Partisanship, polarization, propaganda. With diametrically opposing, often obfuscating viewpoints asserted on every issue of consequence these days, it is more difficult than ever to decipher the good and truthful from the bad and fake.
Objective news coverage, reasoned debate, reasonable compromise: they’ve become quaint anachronisms.
In recent months, for example, real concerns over civil liberties, gun rights, the environment, retirement and opioids have been obscured by some of history’s most egregious manipulations of commonsense and mischaracterizations of intent. The unceasing problem is that wherever there’s a will, there’s also a way to take sides; to pit both ends against the middle, common ground.
That the following concerns are debatable at all shows the gross errors of our ways:
The protest that turned violent in Charlottesville, VA, caused a national uproar. Yet there was hardly consensus on blame, let alone purpose. When President Trump dismissed the involvement of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, saying “I think there is blame on both sides,” white nationalist sympathizers were effectively given a pass to delegitimize the movement’s hateful premise.
The Las Vegas massacre reignited the battle over gun rights. But don’t expect a sensible response. Not when “our personal freedoms are under attack,” say gun rights proponents, who fear the “slippery slope” of any new regulations — that is, beyond making grenade launchers illegal.
The planet’s damaged environment will surely be a problem that our descendants will view with disdain for those who should’ve protected our natural resources, but instead sacrificed clean air, water and land in the name of the economy and jobs. Unfortunately, these short-term accommodations appeal to disenfranchised voters who remorselessly dismiss the burden being placed on future generations.
Retirement is becoming an anachronism. Fewer and fewer older adults can afford to retire. We have an inefficient and/or insufficient Social Security system; unaffordable long-term care and housing; and an unrealistic, outdated concept of retirement age that will not change until employers learn to appreciate and accommodate older workers.
The nation is fighting a deadly opioid epidemic. Saving the most despicable distortion of acts for last: In the midst of the nation’s deadliest opioid epidemic, big pharmaceutical companies are promoting a condition referred to as “pseudoaddiction,” which claims that behaviors normally associated with addiction — asking for drugs by name, making demands, doctor shopping — might signal that a patient actually needs more pain medication, not less.
Death-by-debate? The most time-sensitive, overriding subject for debate, however, is this: Will public-interest concerns override special-interest concerns before it’s too late?