Roses are Red. Violets are Blue

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies, Capacity Building, Politics

Published on April 05, 2011 with No Comments

– Politically speaking, US States are too…

A common phrase one hears these days about education in America is that Americans are being dumbed down. How can that be? Earlier generations had less information at their fingertips than kids today have. We did not have the Internet to fall back on a few decades ago; nor did we have smart phones with which to make instant searches for information. We were tethered to libraries. We did not have hundreds of TV channels to choose from. We did not have the capability to read news headlines from around the globe at any given instant. So, how can people say that Americans today are being dumbed down? I, for one, don’t believe we are being dumbed down. I believe that we, the American public, have already been dumbed down.

DUH !! Medicare is a government program!! Tea Party'er visit Earth.

I blame the political process and, for example, the notion of red and blue states (purple states came later). Red signifies conservative states and blue represents the liberal states. The community-based “we” has all but disappeared. We learned in elementary school about the political slogan from the late 1750s to keep the colonies together against the British colonizers, “United We Stand. Divided We Fall.” We have become a nations re-divided. It seems that issues are no longer viewed in different shades of grey but as black or white.

American Political Scientist Robert Dahl once wrote about political divisions he called cleavages. As I recall, he highlighted the importance of “overlapping cleavages.” That referred to political compromise. While A and B might be opposed on one issue they could be united on other issues. So, they understood our political system; they needed each other to get polices passed that they favored. I will vote your way today because I might need you to vote my way tomorrow.  The danger, however, lays in what we have today, “reinforced cleavages.” On just about every issue — taxation, health care, social security, wars, supporting the unemployed, prison sentences for Wall Street scammers— the red and the blue politicians and their loyal supporters oppose each other with a vengeance. There is no chance for compromise, only stalemate. And the longer the stalemate continues, the worse off the country becomes: and “Divided We Fall.” Our forefathers had the foresight to see that 250 years ago. With all the electronic ways to can get information today, we have neglected their warning.

Tea Party'ers also have asked to keep the government out of their social security. Unbelievable. and they vote!

The American public is dumbed down and I am not sure it can get much dumber. The dumbing is due in part to ignorance and trust (people are so busy figuring out how to feed their families in these hard economic times that they are relying on political candidates that look good to the eye (nice hair, pearly white teeth, pretty smile, folksy chatter, glad-handers) but may have little idea how our government works.

On the other hand there are those who suffer from “ignore-ance,” and the only facts that are relevant are those they choose to believe. They are often ideologically driven. Their behavior undermines the constitution they were elected to uphold. If, for example, the law of the nation is at cross-purposes to their ideological preferences, then the law of the land be damned in their view. True facts, scientific facts, are thrown in the dustbin in favor of gut-feelings, their own or those of their corporate backers. As much as a politician might believe the USA is number one is science, technology, education and health care, it is not so. On such comparative lists we are in the double-digit category.

Another driving force that is dumbing down America is the media, which operate these days on a 24-7-365 schedule. There is no longer such a thing as a slow news day. With the globalization of instant news, we know immediately about the dog that was saved 11 days after it washed out to sea due to the devastating tsunami in Japan. Thanks to Twitter we know what a foreign friend is eating for lunch on the other side of the globe. We see lots of silly 3-minute videos on YouTube. Reality shows draw millions of viewers who are escaping their own reality for a few hours. And the media too seems to have become polarized with red and blue media (and some purple [bi-partisan] ones in-between). 

I am presently at a loss on how to turn this situation around. How can we un-dumb Americans, people on the street and their politicians? How can we get back to a “United We Stand” way of life and of policymaking? How do we bring back a sense of community, and not just a red community vs. a blue community? The public has to take charge again. It has to put time in to being a citizen once again, to understand issues of democracy and how it works.

In the back of my mind I harbor the feeling that maybe the “Leave it to Beaver” days of the 1950s were not so bad.

 

 

 


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