Fresh from one of my unique moments of agreement with Glenn Beck yesterday as he riffed righteously on the unmitigated hypocrisy of Senate Democrats, I tuned into Rachel Maddow who was riffing righteously on the unmitigated hypocrisy of Senate Republicans.
They were both completely right.
Or completely half-right. Which makes them both completely wrong.
Beck gigged Democrats who are wailing about the Republicans’ use of the filibuster threat to kill health care when just a few short years ago there was talk of the “tyranny” of the Republican majority wanting to stop a Democratic minority’s right to filibuster.
Maddow set her sights on the Republicans who were arguing for the procedural validity of reconciliation during the Bush administration when they were kings of the hill, now squawking like stuck pigs as the Democrats may use it too.
So half the TV watching audience was treated to the half of reality they liked, other half of the story be darned.
Community – a stable job, shared national experience, extended family, labor unions – has vanished or eroded. In its place have come a frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking and the Ã -la-carte life as defined by 600 TV channels and a gazillion blogs. Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection.
These trends are common to all globalized modern democracies, ranging from those that prize individualism, like the United States, to those, like France, where social solidarity is a paramount value.
Beck and Maddow are simply different choices in our national -la-carte life, and as we pick out what we love to eat, we seem to not recognize we’re eating ourselves to death.
Are we really an America with so little moral compass that we don’t give a flip about staggering acts of hypocrisy unless it’s a staggering act of hypocrisy by someone we dislike?
In their moments of slightly higher statesmanship, Republicans argue that a 51% majority shouldn’t get 100% of what they want and that our system was structured around minority rights. When Democrats are cogent, they argue that a minority shouldn’t essentially have the power to stop all governance by procedural foot-dragging.
Of course, they’re both correct.
The piece they are both missing is where our system demands that they step outside their neat and self-righteous hermetically sealed realities and deal with each other. I mean roll up the ole sleeves and really get in there and work out solutions.
Cohen agrees normal human contact is in short supply, as he recalled a recent stint of jury duty:
Thrown together for two weeks at Brooklyn Supreme Court with 22 other jurors, I was struck by how rare it is now in American life to be gathered, physically, with an array of other folk of different ages, backgrounds, skin colors, beliefs, faiths, tastes, education levels and political convictions and be obliged to work out your differences in order to get the job done.
There’s only one way this is going to turn out well for us as a country and it will be if we willingly walk away from our self congratulatory self-absorption and feel similarly obliged in our political life to work our our differences in order to get the job done. And we’re going to have to expect our elected representatives to do the same, or we should fire them.
The alternative, according to Cohen: “Or we can turn away from each other and, like Narcissus, perish in the contemplation of our own reflections.”
Yesterday Obama and the Republicans met on health care, but I haven’t quite had the courage to turn on the television to see how it turned out.
Liz Joyner is the Executive Director of The Village Square. You can contact her at email@example.com.