And just like that, it’s time for the last column of my third and final semester as a Daily opinion columnist. It would be nice to be able to summarize all the grand, meaningful lessons I’ve learned, but there haven’t really been any. I’m leaving Ann Arbor for the comfort of my parents’ basement for the next 10 years with far more questions than answers when it comes to politics and the way this country discusses them. It’s been a confusing few years, and the tones of the various debates have been discouraging to many.
With that in mind, here’s a brief list of things I’m wishing for and things I’m wondering about as I depart my post as a Daily columnist.
I wish that the discourse in this country would improve. All you have to do is turn on one of the cable news networks or tune into AM radio, and it’s clear how bad things are. We have truly devolved into a culture of talking heads, of ad hominem attacks, of fear-mongering and of genuine hatred and misunderstanding where there should be mere disagreement. Politics is too identity-oriented these days; people seem far more concerned with who they are – that is, to which political parties or advocate groups they claim membership – than with what they think and whether their ideas stand up to critical scrutiny.
I wonder which social issue the GOP is going to exploit in time for the upcoming elections? They’re going to need one, that’s for sure, if they hope to distance themselves from President Bush, his disastrous war and his utter lack of accomplishment on the domestic front. The immigration issue (which has brought with it GOP infighting) won’t bring voters to the polls, so watch for the Republicans to turn to what they do best: homophobia. We’re going to be hearing the words “tradition,” “sanctity” and “marriage” more and more as November approaches.
I wish we could figure out a way to get over the non-issues that often seem to dominate discourse. The bizarre fixation on “the War on Christmas” this past winter proved that an idea, no matter how stupid, can spread like wildfire if granted enough repetition and obsession. And for every moment a pundit on Fox News spends hacking away at a straw man, actual problems – poverty, port security, health care – continue to go unsolved.
I wish AM radio and cable news pundits would stop treating liberalism as some creeping disorder that must be rooted out of our schools and our government. Liberalism is constantly and intentionally misrepresented, and some of the language used to describe it – and the need to cleanse the nation of it – borders on the fascistic. Liberalism, like conservatism, can mean a thousand different things, and any conservative who makes a blanket statement about liberalism (or, for that matter, any liberal who makes a blanket statement about conservatism) is taking the cowardly and intellectually lazy way out.
I wonder if there could possibly be a better Sean Hannity quote to back up my previous point: “(Liberals) encourage tolerance for the teachings of the Koran but not for the teachings of Jesus Christ. They oppose the Pledge of Allegiance, tell us that ‘God is dead,’ that ‘Christianity is for losers’ and that evangelical and Catholic conservatives are more dangerous than radical Islamic militants.” Yes, Sean – thanks for telling us what all liberals think and do. That’s from one of his books, “Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism.”
I wish there was a powerful, well-organized liberal political party in the United States. Idiotic, hysterical assertions from Hannity et al. not withstanding, the Democratic Party has utterly failed to represent a huge block of voters that has consistently supported it. Where’s the opposition on gay marriage? On marijuana laws? There is a huge range of issues for which only one side is truly represented in the halls of Congress. And if Hillary Clinton – who last year cosponsored anti-flag burning legislation, and who has made a minor crusade out of fighting video-game violence after approving the very real violence of the Iraq war – ends up being the Democratic nominee in 2008, then liberalism in America will be in even sorrier shape than it is now.
Singal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org