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Why Worry About Politics?

July 18, 2010

Yet another sweltering summer afternoon here in Philadelphia. My son is swimming with some friends, the garden is amply watered to keep it from turning prematurely brown, and I’m hunkered down in the dark comfort of my wood-paneled den. 

The blessings of air conditioning are not to be underestimated on days like this. I’ve made myself a mint julep (it’s a mint julep kind of afternoon) and “To Catch a Thief” is playing on the home screen. The incomparable Grace Kelly has just asked Cary Grant whether he’d like a leg or a breast. (They were about to feast on chicken.) 

In short, I’m enjoying these midsummer doldrums. They discourage mental and physical exertion, which is fine with me. I even found myself wondering why we trouble ourselves with politics when the world offers such ample opportunities to lose ourselves in the textures, colors, flavors and fragrances of everyday life. 

After all, how different would our lives really be if we never thought about politics — other than the fact that we’d never think about politics? We’d still enjoy the same music, foods and drinks, people, scenery and books (or e-readers) that we do now. Sure, we might notice that our retirement portfolios have been crumbling steadily, and that we have less to spend on electronic gadgets or new shoes. We might wonder how Spanish gained status as America’s unofficial second language. But on the whole, our lives wouldn’t seem much different.

I’ve even taken the trouble to list a few of the things we’d never worry about if we distanced ourselves from politics:

  • Obama’s presidential mojo (or lack thereof)
  • Sarah Palin’s latent presidential ambitions
  • Overheated Tea Party activists who want their country back
  • Special-interest lobbyists buying our elected representatives
  • Obsessive partisanship in Congress (and everywhere else in U.S. politics)
  • The Amazing Colossal Federal Deficit
  • Islamists on the march
  • The New Black Panther spokesman who wants to kill “crackers” and their babies
  • Millions of Americans out of work
  • Our ever-shrinking middle class
  • Obscene Wall Street bonuses
  • Inadequate Wall Street reform
  • Illegal immigrants streaming across the border
  • The federal government taking no action on illegal immigrants
  • The controversial Arizona illegal immigrant law
  • Obama’s lawsuit against Arizona over its illegal immigrant law
  • Leftists boycotting Arizona over its illegal immigrant law
  • Having to wonder if our government is still “of the people, by the people, for the people”

I can’t help but conclude that our lives would be a whole lot more pleasant and conducive to good health if we banished politics from our thoughts. But that’s part of the problem, and I think it’s more of a problem for moderates than for the folks on the fringes.

You see, extremist ideologues don’t care if their lives are difficult and unpleasant. They’re driven by the need to see their agendas prevail. The heat of summer doesn’t stop them; neither does the urge to relax and enjoy simple human comforts. That’s where the extremists enjoy a clear advantage over the rest of us. Fanatics never need to kick off their shoes.

I’m not implying that we moderates should renounce our mellow civilized pleasures for the sake of political action. But we need to be aware that while we’re enjoying our comfortable (and comforting) private pursuits, the extremists are out there marching, lobbying, rallying, reading, debating, networking, maneuvering and generally making a nuisance of themselves to promote their partisan causes.

Zealotry is contrary to our natures, and we should be thankful that we’re not walking pamphlets like so many of our competitors on the fringes of political life. But maybe we’re a little too relaxed.  After all, it’s the extremists who still make the loudest noise, garner all the press coverage and eventually get what they want.

In a nation where moderates outnumber both conservatives and liberals, that’s just plain wrong.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 22, 2010 5:31 pm

    Rick wrote: Zealotry is contrary to our natures, and we should be thankful that we’re not walking pamphlets like so many of our competitors on the fringes of political life.

    I don’t know about that, but zealotry is still in our nature. Look at how fanatic are the anti-abortion groups. If it is not political it is religious… still zealots.
    I think we are just feeling uneasy because we have to use political means to fight religious means, be it Christian or Muslim.
    If we don’t worry about politics, we have to worry about religion. There is no way to escape from these two realms.

    • valdobiade permalink
      July 22, 2010 5:33 pm

      Not an anonymous 🙂 just forgetting to write in the name …

  2. July 23, 2010 12:35 am

    I had a feeling it was you, Valdo. I meant that we moderates are less zealous than the extremists, which is why we don’t have millions of rabid followers. But we could probably use just a shade more zealousness in our movement. As for religion vs. politics, they’re gradually becoming inseparable.

  3. valdobiade permalink
    July 23, 2010 12:36 pm

    Rick wrote: As for religion vs. politics, they’re gradually becoming inseparable.

    Yes, and that brings more zealousness. Politics and religion are at antipodes and they create a zealous reaction in the human minds, like: “let’s put them together”, “No, let them separated”.
    And in between are we, the moderates 🙂

  4. Priscilla permalink
    July 24, 2010 1:15 am

    I don’t know….I think I am both zealous and moderate. I lean right, for sure, but I really work hard to see the other side, and to keep a balance that “hears” both sides. Rick and Valdo, you both do this too…..there are lots of us, but the idealogues are so much louder and flashier than we are. And, truth be told, right leaning moderates, like myself, tend to keep our heads down, for fear losing friends who view any right-wing opinion as not only stupid, but evil. I think this is a great failing of independents and moderates…..the fear that acknowledging the value of any right wing point of view will somehow discredit them. In my opinion, this fear is an elitist victory that hurts us all………

  5. July 24, 2010 7:30 am

    Tell me about it, Priscilla! Ultraconservatives (like Rush Limbaugh, for example) express their opinions with a certain swagger and obviously have no fear of offending the other side. Confirmed progressives simply assume that all intelligent, well-educated upper middle class people (like themselves) share their political beliefs, and that anyone who goes “off the reservation” on social issues is beneath contempt. (My late sister in law, a community organizer, apparently never forgave my wife for marrying “outside the faith.” You’d think I belonged to the KKK.)

    When I started The New Moderate, one of my goals was to bring some of that same swagger to centrist opinionizing. But though I don’t conceal my opinions, and I express them confidently enough, I still have an aversion to offending people (especially educated liberals) and parading my beliefs in front of my friends. (I wish I had a little more of Patye’s showmanship.)

    But you’re right, we can’t live in fear of what those elitists will think of us. If we want to create a viable voice in the great vacuum between the right and left, we need to express ourselves more forcefully. Because our opinions are nuanced, we won’t attract as many followers as the extremists. And we certainly don’t have to go out of our way to offend them. (We could step into the role of uniters in a polarized society.) But we should always feel entitled to express our own honest opinions openly. Maybe that’s the key — a sense of entitlement. “Say it loud, I’m moderate and proud!”

  6. Anonymous permalink
    July 26, 2010 7:04 pm

    In politics, it seems, that if you are at extremes you feel that you’re there just because the other party is way to far to the other extreme. But you don’t feel yourself as being extreme, jut that you have to be a little bit stronger on the issue.
    Maybe if you’re extreme against the other extreme, you may “haggle” an issue in becoming moderate. That’s what I think about politics.

    But what about religion? Does god let you be moderate?

    • valdobiade permalink
      July 26, 2010 7:12 pm

      It’s me, me, me 🙂
      I forget to write in “Name” field every time 😦

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