Only 140 Characters, Please

I was thinking more about what I wrote in last week’s blog. That is, how we need someone to represent the middle ground, and how neither of our major political parties seems to want to move away from the extreme edges. Although some politicians come along from time to time who claim to be closer to the center, they are inevitably always preaching to a choir of like-minded followers on the fringes. Why? Because the fringes are easier. At the extreme edges of ideology you can find a place where you can be self-righteous, self-important, and where you can claim to have cornered the market on common sense. Way out there on the edges, there are fewer people to challenge you, and you don’t have to compromise – but even more compelling is that you can find an easy audience who will cheer you on, and high five each other when you make absolute and inflammatory statements.

So that’s one problem. But what makes it worse is an epidemic that has afflicted so many people in our culture, that it has become impossible to quantify the damage done. That epidemic is a disease known as digiti in auribus (fingers in ears).

Have you ever had that experience where you’re talking with someone, and you can tell they’re not listening to you – they are only using the time you’re talking to figure out what they’re going to say next? Maybe you’ve even caught yourself giving in to that temptation. Well, unfortunately, the world is full of people who think they have so much to say that they can’t afford the time to listen. And to make matters unquantifiably worse, we live in a world that has an ever shortening attention span, so that if you can’t say it in 140 characters (the limit of Twitter), then people don’t want to hear it. The sound bite culture promotes and intensifies the political and ideological polarization in our country. But it takes more than a sound bite to really hear what other people are saying. And it takes really hearing what other people are saying to find the middle ground.

Maybe I’m not being fair. Normally, I would be the first to say that we should not criticize individual people whom we don’t know personally, just because of their public persona. And politicians do seem to fit into the category of “people.” But I’m finding it difficult not to be skeptical of all of them. In fact, it makes me weary of trying to keep up with it all, and it makes me want to throw up my hands (and sometimes also my lunch) and say, Screw it – I give up. Why read up on the positions and the platforms when it’s just frustrating? Why even care what they say they believe in, when the realities of politics will prevent them from keeping their promises anyway? Why worry about our representatives voting for the “Save the Puppies” bill when you know the fine print will include a “Kill the Kittens” clause?

Our political system is broken, and it won’t get fixed until there are other options besides the two fringe parties of Democrat and Republican. But the brokenness is deeper than party politics. The system is broken because we are all broken. The very basic sins of pride and greed have worked their way into the system (both parties) and now we’ve lost what we need most: humility and generosity. Now compromise is perceived as weakness and the only options seem to be an all-or-nothing policy on one extreme or the other.

As I often say, anyone who wants the job of President of the United States is thereby unqualified to have it. What we need is a reluctant candidate – one who doesn’t want the job. Where are the humble and generous people? Let’s get one of them to run for president! But the problem is that humility takes more than 140 characters, or it looks like you’re incompetent or indecisive. And generosity takes more than 140 characters, or it looks like you’re naïve or wishy-washy. Plus how do you use humility as a way to hate a scapegoat? How do you use generosity to rally against a common enemy?


Jim Papandrea


About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at:
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