Tuesday, November 21 , 2017, 12:14 pm | Fair 77º


Randy Alcorn: The Disunited State of America Cannot Go On

Within hours after the shooting at a congressional Republicans’ baseball practice near Washington, D.C., warriors from the two ideological tribes were pointing their rhetorical spears at each other — the left blaming the right and the right blaming the left for the eruptions of political violence in the nation.

Such finger-pointing is not surprising. Among those Americans obsessed with ideological certainty, virtually any issue becomes a scrimmage line.

Each side is so certain that they know what is best for the nation that they have come to regard the other side as misguided miscreants, even coming to hate them as existential threats to the nation.

Government is now so dominated by such political partisanship, particularly at the federal level, that it doesn’t function well, and certainly not in the best interests of the nation. Because compromise is now seen as tantamount to surrender, little if anything gets done that actually promotes the general welfare.

How were the ideologically intoxicated allowed to get behind the wheel of government? Gerrymandered districting is only part of the answer.

The larger culprit is Americans themselves. Many are too busy to be sufficiently engaged in politics. Others are disinterested or fatalistic about politics. That leaves control of the duopoly to those deeply engaged in politics, mainly the ideological zealots and powerful special interests.

The vast majority of Americans, however, are not bound to a particular ideology. They are independent politically, and most are decent folks just trying to survive, if not thrive, in America’s increasingly Darwinian economic jungle.

Not all the 62 million Americans who voted for President Donald Trump did so out of party or ideological loyalty. Many did so out of fear and frustration. They were protesting the political gridlock in Washington and the disregard politicians show for ordinary citizens.

Trump was their desperate hope, but he is intellectually, psychologically and ethically inadequate, and is proving to make matters worse, not better.

With their mordant speech, confrontational smugness and intellectual arrogance, both liberal and conservative know-it-alls contribute to the disintegration of national unity.

For example, liberals have taken diversity to absurd levels where just about every human characteristic, personal preference and condition is not only to be acknowledged but also celebrated; and not only accommodated but also bestowed with special status.

When just about everyone is regarded as some hyphenated, often victimized, subset of American society, a regular American is getting harder to find. Now we have college graduation ceremonies self-segregated by race, gender and sexual preference.

The melting pot of assimilation is being replaced with the stew pot of difference.

For their part, hidebound conservatives keep trying to push the clock back to some previous century when, as determined by religious and economic myths, people knew their proper place in society. These conservatives struggle and squirm with changes that conflict with their world view, and that sometimes condemns others to harsh consequences.

Stubborn, unquestioning adherence to belief systems can override objectivity and empathy — maybe until or unless a direct personal life experience breaks the spell.

Michelle Malkin is a widely published conservative columnist and blogger who has long been an outspoken supporter of the war on drugs and a table-pounding opponent of legalized marijuana — even for medical use. That is until her child became afflicted with a debilitating disease that defied all medical treatment — except medical marijuana.

That direct experience of someone she loved being relieved of misery by marijuana changed her mind on the personal freedom of people to choose whatever drug works for them. It also opened her mind to the inequity and pain that drug prohibition inflicts on thousands of otherwise law-abiding people.

She is now a proponent of ending the insane, oppressive and corrupting war on drugs.

Malkin’s epiphany indicates that the grip of ideological idiocy can be broken — not easily but not impossible either. That grip is loosened when people practice the age-old Golden Rule, which is essentially imagining being in another’s place in life and how you would like to be treated there.

Many concerned observers believe that wealth inequality is the major underlying cause of America’s growing disunity and ideological tribalism. Isn’t it usually about the money?

Liberals believe everyone should be taken care of, while conservatives believe everyone should take care of themselves. Somewhere between them there is a reasonable compromise that minimizes freeloading on one side and callous greed on the other.

Finding reasonable compromises and effective policy solutions requires civil discourse, open forums and open minds. Rather than respond to every idea and proposed policy by consulting petrified doctrinal catechisms, Americans need to divorce doctrine and embrace objective, independent thinking. Otherwise they will just keep shouting at each other — or worse, start shooting at each other.

Voltaire observed that “doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” Freeing the mind from ideological certainties or any intellectual suppressive is liberating. Independent thinking is exhilarating. Those who haven’t tried it should.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of politically independent Americans really can’t afford to wait for their fellow citizens shackled to ideology to liberate themselves. They must take a more active role in politics to preserve the E pluribus unum and prevent the election to office of demagogic candidates.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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