Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More to Freedom of Choice

This is the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the start of the War between the States better know by the epic misnomer 'The Civil War.' Despite murmurings to the contrary I have NO firsthand knowledge of any of the battles fought during those hostilities but I am a better than average history buff on that era. But today is not the day I'm writing about the war itself but, rather, the political frame of mind in the years leading to the hostilities and how history can we repeat itself and to what extent.

I'm thinking about all of that because in the freeze-dried, drive-by manner in which we live these days, we spend about a minute looking at a headline and maybe the cut line on a photo and move on to the 'next news story' as if involved in a marathon sprint contest. Whoever talks last or loudest tends to carry the day, even if they're talking trash. It seems that was as true in the decade leading up to the Civil War as it is in our current one.

I will point out in the period just before the winds of war swept everything before them a century and a half ago, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a campaign for Senate in Illinois regarded by historians and others as a model of civility and extreme intelligence.

One of my favorite places in the on-line world is here, for information and more on every aspect of an election campaign whose outcome may well have influenced the rush of events that would produce the Civil War (I don't pretend to know how true that statement really is but I take comfort knowing that in less than thirty seconds you will have forgotten you read it).

Fast forward to the hear and now and scan any national political headline and tell me your flesh doesn't crawl with dazed revulsion at the motion and commotion on both sides of every issue. We've gone from "(A) house divided against itself cannot stand" to "(Y)ou think we're stupid?"

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the level of rhetoric when we've chosen to offer a doorstop with a tan more acclaim and remuneration than a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize recipient. I'm not sure we let this hullabaloo go on like this because we're too tired to stop and think or because we fear if we stop, we may never start again.

Perhaps it's the fatigue of feeding the white noise generator that are the 24/7 news services that's numbed us to our core. With so many tongues wagging there's no effort being made to listen by anyone to anyone else. Somewhere along the line we've added "Nyah, Nyah! Hanny, Nanny, Do-Do" to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and it seems to be the only part we can remember.

Often enough in the past, we've gone crazy from the heat two hundred almost two hundred and thirty-five years will do that to you sometimes, but our better angels have always intervened and interceded but this time they are conspicuous in their absence, leading me not so much to wonder as to what will happen next, but to dread it.
-bill kenny

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