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The Acrid Smell of an Election is in the Air: The Toxic Politics of Mutually Assured Destruction

Bloom County copyright 1988 by Berkeley Breathed. www.gocomics.com

Yes that pungent stench that is in the air is not the smell of fall, not the scent of freshly run over skunk but yea and verily the scent of yet another poisonously pungent election season. Yes this year stinks more than most because of the division of the country and the absolute enmity between political parties.   Pundits, ideologues, mindless drones and their allied television, radio and print media shills echo whatever their party’s leaders and pundits say regardless of its veracity painting their opponents in the worst possible manner without ever dealing with the issues in a constructive manner.  Back in the 1990s I think it was Hillary Clinton who talked about the “politics of personal destruction” but I think while that still goes on we have entered the realm of “the politics of mutual assured destruction.” Yes candidates will win and lose this election season but the ways they will win will do great damage to the country, regardless of their party that ultimately triumphs.  Since this is a mid-term election expect this to only get worse as the Presidential election of 2012 approaches.

What triggered this article was a visit to Huntington West Virginia my family’s ancestral home where I worked in the 1990s as a hospital emergency department chaplain.  Huntington is in Cabell County and used to be the largest and most prosperous city in the state.  Huntington is located on the Ohio River and is across that river from Ohio and adjacent to Ashland Kentucky.  As a result the local television and radio media carry campaign ads from all three states.  Thus in the week that we were there I was treated with an absolute deluge of negative political advertisement from candidates of both parties in US Senate, US House of Representatives, Gubernatorial and State Senate and House races.  I have lived in Virginia for 7 years and while political ads here are similar to those in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio I think they are a bit more tame due to the large number of people from the rest of the country that have settled here due to the military and government related employment.

With the massive amount of exposure that I had to the toxic radioactive sludge that filled the airwaves from the various candidates for office I realized that we have been standing at the precipice of a political cliff for several years with both parties doing everything they can to push us over it. I guess like political parties in Weimar Germany they see a benefit to the chaos of an electorate that no longer sees the opposing party as Americans with opposing beliefs, but enemies of the America that they envision. I guess in a Machiavellian sense whatever tactics that you use to gain victory are irrelevant as long as you win.

Back when I was growing up the statesmen of American politics treated each other with respect and maintained friendships with people on the other side of the aisle; I think that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill epitomized the men of that era, fierce political opponents who remained friends until the end. George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton seem to have that kind of relationship as well.  But I detect little of that from the current crop of political ideologues in both parties and I think that they all share the blame for the mess that the country is in and I don’t see any change in political climate coming anytime soon.

Bloom County copyright 1988 by Berkeley Breathed. www.gocomics.com

I think that to use the Cold War term we have entered a phase of “Mutual Assured Destruction” regarding the tactics used by both parties in their attempts to keep or gain power. Issues are not discussed or debated they are reduced to sound bites and the opposition candidates views are usually taken out of the context that they were made. Both parties are doing this and when both politicians and their supporters in the media paint caricatures of their opponents using such methods truth suffers.  No one offers a positive vision for the country because I think they have stopped believing in it, all that matters as their party and their ideology truth and their opponents be damned.  What bothers me even more is how some religious leaders and churches have taken this same approach rather than simply preaching the Gospel and caring about God’s people. Even churches and pastors have become shills for political parties sacrificing the Gospel for a share in political power.

Bloom County copyright 1988 by Berkeley Breathed. www.gocomics.com

In spite of this I did my civic duty and voted for those who seemed behave with less rancor toward their opponents, politicians from both sides of the aisle as I have never been regardless of my political affiliation a shill for a party.  I voted for candidates that seemed to care more for my home state than an allegiance to their national party.  Now they may be just as bad and corrupt as the other candidates but as Tip O’Neill said “all politics is local” and my vote was cast in that light.  I am not an ideologue but think that somehow as Americans we need to find a way to work together as the problems of this country cannot be changed when the political climate is so toxic. Maybe I am just an idealist that believes that the people of this country are better at heart than our politicians believe us to be.

In the end I think that both parties, their respective candidates and media shills have decided to paraphrase a quote from the Vietnam War “that we had to destroy the country in order to save it.” God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under faith, philosophy, Political Commentary, west virginia