Bipartisan Inclusiveness: Time to Stop Being Polite

By Jim Selman | Bio

I am no fan of the far right, but can respect an honest difference of opinion. When the difference of opinion turns into crass and cynical lies and propaganda designed to frighten and deepen the already fragmented population, then it is time to cry “STOP!”. During one of the darker moments of the prior administration, I proposed (with tongue in cheek) the idea of creating a new organization called the “National Organization of Pissed-Off Elders” (N.O.P.E.). Its mission: to step up to the plate and declare that enough is enough whenever and wherever necessary. There is an old maxim that the only thing that has to happen for evil to prevail is for good people to do (and say) nothing.

Bob Cesca wrote a brilliant piece in the Huffington Post ("Republicans Lying to Old People about Euthanasia, Robots") slamming the current Republican attempt to defeat health care reform. The Republican attempts are not based on the strength of an argument, but on insane mainstream rhetoric charging that the Bills under consideration were designed to legalize killing older people—a final solution for dealing with the ‘Senior Set’. This kind of noise is not just a demonstration of freedom of speech: it is intentionally yelling “Fire!” in the theater to create a panic. I am reluctant to believe that any thinking American actually believes this kind of nuttiness, but enough apparently do to suggest that N.O.P.E should rally once again.

It is time, I believe, for thinking Americans and politicians to stop being polite in the name of bipartisan inclusiveness. When the nutters want to both destroy civil discourse and undermine the democratic process in some cynical financially motivated power grab, then we must call it what it is—bullshit.

Periodically, I get junk emails proclaiming that The Book of Revelations says President Obama is the Anti-Christ, or that he is scheming to make soldiers pay for their own health insurance, or the unbelievable hoopla about whether he was actually born in the United States (in spite of the facts). The only explanation for these kinds of issues getting any airtime at all is that we are captured in some sort of surreal warp in which there is so much irresponsible media that we’re not only losing our capacity to care, but also our ability to think and distinguish facts from fabrication. Has it all just become so much noise? Are we really wanting to leave ourselves open to being manipulated by our most basic fears?

I think that skepticism can be healthy. None of us should buy into any point of view without some doubts and deep thinking about who is behind the idea and what is really going on. But cynicism is not honest doubt: it is a commitment to zero possibility. It is a point of view that says only the chosen few really know the way it is and how it should be. Cynicism is, in my view, a disease, an addiction to a self-righteous and ignorant point of view without regard to the consequences of that view on the lives and well-being of others—like Marie Antoinette saying “Let them eat cake”.

Our slogan (“Don’t be a D.O.P.E., vote for N.O.P.E.”) is a reminder to take action and not roll over and assume we have to take this cynicism masked as politeness lying down. I encourage all members to not only write the usual letters, but to also boycott the worst offending media (those who knowingly provide a platform for disseminating intentionally dishonest information), to push back with ‘fact finders’ when receiving propaganda, and to stop tolerating irresponsible and inaccurate gossip. In other words, promote critical thinking and kill cynicism. If we ever use our demographic muscle, we might even make a difference.

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.