You hear this so much these days. Democrats will blame Bush for this, or Fox News, or some conservative bombthrowers that appear on AM radio. Republicans blamed Clinton for the same thing a few years ago, the media, special interest groups like Moveon.org. Democrats blame the war and Bush's unwillingness to get international approval before acting on foreign policy (read: Iraq). Republicans point to ... hell it doesn't really matter. It's all the same bullshit.
Here is the scoop, so listen good. The nation is polarized because YOU make it that way. Polarization goes both ways, by definition. Saying the other side is polarizing the debate is like blaming your children for not calling you that often: the phone lines go both ways.
The hard and true fact is that politics in America is polarized because people LIKE IT THAT WAY. Politics is the new fan-based sports entertainment. Who would want to go to a football game and agree. That is not the american way. We fight. We boo the bad calls the ump makes against our team and cheer the bad calls the ump makes in our favor. If there happens to be a bench-clearing brawl, we stand up and cheer and then blame the other team for starting it. Same thing with politics, we just put on fake aires and pretend to be thoughtfull about it all.
If you are on the left, you think that the right are dim-witted foggy-eyed corrupt jerks who think that waving an american flag and a cross is all the thinking necessary. You read the papers, especially LA and NY times op ed, you think that Air America is a great idea, agree that Cindy Sheehan is the only one qualified to have an opinon on the Iraq war, and you probably paid to see Farehneit 9/11 in the theatres. You have lots of opinions about Fox News, but you have never really watched it, and you can quote lots of bad things about the Oreily Factor, another show you have never seen. The only AM radio you can stomach is Air America, if you can get it. You get the Moveon.org newletter, and your mailbox is filled with campaign fundraising mail from liberal causes.
If you are on the right, you think that the left is trying to take God out of the nation and replace it with a loose set of athiestic morals. You blame the Media for a lot of this, even though the only media you really get consists of Fox News and various AM Radio programs. You have lots of opinions about the NY times, something you have never read, hate that guy Michael Moore and his pet Cindy Sheehan, though you didn't see Farenheit 9/11 except the clips they showed on the Oreily Factor.
If you are a moderate you feel like a lonely person at a football game with two teams you dislike equally.
I really hope you don't fit either of my stereotypes above. But look into your behaviors and see the facts. When was the last time you spent the time to thoroughly read through something that you disagreed with? Even if you don't claim to be a liberal or conservative, where do you get your news, and do you think that "your" choices are unbiased? I sumbit that all the news out there is biased, and if that you think you are getting both sides from one organization you are fooling yourself.
I have tried hard to break out of this mold. I try to have political discussions with people that disagree with me about religion and politics. Because of this I have few of these discussions; people don't like to talk about stuff like that and think its rude. People that do talk about it tend to be convinced believers, and are as fun to talk to as missionaries that knock on your door at 9am Saturday mornings. But I try, and some of my friends, even the extremist believers, tend to at least try to talk. They all (both the right and the left) think I am whatever they are not. That is the way it goes when you are a professional contrarian like me. But at the end of each discussion I have learned something, and so have they, even if it is only more ammunition for their cause.
Politics is trench warfare in America because we have made it that way. It is unpolite to talk about religion or politics because we are all fans, and the only polite way to deal with a fan is to be a fan too.
- We get all our information from sources that have a bias we agree with
- We consider our point of view fundementally more intellectual or morally superior than the opposing side
- We carry strong opinions of the other side with little or no accurate information about what they really believe
- We are comfortable
Next time you hear someone say that so-and-so is a polarizing figure, think about it and try to work out who is really being the polarizer.
It goes both ways.