Thursday, 13 January 2011

The USA is at crossroads - How can divisions within society be overcome?

At Palingates, we always enjoy the free flow of opinions and thoughts. The number of comments during the last days here at Palingates, up to about 3000 per post or even more, shows that there is a great need for discussion. I get the feeling that more and more people realize that the USA is at crossroads. A noisy group of right-wingers still spew relentless hate, even after the sad events of the weekend, and it's worse: This group now seems to be more fired up and vocal than before. This is a group of people whose hate now seems to be "institutionalized." Sarah Palin's fans currently seem to be the "core" of this group. She became their symbol, and Palin's perpetual victimhood now appears to be their main unifying cause.

But where is this supposed to end? How should members of a society co-exist in peace if large parts of the population hate each other? This is one the key questions, and a huge task for everyone who is interested in a peaceful and prosperous society. Will there be more atrocities, more killings? How is it possible to ease the situation, and to defuse this ticking time bomb called "hate?"

I come from a country where "moderate" politicians (as opposed to "extremist" politicians) are used to working together and cooperating when political extremism endangers the foundations of society and the political system. German politicians learned their lesson after the disaster of the doomed "Weimar Republic", which was bound to fail because vicious political in-fighting amongst supporters of the Democratic system ultimately helped to destroy its fragile Democracy. The common ground was missing. When people realized their mistake, it was too late.

This is of course an unique example in history, but a society which experiences a rhetorical civil war (or even worse) finds itself on a very slippery slope. Especially if many of the participants are heavily armed.

So where to start? It seems impossible to ignore that right-wingers have constantly put fuel into the fire over the previous years, deliberately, consciously. They still do. The evidence is all over the place. The fact that a black President was elected made many of them lose their minds. Barack Obama is not a socialist, but a centrist Democrat. But try to explain this to a teabagger and/or a Palinbot. They will probably just yell at you. Many of them apparently blindly believe what Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity etc. tell them.

But a civilised society has to find a way out of this mess - and this will be a "test" for everybody, and it won't be easy. President Obama delivered a powerful message yesterday:

But the Palinbots, as an example, won't have it.

Right-wing "shock jock" and prominent Palin-fan Tammy Bruce, who has seemingly "unlimited" access to Palin's confidante and important staff-member Rebecca Mansour, set the tone on her twitter during President Obama's speech:

Tammy Bruce tweet 1

Tammy Bruce tweet 2

Tammy Bruce tweet 3

Tammy Bruce tweet 4

Tammy Bruce thrives on hate. Sarah Palin and the Palinbots do as well.

Some people ask why Tammy Bruce should matter to us, which is understandable. After all, she is nothing but a "fringe" talk-show host. But Tammy Bruce matters, because she is deeply involved with Sarah Palin's most fanatic fans (see for example here and here). No other "media personality" currently has such a close relationship to the Palinbots. We can safely assume that Sarah Palin herself appreciates the work of Tammy Bruce. There is also no way in the world that Rebecca Mansour would appear on Tammy Bruce's show without Palin's approval.

But while it's important to call out the right-wingers, it's also important in my opinion not to show "hate" in return as well.

The discussion about who is to blame for the current poisoned climate is still going on.

MSNBC-host Cenk Uygur delievered on of the most important commentaries from the progressive side:

One of our readers, a psychologist from Arizona, let's call him "Stan", wrote to me the following (excerpt), connecting Jared Loughner and the actions of the right-wingers:

"I don't need to write a book about this, I can say it all on one page. I think all right wingers are in the same spectrum. The difference between them is their failure or willingness to become violent in their zeal. A high percentage of them are zealots. Many can't stop from regaling others with their beliefs.

The sound of the right wing rants strikes a harmonious chord in the deranged heads of people like Loughner. It gives them the feeling that there ARE others out there like they, themselves. The large entity out there that has caused his life to finally cave in on him after repeated failures in everything he tries, is, yes, “the government.” Feeling fellowship with those who rant against the government, Loughner now has validation of his perceived target.

Perhaps he no longer felt utterly alone. Perhaps he felt he will be the hero who rises up and beheads that horrid monster that has caused him pain all his life. Whatever he felt, I think the right wing haters sharpened his focus.

Be it Jared Loughner, the faux militias of Montana, Idaho, of the woods of northern Michigan, David Koresh of Waco, or the leaders of groups in many of the famous shootouts with the FBI, these people all have one thing in common. They are paranoid schizophrenics who feel others are out to get them. Many gather sheep-like followers and hide out, as in the case of Jim Jones, of the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana."

This opinion is somewhat "contrasted" by another message I received today from another reader, who also by coincidence comes from Arizona. This message is also very thought-provoking and our reader makes some important points (excerpt):

"My reason for writing you personally is because of our President's call to civility in yesterday's gathering in Tucson at the U of A. You are in a position to start the process of that civil discourse Pres. Obama speaks about. I believe the majority of us who regularly read your blog do so because we do not want to see Sarah Palin gain further ground politically. I think we all agree she is a poison who has no place leading our nation or any portion of it. In our collective zeal to make sure that doesnt happen the tenor of our argument frequently becomes heated and peppered with excessive hatred and we lose sight of the purpose... to prevent this kind of extremist person from gaining a foothold. There will always be rabid Palin support from a small contingent. Those people will not be swayed or reached with even the most ardently researched information or hard evidence of wrong-doing. Our hope should be that those numbers don't increase any.
We do, however, have an opportunity to educate those who feel disenfranchised, on the fence or seeking information to develop their own conclusions. When we engage in name calling and harsh finger pointing we diminish the argument. We also bring on the trolls. Our response to those trolls should be courteous or quietly dismissive. To 'feed' them only weakens our argument. I should mention that there are a few ardent supporters of your blog who routinely and viciously attack any divergence of thought by accusing the poster of being a troll. I have on numerous occasions been attacked for having a more centrist point of view. This type of comment diminishes the good work that you and your crew do in bringing us well researched information.

President Obama has put out a call for all of us to return to civility:

"So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

I think it's encumbent upon us to take up this call. Let it begin with us. Let us meet our detractors with courtesy. Let us be tolerant of opposing views knowing that our diversity is what makes us great. Let's suspend the use of derogatory names for politicians that we disagree with or intensely dislike. Let's call political parties by their proper names. Lets keep the investigations relevant to the expose the deceptions. Let's make sure we don't succumb to rumor.

So I am asking you today to put the call out to your loyal readers to pay heed continuously to our voices and to do that necessary reflection that the President has called us to do. It has to start somewhere so let it start with us."

Both opinions are valid and important, and I would like to encourage our readers to discuss these subjects. We will not be able to agree on everything, because these topics are controversial and emotional. But a civil and sincere discussion will certainly bring very positive results in the end. We are proud that Palingates is such a popular forum where many people feel free to openly speak their mind, and we love our freedom of speech.

The USA currently has a big problem (and many more, unfortunately). There seem to be terrible divisions within society right now, and I frequently hear stories from our readers about how these divisions exist even within families. This is a sad and also dangerous situation. What should be the solution? How can society be "fixed?" Because this has to happen, or it would jeopardize the foundations of society as a whole.

It also doesn't help that the USA is currently in a terrible economic crisis. I will publish a post about the economic situation in the USA soon. I am not an economist, but I got hold of some very interesting information, free of "political bias", from a purely economic perspective. I found this information very fascinating, and I will share it with you soon, as the goal of this blog is to report the truth, and nothing but the naked truth. ;-)

But for now, there are some important issues to discuss. Don't hold back, please.


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