In politics, anger is the addictive drugPublished 12:30pm Saturday, July 2, 2011
Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster
Politics. I love it. I love it like I love stubbing my toe or getting my head caught in a bear trap.
Cable news programs characterize politics at its worst. They remind me of adolescent girls fighting over boys in middle school bathrooms, but since I’ve been visiting my parents I’ve watched a lot of MSNBC. Before you assign them a political label, understand this, if Anderson Cooper or Shepard Smith made my mother’s heart go pitter pat the way Willie Geist does, they might be watching a different network.
This steady stream of corporate-sponsored strife mixed with the looming promise of the 4th of July threw me into the red white and blues. I was depressed. Independence Day felt like a bit of the flimflam, and by the flimflam I cannot abide. I can’t wave a sparkler for it either.
I feel like I better launch a preemptive strike against those who are about to tell me that if I check out of politics I have no right to complain, but I vote. I vote emphatically, practically stomping my foot and snapping, “so there!” as I turn in my ballot. It’s party affiliation I can’t get behind.
We have two parties and a few others who like to pretend they’re relevant. I wish they were. Both are consumed by anger. In politics, anger is the street drug that everybody’s buying and everybody’s dealing.
Anger allows us to mock someone’s religion and make believe it has anything to do with eliminating unemployment. Anger lets us pretend that criminalizing a lifestyle is connected to prosperity. Stubborn ideological crusades dupe us into thinking we’re breeding progress rather than perpetuating deadlock.
Both conservatives and liberals are culpable. I’ve read language designed to describe the difference between moral and immoral behavior that was so hateful, so offensive and clearly meant to injure not instruct, that I was sure a human being was merely the typist and a viper the author. I’ve heard self satisfied speechifying so smug and condescending, so sure of its superiority and ownership of the intellectual high ground, that I thought I was listening to high school students present speeches in an intro to political science course. Remember those days when we were so sure we were right and smart and everybody else was wrong and stupid?
Those days weren’t then. Those days are now.
Often, in our personal lives, we’re told that anger will get us nowhere or to let go of our anger. We never hear that in politics. We’re led to believe that anger is the cog, which if removed, will set the whole works crumbling. That would be awful. Just think. We might have to live like reasonable, civilized neighbors.
There is plenty to get angry about. I’m not saying we should put away our principles and just get along. I don’t think that’s possible in a diverse, thinking world, but if we don’t find the mental discipline to build a bridge between enraged and engaged then we may as well draft policy on the walls of caves and call congress to session with a club instead of a gavel because, though we might survive our own fury, we won’t thrive and evolve in it.
So that’s why I’m depressed about the 4th of July. But tomorrow, I’m going to get in my car and drive 600 miles back to Minnesota. By the time I get home, I’ll be full of hope again.
Nothing makes me love this country more than passing by its forests and farms, lakes and rivers, cities and towns so small the lady in my GPS says, “Oh, now you’re just teasing me.” She doesn’t seem angry and neither does the scenery decorating my window.
I feel this way whenever I drive across the country, whether it’s along the Great Lakes or the Pacific Coast Highway. I marvel and swoon at the madman architect who considered a vast nothingness and from blueprints full of art and evolution exclaimed, “Bang on! Bang on!”
Everywhere I’ll see Americans working hard, in churches, businesses, hospitals, and schools, at Clyde’s Drive-In in St Ignace and in the corner office at the top of 3M headquarters in St. Paul. We don’t have to like each other, but if we could stop trying to hurt each other, if we used brains instead of bile when we approach our differences, we may finally find ourselves worthy of the beauty that surrounds us.
Someday, I hope we gather on beaches and in parks to watch fireworks on the 4th of July, and with every burst of light we “Ooohh and “Ahhhh,” not looking up in admiration at the sky but at each other.
Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.