The National Noise

Any Minnesota Vikings fan will tell ya – if your team is coming to the Metrodome to play the Vikings, you better bring your hearing protection with you.  If your team even THINKS it is going to win, the volume in the Metrodome will make a hard-rock-mosh-pit concert sound like honeybees landing on flowers in springtime.  The purpose of this escalation of sound, of course, is to prevent the other team from communicating, and possibly winning the game.  It’s hard to run a play when no one on your team can hear the quarterback.  There are, however,  unintended consequences as well.  This kind of noise makes it harder for the beer man to hear you place your order, and you might end up with a Coke Zero, or worse.  The announcer’s words no doubt will be lost in the thunder.  Worse of all, with all of that noise, someone from your own defensive team might make a misstep because they can’t hear the opposing quarterback, resulting in the obligatory 5-yard penalty and that dreaded first down.  Noise swings both ways.

The national debate in a democracy is noisy by design.  It’s SUPPOSED to be noisy.  That is how we hash out our differences and come to a consensus about what direction our country should take.  Our country has always been noisy about national policy, whether it was town criers and public debate in the town hall between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, or protesters in the streets against the Vietnam War sticking flowers down the rifle barrels of the National Guard soldiers dispatched to maintain order.  We engaged each other and  haggled things out over civil rights, the environment, you-name-it.  It got loud, real loud, and sometimes even came to blows.  It wasn’t always pretty, and sometimes resulted in people getting physically hurt, if not killed.  People were called names, and some of them not very nice ones.  Other people were blacklisted, or ridiculed, or set up to be publicly discredited.  These were all techniques that one side used against the other.  Sometimes compromises were reached, and deals were struck.  Other times one side just plain won, winner-take-all.  And still other times, things were just left hanging, a problem kicked down the road for another generation to solve.

That seems like a million years ago now.  Today the national noise is, well, just noise, and one side seems to be using it as a sort of Mohammed Ali-esque “rope-a-dope” technique in place of having real solutions to anything.  That would be the the GOP, the conservatives, or the new kids on the block, the Libertarians.  If the topic of gun control is brought up, the noise level immediately reaches Metrodome levels with a stream of predictable words and phrases defending their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, the stale cliche that guns don’t kill people, and with some on the right, a near hysterical pitch that Barack Obama is going to come knocking on your door to take your gun away.

Start talking about education with someone on the political right, and you are likely to hear, at about 110 decibels, how their taxpayer dollars are being wasted by the teachers union, how the kids today can’t read or speak English, and how public education has become a financial black hole that we keep “throwing money at.”  They want teachers to be at-will employees who can be dismissed for any or no reason, subject of course to their coaching record or, perhaps more cynically, their voting record.  If the fact that some kids come from poor homes and bad backgrounds is brought up, the rope-a-dope technique comes out, with an admonition to fix it and fix it fast.  We don’t want to be bothered with details like poverty, illiteracy in the home, immigrants who don’t speak English, or crime.  Eliminate tenure and the teachers union they say, and all will be well in the schools.  None of them teach.  None of them ever have.  None of them have ever even considered it.  Claiming to know all about schools because you attended one is like claiming to know all about medicine because you had your appendix out.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift.  I have a co-worker, who every time I tell her something she doesn’t want to know, puts her fingers in her ears and says la-la-la-la-la.  This is the modus operandi of the political right on a national level.  They just keep talking right on through whatever topic is being discussed, sometimes without even stopping to breathe.  I blame Fox News for this.  It was never this way until Fox News came on the air and started their 24/7 rant against the political left in the sheep’s clothing of “fair and balanced.”  I don’t have to listen to Sean Hannity.  I hear him in every conservative I attempt to discuss politics with.  The GOP has become a party of parrots and puppets, fed their daily lines from the soup kitchen of ideas at Fox News.

I hope this stops soon.  I miss sparring with people from the conservative side of the planet.  I miss hearing their original ideas and looking for common ground.  I hate you, Fox News, for taking the fun of national debate away from us, and anesthetizing my friends on the right with your narcotic-like neo-conservativism.