What to think about American politics today?
At one level, the human world remains pretty much the same as it has been for a very long time. As I see it, the vast majority of people have never been evil and are not evil now, though genetic makeup, social environments, levels of ambition and discipline, intelligence, family history and circumstances, moral views, opportunities, philosophy, and politics have always differed considerably.
The knowledge each of us possesses is quite limited at best, and one lifetime is not nearly long enough to figure it all out, though it is in our nature to believe that we know more than we actually do and to be blind to our own faults. Each of us is unique with differing combinations of views and motivations, and not one of us is without contradictions and foibles. In addition, the search for elusive truth has characterized individuals and societies for thousands of years without real and lasting consensus emerging in many areas of thought, particularly in the areas of religion, philosophy, and politics. And finally, it should go without saying that in a free society the self is the only one we can truly control and master.
At another level, our world has become increasingly more complex and fast changing. A vast array of information and entertainment is available at our fingertips 24/7/365 while growth of our prosperity since WWII has allowed us to devote increasing portions of our time and resources to partaking in both. This, on top of our busyness caring for our families, working to pay bills, exercising, keeping up with social commitments, and all the rest, naturally force most of us to attempt to simplify the world around us in our minds. This seems particularly true in recent decades with regard to politics. Coincidentally, or maybe not, we have become more and more factional while using very sloppy and broad brushed strokes to paint simplistic murals in our minds about the issues of our day and particularly about the morality of large groups of people who may, in fact, share only a few common views. Too often, we attempt to elevate ourselves by attributing evilness to such groups, thereby dismissing the urge even to join in serious deliberation and debate with civility and reciprocity about thorny issues. Depth of historic knowledge and time devoted to serious thought seem to have waned generally as easy access to information and entertainment available to our masses has crowded out more serious study and contemplation. It is therefore not surprising that market competition among the many sources of information and opinion are increasingly more factional, far too simplistic, less balanced, and sometimes dishonest, thereby exacerbating our divisions, and even damping our intellectual development.
If our precious freedoms are to last and our society to improve it would behoove us all if each of us would recognize and accept the limits of our personal knowledge while trying to expand it beyond the simplistic rhetoric of the shallow information sources many of us favor; if we would search our own hearts and minds to find and correct our own contradictions and foibles rather than frantically attempting to attribute broad and simplistic negative characterizations to other people who we cannot control anyway. In short, our politics and our world would improve if each of us became more dedicated to improving ourselves and our real knowledge while refraining from the temptation to demonize others with broad, overly simplistic strokes. The result might possibly be greater unity and commonality of purpose for the greater good, and who knows, it might even help us to simplify our own lives. The real problem to address is “us” and not “them”, and only when we can see perfection in the mirror should be expect it of others.