Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Can we stop all the name-calling?

I wouldn't be offended if anyone called me a "socialist," but I would wonder why anyone would waste any effort on such a pointless act. Of course, no one is calling me a socialist because I'm not running for president and if you're a president or running for president, "socialist" is one bad moniker.
Name-calling in politics really irks me. I just can't stand how crucial, nuanced and complex issues, people and debates are reduced down to labels and terms that rile up the masses, but simply regress any attempt at progress or critical thinking. I can't wait for this presidential election to end because it's been the most frustrating political exercise I've ever had to sit through.
One thing I've thought a lot about is this practice of labeling and name-calling and how powerful it is. As a journalist, part of my job is to distill the complex into the digestible, to be concise, to be punchy, to be pithy, to do more with less ... and the list goes on. I think I have honed some skills in that region, but when I turn to creative writing, I find the opposite is true. Part of that work is to expand, to explore, to imagine all through words. Those two ends of the spectrum seem to be at war with each other and my tendency to be compact is winning. I win certain battles such as the days when I can sit on my computer and feel creative verses productive, when I look at text I typed up is storytelling and literary and beautiful and personal. Victory!
But, beyond me and my struggles as a writer, society's habit of name-calling is disturbingly out of hand. All of sudden terms like "government" and "taxes" and "immigration" have sunk to a deep level of negativity. Even though I stopped reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in fourth grade and would never proclaim that "America is the best country in the world," I do have a fond appreciation for the government of my country. I also don't mind paying taxes if they are put to good use. And, I believe that immigration is a important, rich and dynamic component of the past, present and future of this country. So, of course, I can't stand Republican rhetoric on any of those topics. I surmise that is a function of that party's thirst for power — to control and exploit as much as possible without allowing any thoughtful discourse to take place. It boggles my mind. In the meantime, I will try to avoid labeling my way through life. Perhaps I should start a campaign to promote critical thinking and the formation of complex sentences. I could call it, "No more sound bytes." 

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