by Sterling Barlow
October 25, 2004
Not long ago most of us could have been described as middle-of-the-road or a little on either side of center. There were a few extreme liberals and conservatives, but they were on the fringes.
National leadership now appeals to our anxieties, passions and fears. We have become polarized into closed, mutually reinforcing camps refusing to hear reasoned opposition and preferring an ever-louder feedback loop of stereotypes and sound bites.
We no longer tolerate the company of those with differing viewpoints. We put on blinders determining our votes on single issues; our language drips with battle metaphors; we have adopted a mob mentality.
When we strip away the complexities of life and subordinate our judgment to the prevailing emotions of the crowd, we become less civilized, less mature, more easily led by the nose. We allow our "leaders" to direct our negativity and grievances onto scapegoats (always of another color, language, religion, neighborhood, or political stance).
We are profoundly divided.
It is time we sought leaders who understand teamwork and consensus, who believe that the only strength we have as a nation is when we stand together, who use reason instead of charisma, who heal instead of divide. Only such leaders as these can be trusted to place our long-term interests ahead of those of lobbyists and their own political careers. Yes, there have been and still are such persons.
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