Most current political rhetoric has drifted widely from the intentions of our “Founding Fathers”. While name-calling and positioning oneself for maximum status was certainly present in the politics of early America, these distractions did not dominate political interaction.
Despite not totally living up to their vision of freedom for all Americans, slaves and other people of color, early leaders of our republic imagined the individual as the center of their quest for freedom for all. Since early in the twentieth century, the individual citizen as the central focus of the legal system has progressively shifted from individual rights to group rights, from personal liberty to social justice. Whenever issues of freedom and human rights emerge, invariably it is under the rubric of group affiliation.
The tone of discussion also has shifted. Since the late sixties and seventies, name calling and demeaning labeling has replaced meaningful discussion of important issues. It is more effective to discredit others rather than pointing out the flaws in their arguments. This, too, primarily involves their group affiliation. Group think and allegiance replaces thoughtful analysis of problems.
When are we as citizens of this great nation going to realize that our self serving behaviors are the primary motivation for much of our group affiliations? While some of this doesn’t present challenges to our social fabric, when it reaches the extent of grossly discrediting the motivations of others rather than thoughtfully and respectively discussing problems with their points of view or actions, it becomes dysfunctional.