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Political strife encouraged by the media

| Friday, Oct. 27, 2006

Let's talk politics.

Am I crazy to suggest such a thing• You know the old admonition against talking about politics or religion with friends. Basically, just don't do it, unless you want to risk losing a friend.

It's no wonder that the nation is so polarized -- if, indeed, it is, as pundits suggest. Not only do we talk politics -- seemingly incessantly, if you listen to any of those cable news networks -- but we also seem to always combine it with religion these days.

Here is a simplistic view (from a simpleton?) of all of this: It is the fault of the media.

"What?" you say. "The Leader Times is part of the media. How can you accuse your own profession?"

Let's explore this from scratch.

First off, it is technically not the fault of the "media," because that word is the plural of "medium," which means a lot of different things. In the world of art and crafts, paint, stone, cloth, clay, and wood are media. But, usually, we are talking about the news media, when we use the word these days, and that includes both print and electronic -- newspapers, radio, TV, and the Internet.

Now I am certainly not going to blame the polarization of our politics on the world's artists or on Uncle Joe's whittling, despite what a conservative Republican he is. I am blaming it on the news media, but, as with so many such things, the devil is in the system, not in the details.

You see, stories don't become news until there is a bit of an aberration: something out of the ordinary. Recently, it seems a conflict is the basis for every news story.

It is the spark created when conflicting ideas meet that makes news.

What happens next?

Well, we hear, for example, that one political candidate favors the values of a God-fearing, church-going family. And we hear that the "other guy (or gal)" is more lenient, more tolerant. Immediately we think that they have no values.

Then we flavor this conflict with a little "faith" -- but that is the wrong word again. What we call faith is really just an interpretation of what we think we believe. Or our religion.


So the tolerant folks are against us. They have no right. They are demons.

And the guys in the middle, the moderates who are trying to make sense of all this• Well, they are just plain Boring! (The capital B is intended).

Now, because the media has, for so many years, focused on these conflicts, they have turned into something newsworthy: the culture clash.

Next issue: Isn't bringing religion into the mix a violation of that separation of church and state thing?

No, it is not (say I).

Everyone's lives -- dare I suggest those of the atheists and agnostics, too• -- are informed by their spiritual values, and there is vurtually no way they won't, or shouldn't, bring that influence into the political dialogue of this nation, or of our hometown.

Whether the issue is the war, helping the poor, or the budgeting issues that make political action in those areas possible, we must decide not only with our minds, but also with our hearts and our convictions.

To suggest otherwise is foolish.

As much as we don't want to admit it -- perhaps because, despite the frustration, it wouldn't be as fun -- politics is not about winning. It is about exchanging ideas to achieve the common purpose of making our lives better.

The ideas are sometimes vastly different. We can't even always agree on what the founding fathers of our nation intended. But do we really think they were in such agreement?

Politics should be fun. It used to be fun. But, somehow, we often take the fun out of it.

Whose fault is that?

Yep -- the "media."

Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts with Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or send e-mail to

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