The Country That Cried Wolf
There once was a country that lived in a village. One day, half the country went out into the meadow and saw something furry in the bushes. It ran back screaming “Wolf! Wooolf!” The other half of the country went out to investigate, and it turns out it was only a mouse. They came back and calmed the other half down. The next day, this half of the country went out into the forest and saw something with claws under some brush. It ran back screaming “Wolf! Wooooolllfff!!” The other half of the country went out to investigate, and it turns out it was only a crow. They came back, rolled their eyes, and calmed the other half down. This went on for awhile, until one day neither side bothered to go out and investigate anymore. It was shortly afterward that a real wolf came and ate the children.
Ever since the 80s, our political divide has yawned increasingly wider, separating us from our own countrymen in a new sport as bloody as Rome’s gladiators. Cable news was on 24/7, and as they had to fill time with something, anything, while waiting for the next global disaster, they found politics fit the bill nicely. No longer did we have to wait for the next newspaper issue’s editorials, we could sit and watch for hours as pundits pontificated endlessly. With a clear leftist bent in journalism, it wasn’t long before right-leaning punditry found a home on talk radio. And thus began the battle.
I can’t say who threw the first punch. It’s irrelevant anyway. I know from listening to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in my early days as a conservative that the real money was clearly to be found in bashing liberals mercilessly. Certainly there are plenty of examples on the left, such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Mahr before them. Things only intensified with the internet, a place lauded for “bringing us together” by putting us in touch with folks from far away, but its true nature is connecting us with distant people of like mind, ironically putting a wedge between us and our neighbors. The end result is that now, rather than all of us reading the same newspapers, watching the same nightly news programs and listening to the same radio hosts, we can all find our own niche of political discourse, all of which is simply following the money and giving us what we want: a pat on the back for agreeing that everyone not a part of our group is a moron, or worse, a criminal.
Clearly, one would take offense to being labelled as such. Naturally, we all react the same way: we ratchet up the rhetoric and fire back. We now find ourselves in a nation populated only with cucks, snowflakes, racists and rednecks.
Now the Gloves Have Come Off
Now we are all at war with one another for the “soul of the nation.” Every election is do-or-die, right here, right now, as if it’s the last one to ever be held, and every last issue is on the line for eternity. With the stakes so high, we take every opportunity to point out what the other side is doing wrong, or what we perceive as wrong. We look for any crack in the armor, any sign of weakness, the slightest slight to throw out in the open and point at it like the Smoking Gun we knew was there all along, as if it will finally put to rest the debate of which side is better.
Obviously, this has not worked.
Both sides have dragged out dirt on the other, claiming it as evidence of misconduct, corruption or treason. It was all anyone talked about in this last election. Hillary had emails. Trump had pick-a-thing. It didn’t matter what could reasonably be said in defense of the allegations, the mere existence of the allegations was sufficient damnation. One slip of the tongue or easily misconstrued action — or even enough circumstantial evidence — was all it took to declare victory.
In politics, you score a touchdown simply because you catch the other side being less-than-perfect. In this game, the points are what matter while the cause for concern is secondary, and the goal line is imaginary. Every touchdown is followed by a big dance and players piling on in celebration, even while the other team is pointing out where the goal line “really” is.
Unfortunately in this game, there are no impartial referees to decide. Journalists are supposed to be a close proxy, but in this toxic culture of political cults, no institution is recognized as reputable or even generally trustworthy by a majority anymore. No unbiased body is keeping score, which instead leaves the teams to do it — and can you think of a worse scenario? Every point scored is immediately refuted by the other team, fairly or not, and has become the default stance on every matter of consequence.
With the real issues in the backseat, we have completely lost perspective, taken our eye off the ball, and throw ourselves into the fray with no thought for the long game. Liberals want Trump out at any cost, and to that aim, they have made mountains out of molehills, and while there have been plenty of genuine mountains, when all mountains are the same size, they don’t leave as big an impression. Conservatives did the same thing while Obama served, and we very quickly learned to tune them out, which in turn enabled us to completely miss real grievances that needed easing. Cue the 2016 election. At this point it’s nobody fault and it’s everyone’s.
Maybe Liberals see a weakness in the GOP and greedily look forward to exploiting it in 2018. I for one wish Republicans would drop Trump and just govern. Stop playing politics and show me why I should vote for you again. I’m not happy with Democrats right now, so you’ve got an opening. Based on what they’ve managed to unaccomplish this year, I’m not optimistic.
Every mouse is a wolf, and every wolf is a mouse. Maybe Hillary’s private email server was a bigger deal than I was led to believe, but every source I trusted said it was a mouse, and every source that said it was a wolf had hyperventilated and overreached in condemnations of the Left in the past. I definitely believe that Trump bragging about his intel on ISIS to the Russian diplomats last week was a wolf, but I’ve seen plenty of Trump supporters dismiss it as a mouse. I think they’re missing the point, happily adopting red herring excuses that roll the molehill flat, but how do I convince them of that? How do I fight the now entrenched culture we live in where anyone who disagrees with you isn’t to be considered but confronted? More confrontation?
The problem is, the Wolf always comes eventually. The wolf might already be here. And how could we now tell, without it being too late? We’ve made it impossible to trust one another when we raise concerns over an issue because we’ve used every single one as a blunt weapon against the other, spiking the issue in our own self-defined end zone. Will we be able to identify a true threat before it eats the children?
We need to stop demanding perfection from our ideological adversaries, instead reserving judgement for the real dangers. Debate differences, but don’t call each other names. Point to charts and graphs that support your position, but don’t hit your opponent over the head with the easel. Sometimes it’s okay to just let the other side get a point in, because… and I’m about to blow your mind here: we’re actually on the same side.
Maybe then we could trust each other. Maybe we could understand one another. Maybe we could use our differences to sharpen one another, rather than tear each other down. Maybe it’s not too late.
Or maybe the wolf is already eating the children.