Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can We End the Gridlock in Our Political Discourse?

Miami Herald columnist, Leonard Pitts, has perspective on last Saturday's 'Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear' rally on the mall in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by comedians Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert, the rally could be easily dismissed as 'entertainment'. However, Pitts points out, there is another more serious point at which we should pay some attention when it comes to our political discourse...

"...political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally on the National Mall in Washington. For weeks leading up to the event, pundits attempted to divine its intent, to figure out what political cause it would help or hurt. Stewart, habitually disingenuous as comics tend to be when you impute serious motives to their shtick, repeatedly deflected the notion that he was out for more than laughs."

But he was. Indeed, in both its comedy bits and its musical interludes, the "Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear" (that last a nod to Colbert's TV persona as an overbearing conservative blowhard) scarcely missed an opportunity to drive home its points. Namely, that political dialogue in this country is out of control, stoked to fever pitch by politicians and media figures who've found a formula for elective, fiscal and ratings success in exploiting the nation's legitimate fears and philosophical differences.

"With a callous disregard that belies their periodic professions of country love, they have sold twin lies: that political identity matters more than national identity and that the louder and more insistently you say a thing, the truer it becomes. But as Stewart pointed out, "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.""

"He fell back on an analogy he has used before, that of drivers merging from nine lanes down to two in order to enter one of the tunnels carrying traffic in and out of Manhattan. That simple act of disparate strangers taking turns so that everybody gets home safely represented, said Stewart, the "little reasonable compromises we all make." It was, he argued, the truest picture of who we really are, as opposed to the shouting matches between political extremes we've been led to regard as representative of us."

"Squeezing through the impenetrable mass of people who had flooded the Mall, you had to believe Stewart had tapped a nerve, identified a constituency heretofore ignored. And their message is simple: Sane people speaking sane thoughts sanely may not make for good television. That doesn't mean they don't exist."

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