I first heard about the University of Louisville‘s community forum on public discourse through a news update on my iphone. I thought that might be interesting to see but I have way to much to do at home after an unexpected three-day weekend. Oh well.
Then I read on Facebook where U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Greyson and UofL political science professor Jasmine Farrier would be holding the forum at noon and it would streamed live through UofL’s homepage. Hmmm. Maybe I could catch it. Then I forgot about it while switching out a load of laundry (spending time in the snow creates many pounds of jeans, socks and sweatshirts).
Lo and behold, I had forgotten that I put the forum on my calendar and scheduled an alarm to alert me 15 minutes before the event began.
So I logged in. No video. Darn. Well, I’ll turn the volume up and catch up on my email, food journal, and twitter feed.
So I did. I was prepared to hear a hour’s worth of media bashing, but honestly, the discourse also touched our two-party system, political polarization, and many theories involving historical perspective.
And I was captivated by the entire 100-minute discussion on the state of politics and policy in our United States of America.
Farrier confirmed my suspicions with a paranoid quote from one of our founding fathers that didn’t sound to far off the broadcast waves from today’s paranoia-fueled rhetoric. Then somebody brought up the turmoil in the 1960s. While I was born after that chaotic time, I was fortunate enough to have parents who constantly, and still do, discuss history and contemporary politics. Mind you, it was slanted, albeit, there was still discussion in my house. So I knew America could sink to embarrassing lows, from both sides of the political spectrum.
I couldn’t wait to get older and affect change in our political landscape and the world.
Oh wait. You mean I have to work overtime? What’s this about sweeping floors, cleaning dishes and taking your kids to and from practices, clubs and whatnot. I have to get the kiddos from daycare BEFORE 6 o’clock or that’s more money I’ll get charged. I honestly can NOT sit down to watch an hour’s worth of news when there’s homework that has to be checked and a family dinner to sit down to because I’m told that will make my kids smart and well-behaved.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I’m not alone in saying there’s not enough time to educate myself on every policy that is put forth before our local, state, and federal governments. Does my opinion really affect what my legislator, senator or whomever is in power votes on? I’m mentally exhausted from all this political polarization. I’m apathetic.
So is this political “bomb-throwing”, to use a term the panelists used this afternoon, really all my fault? I have been quick to blame those media news entertainers who know how to say just the right words to incite their followers. Those blow-hards say it’s only entertainment (The first time I heard that was as a lowly intern at 84WHAS in the mid-1990s, when, yep, Rush Limbaugh first came to Louisville). But they have people who thrive off the drama, the hatred and the intolerance spewed into the microphones and out to the airwaves.
But if you listened to the discussion today at UofL, you would have learned that, yes, it is my fault. And their fault. And the media’s fault.
“We can’t lose our passion, we can’t lose our principles,” Yarmuth told the gathering.
Yes, we HAVE to read all sides of the story. We need to see both sides of a policy debate and not let one political party or political pundit or political news entertainer shape our own decisions. Yarmuth told the group to watch the mainstream media, yes, use the Golden Rule when debating, and keep those debates honest and factual.
“Use the internet more to challenge your own beliefs,” Grayson urged. Teach our children not only civics, and, if I may add, civility.
We have ample opportunity to gather as much information and truth and opinion now than we ever did. I wouldn’t have listened to the discussion if it wasn’t for the technology at my fingertips.