The C Word

Ironically, based on what I’m about to write about the issue of “compromise” and how our politicians view it as the new “C” word, I’m from Missouri, home of the Missouri Compromise.  During the primary seasons, one of our attorney general candidates  — for Missouri attorney general, mind you — attempted to slander his opponent by literally saying he would “compromise with the liberals in Washington.”

Initially, a state’s attorney general has nothing to do with D.C., either its “liberals” or its “Tea Party” hawks.  Thus, unless he was talking about the seven “liberals” in Washington, Missouri, his point made no sense.  More to the point, however, “compromising” is what our Democracy is all about, as is marriage, friendship and virtually any human endeavor aimed at accomplishing anything.  

Sadly, this guy not only won the primary but is our new AG.  The Show-Me state showed that this type of one-sided, closed-minded, refusal to compromise is what we want.  So, how did we get here?

To me anyway, it’s not surprising we are where we are today in light of the concentration-camp-type brainwashing of modern media 24-7 for the last two-plus decades that presents only extremes.  Following the money truly does answer most questions.  Extremes sell ads, not “politics” or “compromising.”

How can the civil discourse of debating the merits and actually compromising to make progress in the interests of the country compete with the either-your-first-or-your-last, Jerry Springer sound-bite culture that paints “compromising” as merely the first step in winding up with nothing?

I mean, watch C-Span (“politics” in action) for 20 minutes (if you can stand it). It’s boring. Then flip the channel to Maury to see a paternity test battle to confirm whether Wanda was really sleeping with Coy, the dude who sold the IROC Z to her boyfriend, Waffle House manager Zeke, and whether Lynyrd, the 3-year-old with a rat tail, acid wash jeans and Kid Rock T-Shirt, will finally know which double wide lies in his future.

Would you wait out that hoosier drama or flip back to see how the Senate Bill on Monkey Grass restoration in the Sierra Nevada turns out? Americans have answered, for nearly two decades now: “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” and now “Donald! Donald! Donald!” There’s a reason there are no ads on C-Span. Politics doesn’t sell. It was just a matter of time.

For the first 230 years of this country, we were not exposed on a literal daily basis to such extreme-viewpoint content in our media, entertainment, and communications. Not so surprisingly, our political parties, with some obvious exceptions, were largely able to compromise and get things done for the country. The barrage of extreme viewpoint entertainment and media, combined with the ability to mass communicate on an unprecedented scale, has sparked all this.
Further, the means of mass communication were controlled for more than 200 years — in not only the distribution of the information but in the actual content of the message — by a few, wealthy elite, largely beholden to Madison Avenue advertising dollars for both print then TV. Heck, until a few years ago, we had only ABC, NBC, CBS and Channel 11 and one local newspaper. Short of a few letters to the editor or Archie Bunkeresque 30-second public commentaries after the 11 O’clock news (which they still controlled whether we would see either), the public was shut out of communication on a mass scale. We were pretty much spoon fed the facts and views on those facts that just a few thought we should know.

With Al Gore’s Internet, cable, Twitter and things like this here Facebook thingy, literally anyone with an Internet connection and an opinion (which are like you know what, as everyone has one), now has the ability to reach millions. Ironically, this new millennium technology is now used to espouse, on grand scales, largely Neanderthal thoughts. Gorg’s cave, indeed, now has wi-fi.

As for information, we are on overload, with anything that occurs in public, or even private, standing a good chance of residing in the photo library of an I-Phone, one click away from being seen by millions. That click is more often than not made. Our founding fathers never contemplated such a thing.

This new means of wildfire information spreading has built a platform for the traditionally oppressed in our society for making inroads never imaginable, much less possible, and at a rapid pace. When the flow of information and viewpoints was controlled by the few, who were in turn controlled by the advertising dollars, such rapid change was impossible. Gay marriage and gay rights under the Constitution? An African-American, two-term president? A female on the top of a party’s ticket?

Madison Avenue certainly never went there on such traditionally polarizing topics when the means of communication were in the hands of the few. It took the means of mass-scale communication in the hands of everyone – especially the oppressed – before any progress could be made. Now, the inroads happened seemingly overnight, at least viewed historically, and it appears largely communication based.

Every ying has its yang, however, and not everyone likes them there inroads for “those kinds.” And they too have wi-fi, computer doo-hickies, and the Internets, and commercial breaks during Maury and Jerry to help Make America Great Again! by getting their message out, responding to all of these so-called, new-fangled “advancements.”

The inroads for the oppressed groups, however, have sparked a corresponding feeling of “inequality” running amok in a bass-ackward way for the white middle-class male. Right or wrong, he seems to feel a real sense of persecution coming at him from many sides. He is then ripe to be marshaled into a Xenophobic amoeba hell bent to set things right, aka, making America great AGAIN!

This slogan – “Make America Great Again!” – was first used by Reagan in 1980, but without the exclamation point. Reagan, however, did not trademark it as Trump literally has, owning it for its use on all clothing etc. The slogan itself is so loaded in its hopes to some and so loaded in its scariness to others that it actually perfectly captures the divisiveness reality we face in this country. “Make Great Again?” Inherent in the slogan is that if we go back to some undefined time period or era, perhaps in Doc Brown’s Delorean, we will be “great again.”

Those scared by this would ask, “Just exactly what time frame did you consider America ‘great’ so that we can get back to that ‘again’?” Was it 1860? Was it during the Eugenics movement of the late 1890s? Was it during internment of the Japanese in the ‘40s? Was it during the red scare of the early 1950s? Was it during Little Rock in 1953? Was it during “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the 90s? When, exactly, did we stop being “great?”, they would ask.

Those inspired with hope by this slogan would ostensibly stammer a little, and give a vague little, “You know, how things were before.” What they mean to say is “Before political correctness ran wild.” As the pie of rights that Coy and his ilk expect for dessert is only so big, they seem to believe, any sharing of a piece of that rights pie necessarily means less for me and “my kind.” Mexicans, Muslims, etc.

Logical? No. Is the feeling real? Yes.

So, we now face a standoff where “compromising” with those seeking to munch on the pie of rights is literally viewed as meaning we will just get less pie than we want, and eventually no pie at all.

We’ll now see if anyone gets dessert.

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