Saturday, October 30, 2010

You go, then I'll go

I don't know how many of you watched Jon Stewart's rally today (it was streamed live on, but it was a pretty incredible event. There were probably 200,000 people there, all with a very basic, very positive message - let's put aside the partisan crap and try to work together. Let's stop screaming and start listening. "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing," as Stewart put it. It's tough to put aside cynicism and let a message like that penetrate, but I think Stewart's rally might just do that for a lot of people. It is certainly making me think.

I've been guilty, probably more so than many people, of espousing a radicalism that has not always been positive and productive. In the spirit of civility, I'd like to apologize to anyone I've offended or alienated with any of my hardline Marxist bluster. I've begun to realize, and Jon Stewart's rally really helped put this into perspective, that the things we all need to work on aren't based on ideology or political theory or anything like that. The key is dialogue, and being willing to say, "you know, I disagree with your approach, but if you think it'll work, I'm willing to talk about it, because we've got a lot of shit to fix, and it'll take all of us to do it."

The only enemies we need to fight are willful ignorance and ideological stubbornness. I've had to purge a lot of my own ideological prejudices over the years, because ideology by its very nature disconnects itself from the everyday issues that really matter to people.

The scientific method starts with a hypothesis, tests it, and then either accepts or rejects the original hypothesis based on the results. If the hypothesis is rejected, then you modify that hypothesis, and the process begins again. Politics should be done in a similar manner. If you think cutting taxes will help the economy, and then you test that, and it fails, then you have to modify that idea and start again. If you think nationalizing the banking industry will help the economy, and you test that, and it fails, then you have to modify that and start again. The key is not who's right, but rather what's right. Sure, all of this is an oversimplification, but the point is sound.

The one thing that really resonated with me was what Jon Stewart said at the end. He had an excellent metaphor. He put up a picture of a snarl of traffic, six lanes funneling down into two lanes to get through a tunnel. He illustrated that in each car was someone with a distinct political opinion. Here was an NRA member. There was a lesbian soccer mom. There was an Oprah-loving gay carpenter. Whatever. They're all in the traffic snarl together, and somehow, they have to figure out how to get through that tunnel. Politics doesn't have a place in such a scenario; it's just, "You go, then I'll go," and they make it through. "Oh, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Whatever, you go, then I'll go."

You go, then I'll go. I think that's the central message that we can take away from Stewart's rally. If we take turns letting each other "go," letting ideas we don't agree with be tested, then working together to find a solution we can all agree with, and we stop calling each other Nazis or Communists anytime we disagree with each other, then a lot of the hate and the vitriol and the ideology can go by the wayside and we can get through that tunnel. Even if the tunnel only leads to New Jersey.

So again, to those of you who have found my own particular brand of radicalism off-putting, I apologize. I have ideas and prejudices of my own, as we all do, but now I think I'm more willing to listen.

You go, then I'll go. I think if we spread that message, we can really cut through the cynicism and the isolation and the hate, and really start to talk to each other again, with respect, as human beings.