A cure for the poison that is politics

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My latest for the Door County Advocate

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I accidentally tuned to a political debate on television and actually heard a discussion of the issues.

Sen. Ron Johnson and former Sen. Russ Feingold spent an hour talking about their positions and criticizing the other person’s positions. I didn’t hear either one call the other a liar or a disgrace to humanity; the only negative words were about positions, not persons.

Nor did the panel of journalists from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association try to bait the candidates into saying something stupid or unkind or insulting. It was quite a relief from the professional-wrestling aura of the presidential debates, with due apologies to professional wrestling.

I believe I speak for the majority when I say that this is the worst choice for U.S. president ever produced by the two-party system, a system that has delivered a bundle of disappointing choices over the last quarter-century. It’s indeed disappointing when one of the most legitimate topics of discussion is not freedom, not national security, not health, education or welfare, but who is the greater misogynist – one of the candidates for president or the other candidate’s husband.

This has been a disquieting and dispiriting year in politics, at least at the top. That’s why it was refreshing and comforting over the weekend to read the column “Politics is Poison to the Human Spirit” by Jeffrey A. Tucker of the Foundation for Economic Freedom and the startup site Liberty.me.

“You know what we need right now?” Tucker begins. “A trip to the mall, not even to buy, but to observe and learn. See how people engage with each other.” Also good would be a walk in the park, a concert, anywhere where we are going about our everyday lives in the community.

“In this extremely strange election year, escaping the rolling antagonism and duplicity of politics, and finding instead the evidence all around us that we can get along, however imperfectly, might actually be essential for a healthy outlook on life,” he writes.

Tucker writes about the demoralizing divisiveness of the political realm – “The shrillest voices, the meanest temperaments, and the most amoral plotters are the ones who dominate, while virtues such as wisdom, charity and justice are blotted out. Is it any wonder that this is not exactly uplifting of the human spirit?”

What does uplift our spirits is rediscovering that we live in peace with each other every day, and that the vast majority of us can and do live and let live, without the intervention of the political class or perhaps in spite of that.

“We don’t really want to live amidst anger or revel in the destruction of our enemies,” Tucker writes. “Hate is not a sustainable frame of mind. We intuitively understand that when we use politics to hurt our neighbor, we are also hurting ourselves. We are being dragged down instead of being lifted up.”

There’s much more, and Tucker’s article is currently easy to find online, having been shared by a lot of people, including me, on Facebook and elsewhere.

As someone who made up his mind long ago, I am repulsed and discouraged by the depths politicians will go to attract the remaining undecided voters. It was good to see our candidates for U.S. senator in an intelligent conversation.

Personally, I believe we have lived under the worst U.S. president in history for the last 24 years – every time I believe the White House has hit bottom, the next one sinks deeper – and yet the republic has survived, people grow and prosper, and life goes on. The next four years will continue that dismal trend no matter who wins, but apart from politics we will be OK.

And politics is not everything, despite what the politicians would have you believe. You still have the freedom to live your own life, although with great freedom comes great responsibility. Step one is to overcome the fear.

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WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith, journalist and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and a couple of cats.