in the second part of my exploration of american life, i would like to examine something that is perhaps the most frustrating thing to me about our american culture: polarization. primary political polarization, but it also at times expands into other areas. this is a large topic that brings out a lot of emotion from me--so organizing my thoughts may prove difficult. follow as you can.
recent polarization in america is rooted in politics. red state blue state. fox news msnbc. opposing political ideas is not the problem. emotion-based politics over rational politics is partly to blame. the political figure as celebrity over platforms of policy is another negative aid. but the heart of the blame lies in the two-party system.
now before you attack me as an enemy of democracy, let us first consider just how democratic our democracy is. democracy simply means a government by the people. and when you consider the two-party system, you must realize that as much as 49% of the people are not "for" the current government. "that's not my president" is a common bumper sticker of late. even less extreme is just the common disagreement and lack of any sort of representation for those whose candidate they supported lost. this creates the feeling within people that they have no voice. so they get angry and allow the angry anchors and figures at fox news and talk radio to yell for them. or they pride themselves in their "intellectual superiority" disdaining opposing views as antiquated.
but perhaps that's just the way it is--isn't that the nature of elections and voting? this is a very important concept: democracy is not majority rules. democracy, or rather what we actually have--a republic, implies representation. but is that possible to have everyone represented? unfortunately i think most americans just believe that it simply is not. however if you were to know about parliamentary systems in many european countries you would know otherwise. in their parliament (like our congress), the parties receive as many representatives as the percentage of vote their party receives. so if the christian democratic party receives 13% of the vote they get that many representatives. not only does this represent much more of the population, it also takes the focus off of particular individuals and onto the actual policies of that party. it also keeps politicians from straying from their party's ideals and principles.
i'm sure the parliamentary system has it's flaws too, and the whole grass is always greener thing--but facing the problems that we are it sounds pretty appealing to me. it sounds much more democratic.
but that isn't the system we are in, and so we experience polarization. we have "news" channels that are businesses motivated by the dollar and so they are much more concerned with selling their program than thinking about the effect that their shows have on their viewers as participants in a government system. let's also put talk radio in the same category. it's all about the ratings. they use hyperbole and loaded language and emotions to bump up their ratings with very little regard for social function. sure they believe the things that they are saying, but do they believe they are really accomplishing progress and help for the american people? maybe they do, but at what cost? polarization results in no middle ground to move forward, so extremes must be taken because the ends justify the means for the radical. this in turn creates further divergence and increases anger through the means of fillibusters, and in more extreme conditions further political corruption.
but at the more basic level this just keeps us from having intelligent conversations. we are unable to talk to people with normal conversations because we write them off by their label. liberal. conservative. fundamentalist. elite. or by the position they take on a single issue.
no the media is not solely to blame for this of course. we are as well for having listened to them. and there are many other sources of the error. we have become increasingly polarized, and i don't see how this will change.
if i had the skills and the desire and the ability to invest my energy anywhere politically, it would be to try and raise a third party that held to christian values on both sides of the political landscape. pro life both before and after birth. social justice and personal responsibility. etc. etc. etc. but let's be honest--financially it could never compete. and in the current system it could never get enough representatives to make any sort of difference. just ask ron paul.
what do you think can/should be done about polarization in america?