Don’t Get Caught Up in the Hatred

I suppose most people take political rhetoric with a grain of salt, which is certainly advisable. But I also notice a lot of people get caught up in the hateful narratives spun by the presidential campaigns and the media.

I understand, I think, the value of stoking the fires of hatred. It gets people worked up and aroused. It gets people’s attention and makes a more lasting impression than bland or even positive messages. This is a proven psychological fact.

I understand how it benefits the powers that be. But how does it benefit us? How does it benefit you?

Anger has value if it motivates to action. But wallowing in hatred is not the best thing for one’s mental health.

I’ll admit I’m seduced by these narratives as well, to some extent. I tune in to watch the presidential debates hoping to see some blood drawn. It appeals to my basest instincts. (And the debates have been rather disappointing on that front so far.) I get caught up in the fight, against my better judgment.

At the end of the day, though, I can laugh it off. My sense of ironic detachment is sufficient to keep me happy if not sane.

And yes, I’m aware of how high the stakes are. I’m aware of the eminent hate-worthiness of (insert candidate’s name here). But are you aware of how you’re being manipulated? The machinery of manufactured hatred has been especially transparent this go-round. Early on, the right targeted Hillary Clinton. The left was a little more uncertain, but a lot of the hatred seemed to be focused on Rudy Giuliani. It was amusing and instructive to see the gears grinding as the machinery had to be reconfigured and aimed at McCain and Obama. And of course, no one knew Sarah Palin from a hole in the ground until a month ago. Scramble, scramble, hate, hate, hate. It’s really kind of funny except for the toll it takes on our collective psyche.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t pay close attention or form opinions. I’m only cautioning against a certain sort of overwrought anguish to which some of us are prone.

I guess what I’m trying to say is simply this, to any family and friends who will listen: It’s a well-known fact that too much hatred is bad for the soul. So if you find yourself caught up in that mess, please check yourself. Don’t let it get you frustrated, depressed, discouraged and overwhelmed. Don’t take it so serious. Take a step back. Do whatever you need to do to regain your perspective.

OK. I’m done preaching for a while.


Now that Christmas is past and campaign season is swinging into full gear, I will permit myself the following cranky thoughts.

Remember the mantra from 2004? Anybody but Bush… Anybody but Bush… Well, it turns out now there is someone worse than Bush, and it just so happens that he’s running for president. I’m speaking of course of Rudy Giuliani. Or so the pundits would have us believe — the same people who tried to sell the “Anbody but Bush” line four years ago. On the other side, the hate machines are really cranking up against Hillary Clinton, who is apparently the Antichrist. Tune in to some conservative talk radio and get and earful. It’s really something. You’d think she was actually a leftist.

As fascinating as it is to watch this fight, I wish the Republicans and Democrats would just sort out their priorities and get back to the rest of the country when they’ve chosen their nominees. Why should I waste my mental energy hating Giuliani or Clinton if they’re not even in the running?

I’m not feeling particularly cranky these days, but I still have these thoughts.

Nader Again?

It seems Ralph Nader is contemplating another run for the White House. I remember when he sought the Green Party’s endorsement in 2004. (He didn’t get it, by the way. I should know, because I was there.) Anyway, back in 2004 his supporters pitched his candidacy as “one last run.” I guess it’s hard to stay on the sidelines when the country is going down the toilet, but Bloomberg seems to be the independent to watch.

Zogby on Katrina

Back in September of 2005, I wondered if Katrina would become an campaign issue in 2008. Now pollster John Zogby says it just might:

73 percent say the U.S is in a serious crisis, according to our recent polling.

This suggests a need to redefine the very nature and structure of U.S. federalism. In our post-Katrina polling, we found a hunger nationwide for a new model for the federal government. In many ways, I believe Katrina, over the long haul, will prove to be more of a defining moment in American history than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Update: Leigh Graham has some additional analysis.