Do you wonder sometimes whether or not the politicians in Washington or Lansing are really trying to solve the problems our country or state faces? I do. Or are our political leaders simply trying to get re-elected by pandering to their base of support? Do you turn on the television at night to watch the news hoping to find out what happened earlier in the day, but instead are frustrated by the “talking heads” who spout talking points. I am.
My mother and father used to watch Huntley-Brinkley every night religiously. I miss Chet’s and David’s just-the-facts journalism.
Whether you watch CNN, MSNBC or Fox you probably know the personalities who you agree with and those whose opinions are diametrically opposed to yours. When did discussions about politics become so disagreeable? Watching Face the Nation, Meet the Press, Washington Week in Review, or Tim Skubick’s Off the Record used to be informative and, frankly, rather dry and boring. I guess that is why I used to like them. My wife would likely agree that I am dry and boring, but I do like to be informed. Those programs have always discussed today’s headlines and expressed a variety of viewpoints, but often did so calmly and without vituperative commentary. To me, today’s news channels have crossed too far into the realm of bitter opinion and seem to have left behind the notion of presenting the news and informing us, the public, their viewers.
Does the manner in which broadcast journalism presents the news add to the dissension in our politics discourse? I think so. Other than wanting to sell advertisements and increase revenues, what is the point of being so divisive? Or is that simply the point?
Is your neighbor really crazy because his or her political views are different than yours? Or do they just see things differently than you do?
Believe it or not, in the history of the planet there have been times when things were worse than they are now. There have been wars fought over political ideologies and religious practices. Millions have died because of their beliefs.
For example, starting in the 1500s, Europe was overrun with religious wars as the Protestant Reformation brought deep divisions and bitterness between Catholics and Protestants, and even amongst Protestant denominations. Writing in the 1700s, Voltaire famously stated in his Treatise on Toleration as he argued for toleration of Calvinist Protestant views in Catholic France: “Toleration is the prerogative of humanity; we are all full of weaknesses and mistakes; let us reciprocally forgive ourselves. It is the first law of nature.”
Toleration does not mean that one cannot have strong political views. One can still be conservative or liberal, libertarian or democratic socialist and still be respectful of another’s viewpoints. The liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy once worked in a bipartisan manner with the conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch to create the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). And while CHIP is not a perfect program, none are, Kennedy and Hatch were not trying to win at any costs. They simply were trying to improve the health of children and as a result benefit our country as a whole.
Our nation and Michigan have many problems that we need to address. Our infrastructure of roads, sewer and water, and electric utilities certainly have been neglected. Too many of our citizens continue to die from gun violence or overdose and addiction. According to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau figures more than 12 percent of Americans still live in poverty. That is nearly 40 million Americans, many of them children, who are poor in the richest country on the planet. General Motors recently announced layoffs. Do we really think that the current economic expansion which started under President Obama will go on forever? Or should our political leaders be working now to prepare for the rainy day that is sure to come to Michiganders?
Earlier in this article, I quoted Voltaire, my favorite philosopher. George W. Bush once famously said that his favorite philosopher was someone who pronounced, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I will leave it up to you to decide whether Voltaire or Jesus or both are relevant today.
Robert L. Burgess, a Michigan native, has lived in Lincoln Township since 1993. His email is: email@example.com.