We can’t help ourselves. In our heavily partisan political climate, we’re conditioned to fight our neighbors, whom we refer to as “rivals” and “enemies.”
When the going gets tough, you can count on Americans to go after each other instead of focusing on the larger threats to our common well-being. The Powers That Be, of course, encourage such behavior.
All power structures — whether a corporation, a political party or a religion — benefit from centralized control and minimal outside interference. When cracks start to appear in the edifice, perhaps from scandal or financial problems, the powerful try to redirect the public’s attention elsewhere.
After the Bush administration started disastrous wars in the Middle East, they distracted voters in 2004 with anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives. Middle class and poor voters supported these measures and Bush, clearly voting against their own economic interests.
On March 15 several thousand people gathered on Fountain Square for the “Cincinnati Tea Party,” joined by Republican politicians Jean Schmidt and Steve Chabot, to denounce “irresponsible” homeowners for causing the mortgage crisis and the resulting financial meltdown.
One participant’s sign read “Honk if I’m paying your mortgage.”
Of course, when that person files her taxes she probably deducts the interest she pays on her mortgage, as most homeowners do. You see, the American people help each other buy homes by paying a portion of everyone’s mortgage.
As Kevin Osborne reported on CityBeat’s Daily Beat blog, things got ugly at the Tea Party when participants followed an African-American woman cheering for Obama and chanted, “Welfare mom!” and “Get a job!” Several other blogs reported the incident — notably Cincinnati Blog and The Enquirer’s Politics Extra — and were deluged with nasty name-calling, taunting and racist comments.
“Yeah, President Bush was awful, but the Democrats under Bill Clinton deregulated hedge funds!” “Yeah, but Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was a Wall Street insider helping his friends!” “Yeah, but Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd inserted language supporting AIG bonuses into the stimulus bill and then lied about it!” “Yeah, but Congressional Republicans voted for the first bailout package and now just want to obstruct Obama!”
Let’s agree that there’s enough blame to go around for this mess. Get blame off the table, stop yelling at each other, and now let’s start talking about solutions.
There’s real anger and outrage across the country, and leaders in Washington need to start listening. But it doesn’t do us any good to scrap and fight among ourselves, because while we’re distracted the politicians move billions of our dollars around without any real explanations.
Pay attention. Stay focused.
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