Political shorthand: On saying nothing while suggesting everything

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It’s near 100 days to the 2014 United States Election (by my count, the actual 100th day is next Sunday. Election is November 4, 2014.)

What will you do, each day, to participate actively in your responsibility as a citizen. It is an important question, each individual needs to answer for him or herself. We get what we deserve….

I’m fairly involved in politics. It is interesting (and often, frustrating). A few examples from the last few days.

Saturday I elected to go to the town hall for my local legislator. It was a nice summer day, and only about a half dozen of us were in attendance. All in the room were men, except the legislator, a woman; depending on one’s point of view, half in the room were “good guys”, half not.

Though I don’t go to all such gatherings, they are always interesting, even though they are predictable. As usual at this one, in attendance was the young guy filming everything. He calls himself a “tracker” for a special interest group that is much more for getting rid of taxes and regulation on business than on its stated goal, “jobs”. The hope, I gather, is to find some ‘sound bites’ for his advocacy group to use against the legislator in later campaign ads.

One well-groomed and dressed young guy, who looked to be college age or not far beyond, complained about “massive tax increases” and companies moving out of the state, and asked that the Minnesota version of the Affordable Care Act be “scrapped” – pretty standard talking points of the right, never supported by any data. What does “massive” mean? I don’t know. Likely he doesn’t either. It is a good, scary word, that’s all.

Even with only six people in the room, there’s no time to waste on debate of a single misleading word, so we moved on.

It was caught on video, of course.

I had to leave after 45 minutes due to another commitment. All was very civil. The legislator, now well experienced in such meetings, handled things very well.

But it was an example of what I would call “Political Shorthand” – saying nothing while suggesting everything: “companies are leaving our state….”)

And I’m speaking about the audience, not the legislator.

The first lesson a lawmaker learns is that we’re a diverse society. Some try to ignore that, at all of our peril.

Media, of course, is a crucial part of American politics.

The previous evening, sitting in my favorite chair, I watched the CBS evening news cover twin tragedies: the disastrous shooting down of a Malaysian Airliner over the Ukraine; and the even worse disaster between somebody and somebody else – let’s say “Israel” and “Hamas”, whoever they are, in terms of making stupid decisions anyway.

It struck me at how casual and comfortable I was, watching news about terrible tragedies taking place a long ways away.

We Americans view war as an abstract sport, though we are very active participants.

CBS was trying, I suppose, to be “fair and balanced”. They chose to focus on one Israeli casualty from the Hamas missiles; and four Palestinian young people killed on a Gaza beach by Israeli fire from a boat. It seemed a rather false equivalence: at the time hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza had already died in the latest round of war; hundreds of Hamas rockets had managed to kill one Israeli.

In the Ukraine, the issue was who was to blame for the near 300 deaths in the airliner in a contested part of the former Soviet Union.

As for Israel/Palestine, there have been, in this single conflict, far more Palestine deaths than the casualty list from the plane. In many ways, Israel is an informal 51st State of the U.S. What is our complicity in the tragedy. And, how do we define the word “our”?

Important.

After the legislators session, I went to my barber, a very good long-time friend, and he was certain about who was to blame for both. We had a good conversation.

Listen for the political and media “shorthand”. It is constant, apparent,

Dad, forever the teacher, would say “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and he’d be correct. But he was talking to kids when he gave that admonition. What about nations dissing each other, and wholesale killing?

It’s near 100 days till the election of 2014. Get on the court, actively, every day, wherever you happen to be.

POSTNOTE: My favorite blogger has a long overnite commentary about the Israel-Palestine situation. Here it is, if you’ve interested.