Fearless Reason

Fearless reason in an age of frightened absurdity.

Tag: Tea Party

Not Just a Game

I am a native of Kentucky, and today my state swore in as governor a tea party darling who has vowed to wage war on my home. I know several gay and lesbian men and women serving in state government, who wept the night Matt Bevin was elected. They wept for their state, and for their own safety and livelihoods. I also know many environmentalists, myself included, who are heartbroken by the appointment of a coal executive to the Energy and Environment cabinet. We fear for the land, water, and air; we fear for humanity’s survival and the future of this state and the world outside of it. As a native of eastern Kentucky, I am also mournful. My heart goes out to those who barely get by, and will likely lose access to healthcare and other meager social services keeping them from the brink of the abyss. I also hurt for the miners in eastern Kentucky, who have been sold false tales of a war on coal, as the coal seams that fed my family for generations reach exhaustion, and gas prices make coal mining a losing proposition. They have been sold a false narrative, and will not get the assistance and retraining they need for a post coal economy. They will continue living in a fantasy-land of yesteryear, as jobs continue to diminish and they grow ever more poor and unprepared for a changing economy.

I know it isn’t polite to pretend politics is anything other than a game, where political offices are points on the board. But for the thousands of lives negatively affected by this election, I cannot treat this like a game. This was a triumph of fear, hate, and ignorance over decency and reason, so today I mourn for my old Kentucky home, and for those who must now live with the consequences.

A New Paradigm

American politics has become a shouting match between the competing political ideologies. In the last twenty years we have witnessed a progressive radicalization of American politics that has reached its apex in the “Occupy” and “Tea Party” movements. Both groups have legitimate concerns and grievances that most reasonable people can can identify with. However, both groups typically react to these legitimate grievances in  radical and unreasonable ways. What follows is a reasonable man’s critique of popular absurdity.

The Tea Party invokes some of the oldest and most enduring American paradigms. They appeal to the rugged libertarian frontiersman, who survives by self reliance, hard work, and perseverance. This American Pioneer has little tolerance for government intrusion, and is generally opposed to taxes and invasive regulations. More importantly, the Pioneer is uncompromising and implacable. But these latter traits are better suited for the frontier than to the messy business of governing.

Democracy is compromise. Governance is achieved by building coalitions of different peoples with different ideas. Ideological purity quickly becomes ideological dogma, at which point ideas become more important than the issues.

As Issac Newton observed, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Politics is no exception.

The Occupy movement has become the left’s response to the Tea Party, embodying another, newer aspect of American culture. This movement consists of the progressive and liberal impulses found in F.D.R.’s New Deal. Occupy is greatly concerned with what it considers the many injustices in our society. Its chief enemies being suffering and inequality. Though the movement has not proposed any concrete solutions to these problems, generally the Occupy movement seems to believe that the government can and should fix society’s woes.

At its best Occupy has brought awareness to many of the problems facing the country. At its worse, the movement has been an unruly mob, demanding change, but unable to identify solutions. If the Tea Party knows what it wants, and is uncompromising in how it seeks to achieve it, Occupy knows what it wants, but is clueless as to making its desires a reality.

If this country is to solve its problems the silent majority must find its voice. Most Americans identify as moderates, and care more about addressing the issues than ideological purity. The average American is pragmatic,  because daily life requires compromise. But reasonable people are hesitant to take to the streets. We do not march on capitals and wave signs. Because reasonable people believe life should be a dialogue, not a shouting match.

However, we must not allow our reasonableness to allow us to become irrelevant. The country’s problems will not be solved by shouting, but with serious dialogue and compromise. The silent majority must speak. We must find our voice, and make it heard.

So long as both sides define themselves in opposition to one another, there can be no compromise. So long as both sides believe that the other is incapable of good ideas, there can be no discussions.