Here is my editorial reflection that will run in tomorrow's local newspaper. It seemed appropriate to run it here in advance of that silly little debate going on tonight.
"Searching for Political Substance"
I was visiting a parishioner earlier in the week, and the parishioner had the television on to one of the mainstream 24-hour cable news channels. While we were talking for about a half an hour or so, the parishioner was sitting in a chair and physically facing toward me, while the TV with a lowered volume stayed on in the background as we chatted. I ended up with an odd vantage point of facing both the parishioner and the TV that a few feet behind her in one direct line of sight.
This happened to be the day before the first Presidential debate, and all the talking heads on this 24-hour news channel were in rare form. One might charitably say they were all gaga over analyzing whom would say what and what topics would be covered. As a person who tries desperately to stay away from contemporary political discussions because they cannot seem to be conducted in a civil tone of voice anymore, I largely tuned out the TV channel in the background so that I might more intently talk to my parishioner.
I noticed a curious effect that occurred while I was listening to my parishioner talk to me. As the talking heads in the background would become more animated and forceful in their political diatribes, the anxiety and emotional state of my parishioner, who was not discussing anything having to do with politics, would also rise. I noticed after about ten minutes that the opposite was also true: when the commercial break would come on or when there would be some breaking non-political news, my parishioner's tone of voice, respiration rate, and anxiety would also go back down to a reasonable state. I watched this cycle go one for a good half an hour.
As I was walking back to my car, I suddenly realized that what I had been witnessing was a political version of Pavlov's famous experiment playing out right before my eyes. Ivan Pavlov, of course, was a Russian physiologist most famous for his experiments of getting dogs to salivate through conditioned responses like the ringing of a bell when food was presented. In this particularly heated hyper-partisan political climate, I believe we have become conditioned in the exact same way. Politics is the ringing of our bell, and we immediately begin frothing at the mouth for reasons that are often completely irrational in nature.
The next time you feel like lashing out at someone who does not hold your political views, remember this story. Ask yourself if your reactions are well thought out and conducive to furthering solutions that might help this country or are you simply responding out of reflex? The simple fact of the matter is that if you want to change the direction of this country or the tone of politics, you have to take the initiative and follow the basic rule that Jesus taught us: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is true, particularly in political discussions, because if you will not even follow that rule, your elected politicians who represent you most certainly will not.
|(The Newspaper wouldn't let me run this with my editorial. )|