There’s certainly no shortage of things to worry about these days. I, for one, was pretty worried before the crash came along, and since then, many of the problems that were hidden or distant have rushed into the open and on to center stage. Some are terrifying, and its hard to think how we can address them, but many of the most serious are quite simple and easy to solve, if we’d each just put in a little effort. The poster child for this is the state of our political discourse. The language has grown so toxic that its basically impossible for people who disagree to communicate at all. This is desperately serious, because, so long as this remains a democracy, we will be incapable of solving pretty much any problem until we solve this one. But its not like this is an impossible goal. We all just need to be more interested in unity and solving our problems than in saying and hearing things that give us a pleasant feeling of self-righteousness and anger.
There are a few phrases that seem innocent, but essentially exist to exacerbate this situation, and which never fail to catch my eye. When a politician, or any public figure, shows up anywhere, whether its Farmington, IA, or the Globocorp boardroom, and says “This is the heart of America” it sets my teeth on edge. They want their audience to think “This politician thinks, quite rightly, that we’re the center of America. We’re absolutely vital. We’re the real thing. Everything else couldn’t possibly survive without us. We exemplify what it is to be American, and no one else lives up. The good politicians are those who prefer us, and who fight for our interests, and protect us from those other, greedy, un-American places who want to take advantage of us with their unfair advantages and their dirty tricks.” In other words, its a game of one-downmanship, where each politician fights to make a group think they’re the only good group, and that only he can protect him from all those other people, and that the other groups aren’t just wrong about things, or don’t just have other interests, but are actively enemies of his constituency. I know it sounds like a pretty innocent phrase, but its one of a whole arsenal employed by our leaders. And irks me particularly, and I’ll explain why. Each part of a body, each individual cell, exists to serve the whole organism, and exists because every other cell does the same. If a heart cell, or the heart as a whole, which is you’ll remember what the politician calls whatever group, if that heart decides, “You know, we’re vital. The rest of the body can’t survive without us. I don’t see why they should get all those resources, why we should have to be kept in such a small area. All the other cells should be like us, because we’re the right ones, we’re upright, we’re righteous. We should get what we need, and take over whatever we want.” If the heart did this, the body it was in wouldn’t survive, and neither would the heart. If it did this, we would call it Cancer. The simple fact is, much of what we say and do in the political sphere is cancerous, and it is killing us. We’ve got to start remembering that we are part of the whole, and that we each of us must serve that whole if it, and we, are to survive.