By Jim Lee: PNT columnist
This country has become so obsessed with polarization in recent years, I no longer feel confident in knowing what deserves consideration for what.
Of course the most obvious division is Democratic and Republican. Most Americans are one or the other, but that does not eliminate the confusion, even in this period of political extremes.
Basically, Republicans are viewed as conservative and Democrats as liberal. That’s what they call each other anyway. Not only that, both parties seem to have gone to the extreme right or left. The right identifies with ultraconservatism. The left identifies with ultraliberalism.
Conservatives refer to liberalism as the “L” word as though it is an example of profanity. Liberals refer to conservatism as fascism. Hopefully, when the fog of all this inaccurate and grossly unfair rhetoric fades, the politicians will decide to work together for the common good of the people of this nation.
The left and the right should move a bit toward the middle. Taken to the ultimate point, both end up in the same spot anyhow. Picture a circle with two dots at the top center, at the zero degree point. At bottom center of the circle is the end point at 180 degrees. Move one dot 180 degrees to the right. Move the other dot 180 degrees to the left. Both dots collide at the same point.
To the right 180 degrees we end up at laissez faire, the ultimate conservatism. To the left 180 degrees we end up at anarchy, the ultimate liberalism. Well, my friends, there ain’t a whole lot of difference between laissez faire and anarchy. Shouldn’t this tell us something?
What we have done is put ourselves in a state of polarization pushing in opposite directions to get to the same place. It doesn’t make much sense, does it? But what can we do about it?
We have to pay attention to our roots (conservative approach) and open our minds to new ideas (liberal approach). We need to engage in deliberation instead of seeking validation. We need progress in the context of secular values.
This planet has no such thing as a “free country,” but we have to try to get as close as we can. The USA is not a democracy, but it is a republic founded on democratic principles. We must never forget that. Political opposition is not necessarily disloyalty — we may even want to adopt the traditional parliamentary term “loyal opposition.” We can disagree with each other without questioning each other’s patriotism. We all want what is best for our country, even when we vehemently disagree on what that is.
We can share goals and differ on methods. We don’t have to agree with each other, but we do have to respect each other.
As a matter of fact, our system of government thrives on disagreement. This is the basis of the deliberative process. If all three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) agree on just about everything, that is not governing by reason because it amounts to ruling by decree — and that, friends and neighbors, can quickly and easily become a dictatorship.
Let’s return to give-and-take public administration with vigilance in maintaining the sovereignty of the people. Let’s go back to listening to each other. Politics doesn’t have to be the “P” word. In political issues, just as everything else, nobody is right all the time, and nobody is wrong all the time.
But let’s not forget that polarization is always wrong.
By the way, Wednesday is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday — what would he say?
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: