Oct 19, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
This column begins with a rather personal confession. Most of my life, I’ve fought real hard to control my emotions and contain my temper. At times, I’ve miserably failed, and it’s proven costly. That’s not something to point to with pride.
In recent years – perhaps the inevitable result of gaining maturity and drifting from youth toward middle age – I’ve done a better job of self-control. But always lurking beneath that calm surface is a perpetual fear that it could come apart again, with real consequences.
Along the way, what I’ve learned, and I’m pretty sure millions of others have also learned, is that sound decisions are not made in anger. Maybe it’s healthy to express one’s desires and fears and uncertainties, but when you have crucial choices to make, it’s important to have a clear heart – and a clearer mind.
All this is related because, on Nov. 2, we’re about to make a rather crucial decision at the polls. Okay, so it doesn’t measure up to the immense weight of history, combined with deep emotions, felt two years ago at this time. It’s doubtful that we will ever feel that way again.
Instead, these midterm elections have developed into a temperature gauge on the American pressure cooker. Given all the problems – a sputtering economy, continuing housing crisis, a never-ending war in Afghanistan, immigration issues, the environment, health care – it’s very easy to understand that voters are angry.
How they have used that anger, and how it’s been covered, says a lot about us. From the Tea Party crowd wanting to “take their country back” to the progressives angry at Barack Obama for not getting to every single item on their agenda since entering the White House, people are not shy about expressing how mad they are.
And all of it is egged on by a corporate media that sees immense profit in the endless conflict. As such, the fringes are thrust into legitimacy, and any attempt to seek middle ground, as Obama as done, is perceived as weakness, from both the right and left.
So I get it, we’re angry. But just as in life, where raging emotions can and will lead to poor decisions, letting anger be the sole component in a political campaign leads to bad candidates seeking office, if the impulse isn’t reined in.
Just look at our governor’s race. Carl Paladino has fueled his entire candidacy on anger, mostly at Albany, an easy place to get angry about. If it were simply about the inefficient political system, he’d have a good point, and a real chance to beat Andrew Cuomo.
Unfortunately, Paladino’s rage seems directed at anyone who doesn’t see things exactly his way – or belongs in his income bracket. Thus, he tolerates forwarding racy and racist emails, threatens reporters, or bashes gay people, then gets further roiled when someone, anyone, calls him out on it.
If you ever wondered what it would be like if Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity or their ilk ever got out of their multi-million dollar bunkers and faced the public scrutiny of running for actual office, you’re seeing it here. They all have the common thread of being perfectly capable of throwing proverbial bombs at anyone or anything they don’t like, but they run and hide like cowards when anyone calls them out on it.
We are told, over and over again, that voters are “angry” and want to “lash out” at incumbents, so that means all Democrats are in trouble and that the GOP is ready to take over the House and Senate. Perhaps this is the place to remind everyone that the foundation for our economic struggles was laid long before Obama took office, so blaming him for failing to clean up the unholy mess in record time is quite misguided.
Still, the anger persists, and we just might vote while in the midst of that very public snit. That might “send a message”, and it might cause the conflict-obsesses pundits to salivate over all the needless political battles we’ll face in the next couple of years. But is that good for the country?
Maybe it’s time for a good old-fashioned “Star Wars” analogy. As you all know, the Force had a good side and a dark side. The conflict between them formed the heart of the saga, and Yoda, know this he did (couldn’t resist the jumbled syntax).
What drove Anakin Skywalker to the dark side, and what Luke tried to resist, was anger and fear and hate and suffering. Torn by those emotions, the father made the wrong choice, and wasn’t redeemed until the very end by his son, who made the right choice.
We’re not living a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. America, in 2010, with all its issues and conflicts and problems we need to solve, is daunting enough without giving in to the fear and anger and hatred that’s driving our politics. Speaking from personal experience, I can safely say that no good decision is made in that manner.