Commentary: Political outlook based on education, parenting

Dan Flathers

Richard Hoover’s April 29 column, “Is political orientation genetic?,” raises an important issue calling for civility in our political discourse. It is indeed getting pretty ugly out there.

Of course, one’s own political orientation is hardly based on genetics [Mr. Hoover invokes the silliness of the notion at the onset to make his point, but I think some may misconstrue that he actually meant it.]

Political outlook is instead based upon the quality of instruction of individuals and the fidelity each employs in applying it — or any lack thereof.

Mr. Hoover is absolutely correct that those things which do obsess us in this country are First World problems — totally incomparable to the utter despair found elsewhere.

Yet I do believe that he’s too optimistic in asserting that “(n)o American domestic political revolution is permanent…” when assuring us that one political movement or another is simply a resultant ebb and flow with no permanently bad effect.

History demonstrates that it doesn’t take much for a republic to unravel and descend into irretrievable chaos. Indeed, it takes continuous vigilance by an educated public to keep a republic from dissolving to dystopia. [See: quality and fidelity, above.]

Things were pretty uncivil with the body politic in the decades leading to the 1860 election. That the nation survived the Civil War is an exception to the rule: Had not Robert E. Lee met Grant at Appomattox, guerilla warfare would have most assuredly undone any chance of Reconstruction.

Back to the issue at hand, in a nutshell: We have developed a culture more comfortable with reactionary “J’accuse!” than with reflective mea culpa. Those of the ‘Grievance Industrial Complex’ know this all too well.

The ubiquitous social media exacerbates the instantaneous nature of our reactionary impulses at the expense of serious consideration. Events of the past year illustrate the point: “Hands up; don’t shoot” was based on a lie. “Black lives matter!” is based on the belief that too many think that they do not — an idiotic proposition — hence, a lie as well.

Come to think of it: What’s become of the Occupy Wall Street movement? Wall Street remains unoccupied; the movement has moved on [pun intended]. A mob always grows as individual reason evaporates.

J’accuse! v. mea culpa writ large. Act in haste; regret at leisure — but only when those acting wrongly are capable of the self-examination that makes such regret possible.

Finally, Mr. Hoover errs in that the breadth of his column implies an equivalency in the degree of rhetorical abusiveness practiced between Right and Left.

Distinctions matter: The Left generally applies unfounded personal condemnation to those they disagree with [“bigot!”]; the Right is generally dismissive of those promoting bad policy[looney left!].

We can never return to civility in our political discourse if one side or the other refuses to acknowledge and reconsider its tactics. So long as the electorate responds in sufficient numbers to the outrageous slander so common today, there’s no incentive to alter this base methodology.

The elixir for our societal ills is as obvious as a sunrise: We need a return to culture-wide good instruction with the subsequent good application of it. This will take a return to intellectual honesty in our educational curriculum and a return to true parenting at home.

Dan Flathers is a Toms Brook resident.