocrisy. Their proponents sit in self-appointed, smug judgment underpinned by immoral arrogance that dares to claim a God solely on their side. America rejected such idolatry before, and she will find her fulcrum once again.
TAKING A FIFTH AT A TIME
When the dust settles, the peacocks tire of strutting their stuff, and both the mea culpa’s and hallelujas have been sung, the political activists will once again see brightly. To this author, who has seen 40 years’ worth of number crunching, all the hoopla is nothing short of hyperbole. The math is painfully simple: it’s all about quintiles, five intervals of 20% each. Traditionally, each political party is assured agreement with a certain "voter" point of view at the furthest, respective 20% at each end of the continuum. This first voter portion is highly reliable in behaving as a monolithic unit ("the single-issue base"). To acquire the next quintile interval (an additional 20% from each end), there needs to be created a non-monolithic voter group — often called the "double-up coalition." The most successful voter block is the one that observers would label as the "strange bedfellows coalition." This type of coalition is the most successful because the voter group provides two essential legs to the victory-vote stool. Greater stability of this stool comes from fattening up either of the two "strange bedfellows" legs, or by adding in a third leg, regardless of thickness. How does it all work? Here are some quick examples of artificially segmented and diametrically opposed voter sectors:
Preliminary voting results indicate that both political parties turned out very high percentages of voters. The Democrats took their 2 quintiles (40%) from tried-and-true historic democratic voters: liberals, progressives, most blacks, many women, Hispanics and youth, plus some military. Voters courted by the Democrats were defined more by the category of "base" than the category of "strange bedfellows" coalition. Effectively, the Democrats tried to increase voting turnout of their base on a nearly-exclusive incremental basis without making any inroads into the core of the opposition camp in terms of taking the fight to them about the immoral and deceitful aspects evidenced by "their works." The Republicans, on the other hand, absolutely began with the strange bedfellows coalition consisting of the investor class plus the wealthiest population (low taxes); these voters were added to the extremist "moralists" made up of various single wedge issues, plus the Christian-Zionists, the war mongers, the economic base of the industrial-military complex, the rapture segment who overlooked the injustices/war in Iraq, the closet homophobic/prejudiced/racist folks who hide behind the skirts of scriptures, the majority of church faithful whose political guidance comes solely from their pulpits, the fundamentalists in general, the protectionists, the isolationists and the imperialists.
The most significant difference between the two political philosophies showed itself in the attendant political strategies. The Democrats, unfocused on their ideological cornerstones, nibbled around the edges of timid concentric circles of influence; whereas, the loyal Republican opposition, fully armed with bullying demagoguery, charged right into the enemy camp and the oncoming enemy fire creating a parallel universe of language and reality which it doled out repeatedly and consistently to the spinner, the believer, the unknowing, and the unsuspecting alike.
The Democrats have come across as Republican-light and "me-too" for at least the last 4 years. The Republicans have come across as large and in charge – all their fraud, secrecy, self-absorption and de facto immorality not withstanding. The Democrats make even the simplest policy too complex for a clear storyboard line, while the Republicans take the seriously complex and reduce it to insulting bumper sticker slogans. As between convolution and over-simplification, human beings will take over-simplification every time. The Democrats want to make the world a better place by placing less emphasis on gathering "opposing" voting coalitions that no longer vote as monolithic segments. The Republicans place more emphasis on gathering winning coalitions without concern about making the world a better place – but being rather more concerned about keeping themselves in power to rule over a longer period of time.
It will be said of this political cycle that never have so few, indoctrinated so many, with so little truth. Ding, dong the old, wicked, political paradigm is gone! Truth must be returned to power. It’s high time to mine, court and influence those quintiles in the purple counties all across this beloved nation. That’s how the red, white and blue will ultimately come together in forming a more perfect union.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
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