Sunday, September 4, 2011

What's in a Name?

Why the name?

Why, “Syncopated Politics”.  Well, it was actually my second choice.   I wanted  Politics on Steroids, but that apparently was taken.  And steroids seemed to be the right analogy.  In our political discourse today we have juiced-up politicians engaging in nihilistic demagoguery, egged on by radio and television-shock jocks screaming for blood, and reported on by an all consuming 24 hour a day media that needs product-and when they can’t report it, they have to stir it up or make it up.  Everything is oversized and bloated-starting with the hat sizes of the players.  We have Supreme Court sanctioned-unlimited campaign funds from undisclosed donors, hyperbole and purging when it comes to the smallest deviation from the party line, and a permanent state of “roid rage” where you can say anything, factual or not.  When it comes to personal foibles (corruption, cheating on one’s spouse,) we forgive all the users on our “team”, and condemn the same behavior on the other guy’s team. 

I don’t mean to idealize the past as a place of blissful bipartisanship-it wasn’t.  Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton.  In that august debating society we know as the Senate, Georgian Preston Brooks, was so enraged by Massachusetts Charles Sumner’s criticism of slavery that he confronted Sumner in his office and nearly beat him to death with his cane-to almost unanimous approval from his Southern brethren.

So, verbal and even physical violence isn’t new.  Men and women have always been passionate in their beliefs.  They have marched, rioted, wrote scathing articles, ginned up false allegations against the opposition, bribed, and stole elections.  What does seem to be new is that, having done all that in the past, once they won, at least most of the time, they seemed ready to talk to the other side and try to work things out legislatively.  The notable difference in the past was over the Brooks and Sumner’s issue of slavery.  And, if you want to see just how much history can repeat itself, read Bruce Catton’s Civil War masterpiece, “The Coming Fury,” published in 1961.  If you changed the names and made it contemporary, the first chapter would be as resonant as if it had just been written.

But, what Catton went on to talk about was the missed opportunities, and misunderstandings which led to disunion, and, that’s why a “Politics on Steroids” shouldn’t be what we aspire to.  Because we know it fails. Instead, with an acknowledgement to my musical children, “Syncopated Politics.”  Syncopated is a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm; a placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn't normally occur.  That’s what I want this blog to represent-an interruption in the echo chamber.  I’m obviously not a Red State Republican, but I’m fortunate to know a number of people who disagree with me, and will articulately make a contrary case. There are also dozens of great writers, reporters and commentators, and you will see their work cited for an opposing perspective.

Finally, please comment.  We prefer that they be substantive and not of the “Obama is a Terrorist and/or Bachmann is a right wing lunatic” variety.  Tell us something we haven’t thought of, bring a differing viewpoint. Just don’t make it personal; we want people to speak their minds here, but we reserve the right to take down verbal caning.