Happy New Year! It’s also the first post of 2017 for the Politics as Unusual blog, and the holidays offered plenty of time to reflect over the past year. New Year’s Eve is a time for both reflection and new beginnings, and it only makes sense to explain the purpose of these articles. This is more than a repository for centrist political insights. It also isn’t some partisan mouthpiece parroting the talking points of our two political parties. It’s a place for objective analysis and an embarkation on one of the great quixotic quests of our time: to reshape our political thinking away from the vitriol stifles honest discourse in this country.
What Does Quixotic Mean?
It’s one of my favorite words, derived from one of my favorite classic novels. Don Quixote is a character from LaMancha, Spain, in a novel by Miguel de Cervantes. He studies medieval romance stories, full of knights, chivalry, castles, and jousts, before going crazy and outfitting himself as a knight. He believed that voices called on him to change the world by righting all its wrongs.
Charging windmills because he thinks they are giants, Quixote is an idealist who often sees the world through rose-colored glasses. He fights impossible, yet symbolic battles while those around him mocked his quest. In the perfect irony, it takes a crazy man to show the world the right way to live. The fool’s errand made a difference simply because he believed it could.
I have a lot in common with him.
Changing Political Thinking in a Social Media World
Changing America’s political thinking is not going to be an easy task. Go no further than Twitter to see just how much people despise our politicians. Celebrities mock the president-elect and we all seem to hate Congress, rewarding them with a 14.3% approval rating according to Real Clear Politics. The angst is palpable – hashtags range from “NotMyPresident to #LockHerUp, along with countless other mockeries of leadership.
While Americans have always been keen to poke fun at politicians, harkening back to the days when political cartoons graced our newspapers, the modern skewering is far more intense and hateful. Sure, it’s fun to see the memes and funny Facebook posts and tweets, but it’s also harmful to our national psyche.
We no longer recognize satire. Americans are unable to decipher the difference between real news and so-called “fake news.” As a society, we have lost our ability to think critically.
Introduction to “Politics As Unusual”
The Electoral College has cast their ballots and Donald Trump will be the forty-fifth president. We’ve lit Hanukkah lights and Christmas trees and been merry by indulging in too much spiked eggnog. With presents all opened and put away, we toasted the end of 2016. Many of us while watching Mariah Carey commit career suicide in front of a live and television audience. It’s okay, Mariah, only a billion people saw your performance from the middle of Times Square.
Why is this important? Because the world did not end with many of his detractors call the “Cheeto” after the orange Frito-Lay snack. The hatred the left has for Trump has an ideological equivalency to the hatred the right has for Obama. While progressives lament the departure of the latter, the conservatives herald the coming of the former. The world is changing, and our place in it will take a decidedly different direction under Donald trump. So must how we look at our leaders and change our political thinking along with it.
Who I Am
Just like you, most likely. I am not a journalist, although I love writing (and have seven books to my name as a testament). I am not a pundit, but I pay attention to politics at all levels because they affect my life and the lives of my family and friends. My opinions are my own, and the ones I share are meant to open an honest dialogue about an issue, not force my line of thinking on others.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt (attributed)
What I struggle with is why so many are so disinclined to participate. Why are we so polarized in our views and unwilling to open our minds to new idea and opinions? Why do we ridicule those who don’t think like us and label them “deplorables” and “snowflakes?” Most of all, why aren’t more people asking these types of questions? Are we that comfortable with the status quo in the early days of 2017?
The Quixotic Quest
What does that say about our leaders – the men and women we look towards to set an example? What about our media who we rely on for information? Look in a mirror. What does it say about us?
We have far more in common than we believe. We all want America to be the land of the free; a prosperous nation where we can pursue our dreams, enjoy financial stablity, and lead long, healthy lives. Where we may differ is on how to reach that goal, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We need to change our political thinking. We need to stop demonizing our leaders, even the ones we disagree with, or even despise. Battles should be fought in the arena of ideas, not on social media platforms against your fellow Americans (your tweets included, Mr. President-Elect). Dissent is a part of our national DNA, but we need to return to meaningful, not emotional opposition.
I know I cannot shape a nation with a single blog, but I can promote an idea. In many respects, I am Don Quixote, and the Internet is my horse. Can I change the world? Can I change you?
I will leave it to you to decide whether you’re content with politics as usual, or are willing to change your political thinking with Politics As Unusual.