Our Tedious Penchant for Partisanship

Don’t you wish we could all be presented with a political issue or dilemma and get the facts on both sides, but not have any idea what party benefits either way? That everything could be stripped of its partisan piece so that wouldn’t taint our thinking and each situation would be looked at with a fresh eye?

It’s nearly impossible now in this nation and I’m so tired of it.

So often we judge people instantly by assessing what party they might belong to. African-American in New York? Must be a liberal. God-fearing person? Must be a conservative. I see this all the time. I’ve had starry-eyed FOX groupies – as opposed to those who get their news from several sources, including FOX -- come up to me at events to gush. I’ve had left-leaning folks reluctant to talk to me because I write under the FOX banner.

Sometimes it’s amusing, but most times it’s disconcerting. A conservative family member genuinely surprised because Oprah Winfrey conducted a fair and engaging interview with former President George W. Bush. Liberals wondering how Jon Stewart can express respect for Bill O’Reilly.

Can’t we be individuals any more? I long for the day when picking a camp is so yesterday and we’ve morphed into a place where free thinkers are the majority. So many of us fancy ourselves there already, but day after day the news cycle reinforces how rare it is and strengthens my desire to make it so.

If I read or hear one more ignorant, petty comment about Michelle Obama working to bring healthier food choices to children, I’m going to scream. Just when I think it’s finally died, someone else chimes in to defend their choice of Doritos and grape soda. Calling the First Lady’s mission an infringement on anyone’s rights is like accusing Laura Bush of forcing children to read literature instead of the National Enquirer when she was vigorously promoting literacy. My goodness, talk about a no-brainer, win-win scenario in both cases.

Get a mind, folks. Open up those channels of thought and take in some information. It doesn’t cost anything and it’s surprisingly exhilarating.

The alternative is to be a robot, to gravitate to only like-minded others, to isolate from different, even to shut down entertainment options based on political leanings. Being a resident of New Jersey, it blows my mind when I hear someone say they can no longer listen to Bruce Springsteen because of his recent political stands. Really? Isn’t he the same guy whose career was built on passionately standing up for the working class? What did that make him before, a Reagan conservative?

Now we have Justin Beiber expressing some views on health care and abortion in Rolling Stone magazine and, consequently, the poor kid is categorized. Never mind that he’s still forming and learning to think for himself, regardless of his early fame and fortune. You just know there are hyper conversations going on between parents who feel strongly about these issues and their impressionable ’tweens who adore Beiber. Gosh, people, breathe. My own views on abortion did a 180 turn since I was 16.

When Massachusetts Congressman Scott Brown, a Republican, was interviewed by Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes recently, the headline on the program’s Web site and most of the subsequent press was about his revelation of childhood abuse. While it is admirable that Brown has been forthcoming in his memoir, Against All Odds, because it will undoubtedly inspire many, the headline for me was that he casts his votes in Congress according to what he thinks, not what the party dictates.

It is so refreshing when we hear this about our elected officials. After Arizona’s Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot, one of the more endearing and inspiring things we learned about her was that she didn’t fit into the party mold across the board. It’s almost sad that this surprises us about people when we hear it.

You know the great partisan divide has gotten out of hand when our citizens are deciding how they feel about global warming and even science in general depending on where their political party stands on it. Nothing touts our intellect as a people, or lack thereof, quite like that topic.

One of the few people I know who votes based on candidate rather than party, a union man, told me recently that if Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker succeeds in his attempt to quash collective bargaining for most public employee unions there -- setting a precedent that ripples into other states -- he will never vote Republican again.

Geez, there goes one free thinker over to the other side.

Apparently I’m not the only one troubled by all of this. According to The Washington Post, the University of Arizona has created the National Institute for Civil Discourse and it will “focus on civility in political debate.” The honorary chairmen are former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

“Our country needs a setting for political debate that is both frank and civil,” Bush said in a statement as reported by The Post.

And Clinton said in his statement that the new institute “can elevate the tone of dialogue in our country.”

Please, for the sake of our nation, let it be so.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.