Friday, July 30, 2010

"Your President is a Dirtbag"

I reluctantly joined Facebook (FB) several months ago, primarily to keep in touch with friends and family who had migrated to the social networking site and were increasingly using it instead of email. Since then, I have been inching-out into the FB waters slowly but surely.

Yesterday, I wrote on an old high school friend's "wall", complaining about how President Obama skipped-out on making an appearance at the Boy Scout's 100 year celebration being held in Washington DC in favor of flying to New York City to appear on "The View". Since my son is a Boy Scout, I was a little disappointed that the president chose to go on television instead of taking an hour out of his day to show appreciation for an organization that has been predominantly a positive influence for a century.

After writing this comment on my friend's wall, Heather, a mutual FB "friend", responded. Heather, who is the mutual acquaintance, not my high school buddy, agreed with my disappointment and then made the leap of calling the president a "dirtbag". I found her name-calling over the top, so I replied to Heather explaining that although I wasn't happy with many of the president's choices of late, using the term "dirtbag" was unnecessary. Here was her reply:

"James, I could of thought of another word to describe your president but the word dirtbag is pretty close to what he is actually is. This president does not care about the American people, except taking the money from the tax payes (sic). He's more worried about being a celebrity like going on The View yesterday. Oh yeah, his priorities are in the right spot especially with all the immigration topics that is going on. All I can say is that I can't wait unitl November and all his other dirtbags are going to be put out of office. "

I realize that people get passionate about politics, which is important, because the diversity of views makes us stronger. Stronger, that is, up to the point where our differences become the focal point of conversation instead of achieving our common goals as a people and a nation. Then, those differences become wedge issues and fault lines used to keep us apart and making it hard to get anything done in Washington. No wonder Americans of all political stripes are mutually frustrated with their government and the political process!

What is especially dangerous about Heather's thinking is that she profanely demeaned the office of the President and has divided the world into "us" and "them". Regardless of who holds the office, to call a sitting president a dirtbag diminishes the institution of the Presidency and by association, our nation. Worse, it belies a disrespect for the millions of fellow Americans who voted for the president (no matter who it is), reinforcing the already deep divisions in our society that others have worked so hard to dig, because it serves their selfish interests. Surely, there are better ways to debate tax policy and immigration than throwing the dirtbag stone.

In LIE MERCHANTS, Bill Charles, the ultra-right talk show personality, embodies Heather's viewpoint. That holding political and spiritual views different than theirs are not "Real Americans" and that compromise is for people who are wrong. This mental orientation ignores the reality that Americans are united as one nation under God. We will necessarily have principled differences of opinion, based on our varying experiences, education and biases. We can, however, maintain our unity of purpose by understanding each other's viewpoints, which can only occur if we have the tolerance and patience to listen first. Who knows? We might change our minds! If not, then we can still disagree and work to influence and change the minds of others. I realize that view is somewhat naive, but I admit to being an optimist. Unfortunately, Heather attacked first and failed to listen.

One of the reasons I penned LIE MERCHANTS was to expose the danger of divisive thinking and reinvigorate the discussion about the purpose of America. When was the last time you thought about what "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" really means? What does it mean to you? LIE MERCHANTS confronts some of our assumptions of what constitutes the American Dream. If more people become interested in the book, then based on Heather's response, the dialogue will be lively!

Sorry Heather, but the president, no matter who holds the office is OUR president. That's the way the Founding Fathers set up the country - giving us freedom of speech, but forcing us to work together through compromise (even they didn't agree on everything!).

Keeping in mind that my back-and-forth with Heather was publicly available on my friend's FB wall, I stopped posting comments out of courtesy to my friend, not wanting to turn her personal space into a stage for my political commentary. I also sent Heather a "friend request" so that we could continue our dialogue offline. That said, Heather has yet to accept my invitation.


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