Recently, I saw an “informational” booth about impeaching President Obama – the centerpiece of which being an Obama poster with a “Hitler” mustache. My first reaction was disgust with this “zealot”. Then I thought about it; it is this extreme behavior is a product of the caustic environment of 21st Century American politics. The problem wasn’t this booth; it was my inability to talk to this person.
Why could I not stop and have a 15 minute conversation with this person? Admittedly, I do tend to lean more left on the liberal – conservative spectrum. But that has not stopped me from political debate and banter with others whose views lie closer to the right. But something stopped me from speaking to this person.
Frankly, the tone of the booth drove me away. I firmly believe (as most people I suspect) that there is no parallel between the 20th Century’s symbol for evil and the current (or any previous) President of the United States. And, if I can get past this extreme visual presence, what grounds are there to find the President guilty of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”? The release of details from Guantanamo Bay to gain the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as described by Allen West? “Obamacare”? I wouldn’t know because judged his opinion solely based upon his signs and his simple message “Impeach Obama”.
Granted, American citizens have always been passionate about politics – two of America’s founding fathers (Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr) dueled over politics. Yet, fierce as political rivals may be, there has nearly always been a point where debate ends. As noted by political commentator Chris Matthews, President Ronald Reagan once told him, “The Speaker (Senator Tip O’Neill) says that here in Washington we’re all friends after 6.” Where has that gone?
The civility President Reagan spoke of has dissipated in favor of relentless extremism. With the rise of the organizations such as the “Tea Party”, and “MoveOn.org”, the power in American politics is moving closer to the edges and taking people with it. Politicians deliver messages that pander to these audiences. Pundits spin the news of the day to fit their ideals. Citizens (i.e. voters) do not stop to listen to the other side of the debate and formulate their opinions without all the facts.
To me, changing the tenor to start open and sensible debate is the first step to improving government. Instead of living in the silo of their specific ideologue, people should reach out to the other side, stop thinking of them as adversaries, and find the common ground that would improve the nation. Then, society should demand this same dialogue from its elected officials instead of punishing them for compromising.
For me, I should talk to the “Impeach Obama” man if I see him again. I should try to understand his opinions, and challenge them if I disagree. Then, maybe we could come to an understanding we both could agree on. Remaining civil, I would be willing to bet there are things we both agree upon and could urge our elected officials to do. Then, maybe we can get rid of that anger and remove the ignorant “Obama – Hitler” poster.