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Balancing Act

Despite the cliché, perception is not reality. Subjective reality and actual reality can be two very different things. There’s often a big difference between perception and reality, especially when one’s perception is confounded with maniacal predispositions. Despite what a schizophrenic might perceive, the voices in their heads aren’t really there.

… And despite what a Tea Partier might believe, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker are not really Republicans.

As such, the political perception of what constitutes a Republican has changed drastically over the past few years. Although I’m often called a RINO (a label that I wear proudly) so too would Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater wear that same label in today’s partisan discourse. Although the perception from the GOP electorate has changed regarding what constitutes reasonable socio/economics for the party, that doesn’t deter from the reality that today’s Republican perspectives are an utter departure from what they were when the GOP helped build the largest middle class and strongest economy in the world in the years following World War Two.

But now the manner in which we choose our political affiliations is more akin to how we choose our sports teams. We are a nation of Yankees and Red Sox fans, whose ideologies are rooted in the disdain for the other. We’re reflexively rooting for D’s and R’s. But that’s not how rational people make determinations, especially when the reality is, that as Americans, we all play for the same team.

Regardless of what political party anyone identifies themselves with, rational people remain independent until the reasons for said affiliation are warranted. Will most people find themselves leaning one way or the other? Sure. But anyone who is reasonable will not make their political determinations by who proposes legislation, but rather by what the legislation proposes. Somewhere along the line, my fellow Republicans have lost sight of that.

Which is why political centrism is so important.

Contrary to popular understanding, centrism is not about being in the middle of every, or for that matter, any issue. It is about not allowing a coalition to make determinations for you. The center relies on socio/economic facts in favor of party affiliation. If facts tend to coincide with a particular political ideology, then so be it. If that dynamic occurs disproportionately, then so be that, too.

Balance for balance sake has no place in our political discourse. The journalistic obligation is to report stories in successive order as they pertain to national importance, and to do so truthfully. It is not to make a concerted effort to counter-balance it with something random from the other side of the political aisle. What the false “balance” dynamic imposes is a license for special interests to run amok, secure that regardless of how many socially regressive or economically nonsensical items of legislation they propose, “balance” requires that something from the opposition deserves equal media scrutiny.

The reality is that the TEA Party, Corporatists, and Theocrats have taken over the GOP, and they are not only not Republicans. Neither are they mentally stable. The political right has gotten so irrational that when one speaks truth to stupid, and exposes the socio/economic lack of reason continuously exhibited by TEA-publican candidates, they are accused of “Liberal Media” bias. It’s political hipster-ism for those who lack introspection, and/or acumen.

In the present political climate, there is no Democratic equivalent for the sheer crazy that pours from TEA Party Republicans. There are no Alan Wests, Michele Bachmans, or Todd Aikens elected to public office with a (D) next to their names… nor are there any celebrity equivalents to Ted Nugent, Donald Trump, or Sarah Palin who get regular spots on FOX news. However the far right wingnuts require balance in reporting, despite the lack of balance from where the crazy originates. The idea that a responsible media would have to counterbalance a disproportional amount of lunacy emanating from the political right by manufacturing items from the left is not reasonable.

As the political “middle” moves further right in the wake of the Republican Party having been hijacked by extremist ideologues, the political center remains beholden to facts. It is incumbent upon rational centrists who identify as Republicans to make the distinction between the TEA Party/ lunatic fringe, and the socio/economic principles that defined the GOP from a generation ago. Because the political center is not the political middle. It is where the facts lie. And if the discourse cantilevers overtly to the right, –although the perception of where the center is might change– that does not alter the reality of where the facts of centrism reside.

The perception, and the reality of the political center are two very different things.

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Obama Anxiety and Racism Denial

When human nature collides with subjectivity, rarely does intellectual honesty override passion. Truthful introspection more often gives way to projection of one’s own irrational fears in others, and denial of the darker parts of who we are. Our cognitive ability to reflect inward is mired in human frailty, and often prevents us from making uncomfortable admissions about ourselves.

Which is to say that bigots rarely recognize themselves as such, rather they’ll internally rationalize their predispositions as something else, and find ways to express themselves thusly.

Where it concerns our brown skinned President and uncomfortable admissions, the new racist tag line goes something like this: “Anyone who disagrees with the Obama is automatically called a racist by liberals.” … or something like that. I’ve heard variations of this a thousand times, and it usually accompanies partisan platitudes, and accusations of anti-Americanism, a love for Islam, or imaginary socialism. It’s a clear deflection of the nature of one’s bias in order to justify becoming selectively appalled at the present administration. So allow me to explain why this ad-hominem premise is not only false, but is also the projection of one’s self in how he or she might form political opinions, and the denial of one’s own bigotry.

As the American cultural topography becomes increasingly darker skinned, the natural reflex against change can reveal itself in ugly ways. When confronted with one’s own bias, rather than cognitively admitting to ourselves that there is a cultural effect at work regarding how certain predispositions might have caused overzealous reactions heretofore never experienced with other presidential administrations, the internal defenses immediately rise. No one wants to admit that their principles are influenced by something unbecoming of a lucid free thinker. And although the intent is often not malicious, that is how fear manifests itself as racism. You mind if we dance wif yo’ dates?

As such, political centrists often find themselves in the unenviable position of defending a president that they would rather not, rather than acquiesce to the sometimes racist, and often irrational criticisms which defy socio/political facts. Centrists often find themselves appearing to lean left (in order to better frame their perspectives in a reasonable manner) in the face of racist ravings. Sometimes, rational political perspectives –which many in the GOP might accord– go unheard because there is little hope of their acumen being understood by such zealous, right leaning lunatics.

