Wednesday, October 2, 2013

End of Hyperboles…?

The recent government shutdown has people shaking their heads in disbelief over the dysfunction of their elected representatives. Washington seems not to be able to tie one shoe, let alone both, in order to step onto the political dance floor, which itself is a giant mess.

So who is to blame for this shutdown? The GOP is taking the brunt of the blame. The House of Representatives, under republic control, cannot pass along to the Senate, democrat controlled, a bill that leaves the Affordable Care Act (ACA) alone.  This is the "Obamacare" law that the Supreme Court deemed as constitutionally lawful. Yet, some want to repeal, limit or severely damage this law--namely the "tea party" wing of the GOP.  This wing has effectively infected the rest of the GOP, branding them as crybabies, ideological crusaders, and greedy assholes. It seems this label is not too far off the mark.

The democrats are happy to go  along with blaming the GOP, but they have some criticism to endure. Their plan to "keep the government open" is a quick fix bandage to pass along a budget crisis down the line.  They also refuse to negotiate with the GOP on anything so long as the latter threatens ACA--but this is a good refusal, although it may sound intransigent. The democrats could just sit tight and let the GOP crumble to its foundation. Perhaps this is what is needed.

Yet the blame should not stop there. As we all know, Congress is an elected body so it follows that those who elected it take some blame as well.  Maybe more should take more blame than others, but as a collective, this is the voters' fault. Call is mis-education, ignorance, laziness or entrenched traditional voting practices, but make no mistake, the electorate is dysfunctional.  The foundation of this dysfunction is the hyperbole.

If you think republicans are conservative big business, and democrats are liberal hippies, then you are part of the problem. Nothing ceases and prohibits dialogue faster and longer than hyperbolic categorizations.  To identify others, even yourself, as liberal, conservative, libertarian, communist, etc, then you are just feeding to this overall dysfunction.

There are two main problems with political hyperboles. One is that they are shortcuts around critical thinking, which affects more than the political arena.  Assuming knowledge of individuals (beliefs, actions, motivations, desires, thinking, tendencies, etc) based is dangerous and just plain wrong. As a scene in Good Will Hunting illustrates, no one can know the depths of a person (orphan in the case in the movie) from reading a book (Oliver Twist).  Hyperboles go beyond a stereotype and find the extreme examples to apply to others, making the assumptions that much more worse.

The other main problem is how this hyperbolic thinking is used by those in, or seeking, public office. Hyperboles are strongly held mainly because they are so extreme. If you're against something, and that something is so awful, then your resolution against it is stronger than it would be if that something were not so extreme.  For example, it's not enough to be against the United States, but it is rather easy and noble to be against the Great Satan. It does not take much persuasion (or thinking) to be against pure evil. This is the strength of hyperboles, and politicians know this. They will use this hyperbolic, electorate dysfunction to win elections. They prey upon the effects of hyperbole, namely the fears of what might happen if the hyperbolic assumptions were true and in office. Do we really want Satan in government? No, of course not.  This is just an example, but it illustrates to strong sense of opposition to such a thought.

Yet the electorate eats this up.  They do not want a tyrannical government, groups of armed gangs, moronic officials, or child-eating corporate monsters alive and well in the U.S. So they vote against them, even though they do not exist.  The government shutdown is just one effect of this hyperbolic, extreme "non-thinking".  It is the fault of Republicans, Democrats, and the People of the United States.

Next election cycle, don't jump to conclusions. Do a little research. And ignore the hyperboles the candidates through back at you.