Bill Moyers knocks me out week after week. No other show on television, and I’m quite sure I can add radio to that, features such thought-provoking conversations.
Moyers’ guest was John Sexton, president of NYU, who distilled so eloquently the crisis in our public discourse:
This is a pattern that I see: an allergy to thought, to complexity [and] nuance – a kind of collapse into an intellectual relativism where opinions become fact… It’s a dangerous thing… I think there’s a growing hostility to knowledge in this country… Our national progress is being retarded because we have fallen into this discourse by slogan.
To the extent that I refuse to engage in debate with people on issues when we violently disagree, I’ve succumbed to this malady. You can burn down your wick pretty fast trying to change people’s mind, but perhaps the value is not really in changing it, but in forcing them to at least confront the reality behind the slogans, beyond the opinions.
I’d been reflecting, since Friday, about how I could better engage and advocate on behalf of my ideals and beliefs, when the phone rang yesterday. VoterTalk2010 announced the caller ID. Perhaps this was my chance to re-engage?
A very, very angry Michael Reagan—son of Ronald Reagan, no less, and apparently host of his own radio show—blasted me with recorded lies and vitriol. Did I know that Barack Obama had promised Planned Parenthood our nation’s manhood on a plate plus a health care bill that would force red-blooded Americans, and red-blooded American businesses, to pay for abortions for everyone? (Not an exact quote, but trust me, very much in the spirit of what he said. You can get a more literal description of the first part of the call here.)
An aside: I’m glad the GOP continues to waste money mailing and robo-calling me. I don’t know who their list vendor is, but I can’t imagine they are knowingly purchasing lists of 4 of 4 Democratic primary voters.
I had every intention of giving clever answers that would skew the survey results, but the rhetoric was so violently offensive that I eventually hung up rather than tolerate the haranguing.
I wondered if I would ever get the chance to use my Epi-Pen. Not to jab it in my own thigh, but in Michael Reagan’s. Talk about an allergy to complexity, a violent fact-induced apoplexy.
I don’t have an answer, for now, just this lament. How can we once again become a nation of discourse and reason? Were we ever? Does our political system even support such a notion? Can we overcome our allergy to nuance and complexity, or is there no escape from a system dominated by the Texas Board of Education and screaming radio personalities?