While the national news is still filled with the repercussions of a blue state electing a red senator, I’m completely irritated with the color-coding system. It is certainly easier than thinking, but I’m just fed up with the idea that politics fit into such neat little categories. Whoever we are, we are more than blue and red.
It’s not team sports. It has just been sold to us as such for so long, we all tend to walk around wearing the blue shirt, or the red hat, looking for other people on our team. The biggest problem with that is that we only hang out with the people our team. If someone wearing the wrong color should wander over the horizon, they’ll depart quickly if they know what’s good for them. How can we have a conversation if we don’t speak?
A part of the problem is that we seem to crave this information in such small bites it has to be labeled clearly. I have a friend who saves himself a great deal of time by reading the author credits on the op-ed page first and then only reading the essays written by those he’s sure he’ll agree with. It may save him some heartburn, but it also saves him having to do any thinking at all about where he stands or why.
For me, thinking is a pleasure. I don’t want my decisions pre-made for me. This also allows me the privilege of changing my mind.
One example of thinking for one’s self is the blogger Charles Johnson who won some fame as a right winger, and then won even more fame by changing his mind and turning to the left on his site Little Green Footballs. Johnson started the blog more than a decade ago to talk about his interests; bicycling and web design. After 9-11, he turned it into a blog about terrorism and Islamic fundamentalists. Recently he’s changed his focus from supporting the right wing to critiquing their methodology. He didn’t start another blog or change his name, he just continued to present his evolving thought processes. People got upset and said Johnson had changed his color. He had turned from red to blue. The media focus on colors does not seem to include purple.
Politics should not be allergic to thought. It should be the primary form of nutrition. Those familiar with the late Jesse Unruh’s famous quote “Money is the mothers milk of politics,” might consider that as we grow and mature, we need something more substantial that we can sink our metaphorical teeth into.
My suggestion of thought comes in part from the demographics of small town government. The faces involved are not the ones you see on the evening news; they are the ones you see at the grocery store. As the upcoming council election begins to take shape, the camps are flying their colors, and the lines are being drawn. The back fence gossip is getting edgy, occasionally ugly, and increasingly divided.
Our candidates are running, fundraising and gathering momentum. We have Scott Malsin, who from the number of supporters at his Jan. 30th fundraiser is probably looking at an easy re-election. We have Meghan Sahli-Wells, gathering support among the green-minded. We have Robert Zirgulis, who just suffered a major loss in the school board election but insists on using the same methods that didn’t work for him last time. We have Jeff Cooper, who seems to be using the lessons learned in his last defeat to his advantage. All these folks have ideas about how to run the city. We have a chance to use our democracy.
I worked with democracy in its most raw and least digestible form when I worked on the Free Venice Beachhead, a newspaper that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. When I joined the paper in the early 80’s, we did keep to Robert’s Rules of Order, but we had to vote unanimously, or the motion went back to discussion. This pretty much guaranteed that we never had a meeting that lasted less than five hours, and that someone would have to be argued into submission. Many arguments were won simply through endurance.
No ten members of any Beachhead collective have ever agreed on anything, (although Lynne Bronstein may want to argue with me on this one-) and some debates were simply offered as sport. A good way to promote journalism, but a very slow way to promote policy.
When you read Culver City Crossroads.com, don’t expect to find the party line. It’s not about promoting one camp over another, or being blue or red or green. When we set these designations up as adversaries, we set our selves up for stagnation. I believe the majority should rule, and unanimity, while ideal, is also impossible. We have big problems to solve. We also have big opportunities.
Don’t spend all your time reading the things you already know you agree with. That’s as boring as watching the Yankees win the series. Take off the blue shirt, and the red hat, and let yourself out of the uniform.