It is traditional in this fourth week of November to give thanks for one's blessings. And I have much to be thankful for — a wonderful family, great friends, good health, and a job that never ceases to interest me. So, yes, thanks for all that.
And it would be unseemly, really, during this season to complain, so instead let me offer up some thoughts about something I'd like to be thankful for.
I'd like to be thankful for a return to civility in political discourse. I'm weary of the endless bitching from the left about Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, "teabaggers," and the categorizing of every conservative as a "wingnut." I am sick of (and more than a little frightened of) the right's blind hatred of President Obama and the veiled allusions to assassinating him that are rampant among its fundamentalist base ("Pray for Obama"). And I am appalled and disgusted by those in the conservative media and the Republican party who pander to people's lowest instincts and darkest fears.
I think much of this incivility is rooted in the multiplicity of our information sources. Once upon a time, most sentient Americans watched one of three nightly network newscasts and read one or two daily papers. We took what we gleaned from these sources and formed our political opinions. We talked about the "news" at work, like it was a quart of milk. Everyone drank from the same bottle. Most people were either a Democrat or a Republican, which was a little like being a Rebel or a Vol. We didn't hate each other. We just disagreed about certain issues and rooted for different teams.
These days, most of us self-select our media, reading websites that reinforce our political inclinations and watching television networks that do the same. Much of the opinion and commentary we consume is designed to enflame: Liberals are lily-livered socialists. Right-wingers are racists and charlatans. And hey, come back again tomorrow and we'll tell you even more outrageous stuff.
They are trying to stir our emotions because that's what brings us back. They're trying to piss us off and they've succeeded. I believe we are more politically divided and less tolerant of opposing viewpoints than at any point in my lifetime.
This Thanksgiving, I would like very much to be thankful for a respectful and civilized agreement to disagree.
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...