For instance, I have taken the president to task many times over policy, capitulation to the will of capital lobbies, and even chided his cavalier attitude over what I perceive to be an abandonment of his base –in very liberal minded company– and I’ve never been called a racist for doing so. Likewise, when I’ve done the same in the company of conservatives, what I often experience is that uncomfortable look over the shoulder that one performs before telling an inappropriate story… before becoming bombarded with racially tainted, mostly inaccurate assaults. What the GOP electorate rarely acknowledge is the nature of their criticisms, and how it rarely concerns policy. Rather its more often personalized –if not downright fallacious– attacks.

Ridiculous Meme’s posted to social media that misrepresent circumstance and disregard truth in favor of racist innuendo are all too common. Like other forms of institutionalized racism, it is more comfortably delivered through anonymity, or a third party. And like when we shout epithets from behind the wheel of a car knowing that we do so removed from accountability, the vitriol is severe. Still, the present day political climate allows for internal reconciliation, and permits otherwise decent republican folks to name call their President and bear false witness under the guise of patriotism.

Which is not to say that there aren’t plenty of things to criticize this, or any President over. That’s part of the job. However it’s instances of selective outrage over things like President Obama’s use of predator drones, or his administration’s handling of the attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi… when the prior (Republican) administration had several such attacks which have never garnered the calls for investigation –let alone impeachment– that the Benghazi failure to save lives did. But the disparity of outrage for the same acts committed by the Obama administration as opposed to other administrations, is directly proportional to one’s willful political ignorance. Only honest introspection can determine to what extent racism plays a part in determining the singular direction of one’s own level of angst.

The problem for many is that President Obama represents the cultural change in our national landscape, and thus the malevolence directed at him is more a function of anxiety than it is personal. I get that. It’s often not intentional. Nevertheless, it’s still based in racism.

Which is not to say that everyone who has experienced a negative racial reflex regarding the changing cultural topography is worthy for membership in the Klan. The acumen of one’s life’s experience while formulating these percepts should never be dismissed. However to “double down” on ignorance in the light of actuality, and remain steadfast in bias for no other reason than to find comfort in racist proclivities is an abhorrent social dynamic, that unfortunately, has become more prevalent with the election of President Barak Obama within the Republican voting base. For the GOP to move forward into the twenty first century, it must change that dynamic within their party.

But before they can solve the problem of reflexive racism, they have to recognize that there is a problem.

Looking Down the Barrel

Even a tragedy as horrible as a school shooting no longer warrants civility. Absent from the national discourse regarding guns, and gun control is reasonable perspective. The internet has given rise to mediocre personalities spewing constitutional hyperbole and an utter lack of understanding of a topic in which they profess to possess an expertise.

In the minds of those awarded the privilege of speaking to the American public about socio/political propositions, it can be only all or nothing, black or white. So it is with guns. But how can we have a rational discussion about the second amendment when those whom we turn to for reason are themselves, irrational? To make matter worse, as it always does when people derive their information from biased, unreliable sources, the crazy is trickling down to the public.

Recently I made the mistake of trying to find — within my circle of influence–  a common ground for reasonable people to begin a discussion, in the hopes that somehow the margins might be brought in from the extremes. As a law abiding citizen and legal gun owner, I thought that there must be some commonality between the lunatic fringes. Certainly there had to be people whose sensibilities allowed them to fall on the gun issue somewhere between the government forcibly disarming the populace, and allowing everyone to have their own predator drone.

So I began with the premise that no matter what anybodies feelings were about guns, and gun control, that we should all agree that *ILLEGAL* guns should be addressed. I thought that would be a good way to begin a rational discussion. So I thought.

Little did I know that I — a legal gun owner– am akin to left wing loony Piers Morgan on this topic. Assailed by NRA activists for even suggesting that any guns or gun sales be scrutinized, even the topic of illegal guns seemed to be prohibitive to their second amendment rights. The Only answer that the far right gun nuts would accept, was to arm every law abiding citizen so that they can either deter, or shoot it out with their criminal gun nut counterparts.

Also unbeknownst to me was that President Obama had a secret plan to take everyone’s guns away despite the reality that this administration has made it easier to purchase, and travel with firearms. Yet despite the facts, the panic was palpable. As it turns out, the NRA makes millions from the panic they create. Dumb, camouflage wearing people buy lots of guns when you tell them that they soon won’t be able to.

You see, the NRA is a gun lobby, not an activist group for the rights of American citizens. It doesn’t  give a damn about the second amendment, or anyone’s liberties anymore than the oil lobby cares about the environment. They are concerned about gun sales, and nothing else. The second amendment is merely the worm on the hook the NRA needs to get support  from the proletariat so that legislators can take their money without it costing them their jobs in the form of voter retaliation.  

But lost in all of this  far left/far right gun mania is that innocent people –American citizens– are being helplessly gunned down all too often. These are tragedies, not rope to have a political tug O’ war with. We’re having the wrong discussions, because people are making money from our collective anxiety.

The reality is that the causes for gun violence are more complex than any of the talking heads on cable news, or our unimaginative politicians will acknowledge. There is no one explanation that causes someone to shoot their fellow citizens for no rational reason. The blame has been spread around from too many guns, to not enough guns… from a culture desensitized to violence to a lack of proper mental health coverage… and from the changing landscape of parent/child relationships to the sugar and salt rich American diet resulting in millions of cases of undiagnosed depression.

To some degree, it’s probably all of the above. But the thing is, that offering a reasonable perspective won’t get socio/political entertainers the clever sound bite they need to stay relevant into the next news cycle. So they blather wingnut platitudes in the hopes of having their media appearance turn viral.

… and it comes at the expense of solving problems, and ultimately people’s lives.