Thursday, September 13, 2012

When Worlds Collide: The Political Divide in America

One of the most frustrating things about livin' in the USA is that we don't know that much about ourselves. Strange as that may sound, for me it rings true. Leastways, the media doesn't give us much time to stop and think about who we are, they're so busy constructing our narratives for us.

I play A LOT of golf, I mean A LOT. (It's my low-level cardio, plus maybe my heroin.) A common practice on golf courses is that if you show up alone or as a twosome, you get paired with others in order to use and pace the course wisely. Now, based on demographics, I'd expect that approximately half the people I play with are Republicans with a plurality of of them being self-described conservatives.

I'm making assumptions, even though I live in liberal SF Bay Area, that golfers with money and time to burn skew toward conservatives. Hell, I played a whole round with a long-haired, long-bearded winemaker before finding out that he was a staunch Ron Paul advocate.

Okay. My point is that all of the mostly men and, occasionally, women I play with are kind, courteous, and genuine people. We shake hands at the beginning and the end, wish each other well, and say we hope we run into each other again. By and large, I'm sure we mean it.

Not much hate speech out there, except about that friggin' putt.

It makes me wonder: What's with the bile and hate speech one finds in the cable media, the right-wing talk radio (face it, there is almost no left-wing radio), and the blogs? I mean, what gives with this "I hate the freaking other dudes" mentality that permeates our politics? I mean really, what's with it?

When pollsters ask rational, unloaded questions, we find that we're a center-left nation. We find, unsurprisingly, that most people rationally still blame the Bush years for the financial crisis that lingers today. We find that the majority of people think we were sold a bill of goods about Iraq and that we shouldn't have gone to war there. We find that the majority of citizens would accept higher taxes if it saved or preserved Social Security or Medicare. We find that a majority of people would prefer higher taxes if it helped our country and agree that the wealthy should pay their fair (higher) share because we all paid for the America they were lucky enough to get rich in.

For almost all of the crucial controversies, most people tend to buy into the center-left philosophy. This holds true for abortion, birth control, gay rights, sex education, military spending, etc. The only place where viewpoints -- from a liberal, humanist perspective -- go awry is with gun control and the death penalty. This is sad, but it's true. But, roughly speaking, Americans aren't unbalanced.

There's a caveat here. Views in the southern states (basically the Sun Belt sans New Mexico) diverge from the general North American view, as do the northern Rocky Mountain states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The Dakotas maybe, too, plus Kansas and Nebraska. I leave to you to figure out why.

But even in these regions where I worry their views are too skewed to the right, I'd probably enjoy a round of golf and even a round of drinks with the vast majority I'd meet. I do suppose it would help if we avoided politics. And if we did avoid politics (and maybe gun control, the death penalty, and religion), I suggest it would be hard to distinguish between the raving idiot and the genteel person. We actually are built, in this day and age in America, to get along.

Does this guy really speak for you?

Please remember that the next time you hear a political statement, especially from the peanut gallery of Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, Ann Coulters, Sarah Palins, and their ilk. Ask yourself this question: What is their motivation and what are they hoping to accomplish? If it's to help Americans to have happier, more productive lives, great. If it isn't, then turn off the TV or the radio. And play some golf.

Home, home on the range.

Note. I didn't provide any links for my suppositions on the general center-left views of this nation. I simply offered what I've observed and researched over the years. If you disagree, find the polling and post a comment to let me know. I suspect -- or I wouldn't have said it -- you'll find essentially what I've said to be true. Again, let me know.

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