Some days America feels like a country of toddlers. He said, she said, and everyone is more committed to obstructing progress than even trying to get along. How do we get out of this mess?
Maybe you heard. Earlier this week Democratic lawmakers in Texas fled the state, maskless and onboard a private plane, to prevent a quorum from being reached in the Texas legislative body. Once in D.C., they gathered for a press conference to sing “We Shall Overcome,” and one of them even tweeted out a picture of his first meal as a “fugitive.”
To be fair, they’ve done this before, numerous times. And Republicans have as well. That’s democracy for you. Is it any wonder that authoritarian tendencies are on the rise in both the left and the right when neither party as-is seems committed to doing their job without being rounded up by the police?
Texas Democrats might have a moral point. Maybe voter ID restrictions, gender segregation in sports, redrawing districts, and any number of other issues potentially on their plate are entirely unpalatable. And maybe Oregon’s Republicans were right about climate change.
The spectacle of a walkout and the narcissistic cringe of conflating their actions with the Civil Rights Movement don’t present that case. They reassure Americans that politicians are tone deaf social elites who are above the law, capable of getting away with just ditching work (and of reframing that as a moral cause), and who have no qualms about sucking up a paycheck on our dime while doing it.
The thing about being right is that sometimes not everyone else sees it that way. Sometimes other people don’t realize you were right until later. Sometimes they never realize you were right. And sometimes you’re actually proven wrong. We have a system of governance that allows us to hash out disagreements in person, to debate the merit of our ideas, and to cast a vote on which outcome ought to be pursued.
When you consider that the issues representatives are tasked with resolving require negotiations between many different stakeholders and considerations of expertise from many different disciplines, it’s clear that no one person can reasonably be expected to objectively weigh it all. That’s why the needs of the country outweigh the capacity of any singular ideology. And that’s why we put our country’s power in many hands rather than just one.
Our responsibility as citizens of this country is to elect representatives who will put the good of the people ahead of their own ideological narcissism. It’s a tough job, and the number of people able or willing to do it seems to be ever-dwindling. The favored path for politicians these days seems to be any number of media-enabled stunts meant to rile up a polarized base.
To anyone other than the most diehard of Democratic loyalists, the Texas Democrats’ performance looks little different than the lady at Victoria’s Secret losing her absolute mind on camera. It’s embarrassing to watch. It feels fake, no matter what narrative parameters are applied to it. And it fits in perfectly with a society addicted to the high of drama as its country collapses (literally) around it.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week chatting on social media with other folks just frankly tired of this shit. We’ve covered the relentless and vile things that trans people say to gay men and lesbians, that liberals say to white people and Jews, that feminists say to men, and so on and so forth.
It’s emotionally exhausting.
It’s like an overwhelming subsection of this country has forgotten that at the end of the day we have to live and work together. We have to figure out how to resolve complex issues without running away, tattling to the media, or tweeting about how the other party deserves to get killed.
I don’t know who set the stage here. If the blame falls on entertainment posing as news, a total absence of civic leadership in this country, economic pressures robbing younger generations of good parenting while buoying their perception of what constitutes oppression, bad actors playing a long game through academia, or what. To quote every parent at one point or another: “I don’t care who started it, I’m ending it.”
America, the country, needs more politicians who care enough to show up, even when you’re going to lose, and even when the other side doesn’t play by the rules. It’s called having integrity.
America, the society, needs more people invested in solving problems together, even when the other party doesn’t look or think like you, and even when you have fundamental disagreements over things like communist tendencies, gender ideologies, and other religions. It’s called being a community.
When wild fires or floods sweep through your town, you don’t stop to ask if the hand reaching down to help you is a Democrat or a Republican, a black woman or a Jewish man, a transsexual lesbian or a conservative “Karen.” You take the hand up, and you thank G-d for it.
If we can’t extend that kind of grace to one another when we’re not in an emergency, we need psychological help not a media platform.
There are tough disagreements to work through in this country right now, and they aren’t going away even if we run from them. We have to find a way to have civil discourse again. Decades of toddler-level antics haven’t done it.
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