Think for yourself
The elections are coming up, and talking heads are sprouting up on every cable news channel, determined to let us know why their opinion is the only one that matters. All this bickering has led me to one important question.
Does anyone think for themselves anymore?
The most troubling thing I've seen lately is a terrible lack of diversity in opinions among TV personalities. Ask a liberal what they think and they'll give you a typical answer. Ask a conservative and they'll give you the typical conservative response. No one seems willing to veer away from standard talking points on any given issue.
Take the Juan Williams controversy that exploded last week. You had extreme overreaction on both sides, because both liberals and conservatives wanted to claim their cause.
What happened was simple; Juan Williams made a comment about Muslims that was rather careless but, based on the context in which it was uttered, not actually bigoted.
His statement that when on an airplane, he fears people in "Islamic garb" does sound racist at first, but he only said it to make a larger point – that prejudice exists. Later on in the interview, he actually condemned prejudice towards Muslims, stating that his airline prejudice was wrong.
Of course, that didn't stop NPR from canning him anyway. If that weren't enough, they made it seem like he was crazy, saying that his feelings about Muslims should be "between him and his psychiatrist." A bit of an overreaction for sure.
Unfortunately, the conservatives who defended Williams were not much better. Fox News actually called his firing a "stealth jihad," which may be the single dumbest thing they have ever said. While I disagree with his firing, they had every right to do it, and comparing it to holy war is just ridiculous.
So, why did these exaggerations happen? Simply put, because neither group thought outside of their own stereotypical way of thinking. Liberals have an unfortunate tendency to get mad about every potentially offensive thing, whether it was actually offensive or not.
Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to disagree with anything liberals do or say just because, well, they hate liberals.
No one ever wants to come to the middle anymore. We're in the era of "you stay on your side, I stay on mine." When the Tea Party movement began, it looked like in exception to that, a true grassroots organization going against party politics.
Those days are long gone, as the Republicans have taken over the Tea Party, and now their official goal is to remove Obama from office in 2012. It's a shame, what could've been an honest, independent movement has merely become another source of partisan shouting.
America is a terribly divisive place right now, but that doesn't mean we have to be. We don't have to agree with everything liberals or conservatives say just because that's how we identify. It is up to us to come to our own conclusions on the issues of the day, even when people who think like us disagree.
The divisive nature of American politics will not go away until we cease to think in terms of party lines and learn to think for ourselves. When we do that, we can get back to having what we need now more than ever: honest, thoughtful debate.
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