I try to make an appeal for civic literacy. I mostly end up ranting.
|*Note: Please read to the end and I promise I will read whatever problems you have with my piece, and carefully weigh and review their merit. Thank you
I think that most people can agree that the U.S.'s political system and culture has some flaws. Some may think that President Obama is turning the country into a socialist regime that will physically force the elimination of social and economic stratification, while others think that former President Bush and his cronies masterminded the 9/11 attacks.
Personally, I find that the most damning aspect of American political culture is that we have absolutely no checking mechanism whatsoever to counteract these mass beliefs of unproven, illogical, and sometimes ridiculous theories on the negative intent and means of the so called "big brother" government.
Don't get me wrong, I truly do think that we should actively monitor our government in order to make sure that it doesn't get away with too many corrupt activities, but there is a process! You investigate, validate, and then act upon those credible findings! Not just rant about unfounded postulations that have just spewed out of where the sun don't shine, or taken from websites like infowars.com, which is the tabloid equivalent of the political world. Such sources of "information" only seek a more dedicated readership through the use of cheap tricks like fear mongering and the massive skewing of perspective and information.
Why has this happened? Whew, there's a lot of theories on this one. My personal opinion is that America has very little civic awareness or political education. That, combined with a cultural tendency of naturally assuming one's right, has created this generation of loud, ignorant, and politically incorrect fools who try to sound like they know what they are talking about by being more loud, more ignorant, and more politically incorrect than anyone else. Then we have those that are glued several hours of each day to the O'Rielly Factor or the Greenhammer blog, seeing no actual evidence of civil discourse or the pros and cons of each respective argument. Instead, they see the same arguments repeated over and over again, while the opposition is demonized into either hillbilly corporate elitists or hippie socialists.
Meanwhile, students of political science like myself, who have actually taken the time to learn something of the system and its flaws, stand with mouths agape at the level of pathos motivated excrement that spews from the mouth of the average American. I don't care if you are left or right, if your conclusions are based on wild rumor they are not worth saying. If you have a suspicion of a government conspiracy or some massively corrupt action, prove it. If you can't prove it, at least label it as a suspicion instead of passing it off as truth and hoping that no one realizes you are full of crap.
Is it the fault of the average American that we are in this current state? No, I don't believe it is. Personally, I believe that contemporary news media has purposely become more polarized in order to generate a more loyal fan base. Without a ready source of valid information, and little to no political education to help audiences discriminate between what is unfounded propaganda and what is actual news, Americans are almost inherently damned to be perpetually misinformed, therefore equally damned in that they will base their decisions on this type of misinformation.
So, what can we do? First off, all of those who claim that no one else realizes how serious a situation is, tone down your ego. While admittedly there are many secrets in this world, there are also many people looking for them. No matter how impressive your intelligence, the likelihood that you have seen and understood something that none of the billions out there have noticed is about zero. Even as I write this paper, I know dozens of people personally that I strongly suspect have had similar, if not the exact same thoughts as those expressed here.
Secondly, figure out how to find valid sources of information. Places like the Heritage Foundation, for example, have been considered very valid. Admittedly, the heritage foundation has been accused of a slight conservative bias, but the vast majority of their statistics are good and all of their statements are supported by strong explanations and copious amounts of trustworthy research. As a general rule of thumb, avoid .com's as information sources. The best information is going to be a scholarly source, likely ending in a .edu or .gov. The CIA World Factbook, for example, is a surprisingly thorough encyclopedia of really useful information.
And last of all, always keep a persistent suspicion that every theory and political opinion you know, hear, or read about could be wrong. Listen to opposing positions, figure out who has the more logical argument and more valid facts, and continuously evolve your political philosophy instead of plugging your ears and hammering your opinions into others. No one has absolutely correct political opinions, and no one can pose an argument on a controversial issue that has no legitimate counterpart.
So, I plead with you America. Please, get smarter. Stop focusing so heavily on the ideological, and start focusing on the logical. Compromise your stubborn opinions and continue to learn, instead of arriving at one conclusion and sticking to it for life. Don't let people (politicians, corporate leaders, and civilians alike) take advantage of your political ignorance. Please, keep learning.