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Getting My Dose of AA: Virtue and Liberty Redux

Rest Stop for a Sunny Day

Rest Stop for a Sunny Day

It’s probably not as clever as I’d hoped. The title of my post takes a direct stab at Obama’s campaign to unify America. There has been A Slobbering Love Affair for Obama in the media generally, and an obvious lack of holding our newest president to account for his actions or lack of action. The media tended to be all over any misstep on the part of the last administration (much of it deserved by my lights), and completely ignores similar behavior on the part of the new administration. We need our journalists back, we need our news agencies back, as a nation we once relied on news sources to provide some much needed perspective – instead, we’ve a whole new crop of advocacy “journalists” who seem to be busy servicing everything but the public interest.

Bush promised to be a unifier also, just like Obama promised… it seems Obama’s doing an even less effective job than Bush. The biggest difference (follow the link, it is a slobber-fest) is that the failure to unify the electorate was all Bush’s fault – not the left-wing rabble rousers. Currently, it IS the right-wing rabble rousers that are the reason for Obama’s failure to unify the electorate. I got tired of hearing left wingers say, “He’s not MY president.” I can’t stand hearing right-wingers say it now, but I, well throw up a little, when I hear left wingers chide right wingers for the same actions. Moreover, when Bush was president, left wingers were “right” to call the administration and others down for saying dissent was not patriotic or un-American… and yet that is precisely what is being done now. The DNC is running ads that are deliberately divisive, and Obama is joining in the derision of those who oppose his policies. Our country is tanking, and it’s tanking because we’re forgetting our AA.

There are several left wing writers trying to call on all citizens to pay attention to the arguments of our founders, and though I don’t generally agree with their political views, I do agree with some things that are fundamentally more important. Howard Fineman wrote an excellent book where I got the title for my post. My “AA” is an abbreviation for part of his title – The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates that Define and Inspire our Country. Though I believe Fineman was a part of the slobbering love affair, I also believe he has a compelling argument for us, the electorate, to not forget our roots.

Why mention Fineman if I find him too far to the left? Because despite his anecdotal bits and pieces he uses to illustrate these foundational arguments (and his obvious slant when discussing the enduring debates), he is right about the nature of our American nature. The first two paragraphs of his introduction entitled For the Sake of Argument make the point:

First, I owe you a definition, then an explanation. You will see the word “argument” throughout this book. By “argument” I mean something besides shouting or name calling, though both often are part of the transaction. I mean a clash between at least two people (or regions, political parties, candidates, or economic interests) over facts and ideas in the search for answers – in this case, answers to questions about the future and fate of America. The gist (the “argument,” if you will) of this book is:

We are the Arguing Country, born in, and born to, debate. The habit of doing so – the urgent, almost neurotic need to do so – makes us unique and gives us our freedom, creativity, and strength. By my count, there are thirteen foundational arguments that comprise our public life – hence the title of this book. Rather than argue too much, which is the conventional wisdom’s critique, we in fact do not argue enough, about the fundamentals. If we fail to draw strength from our argumentative nature, we risk losing what made us great and gives us hope. Our disputes are not a burden, but a blessing.

Pick up the book, give it a look, and argue boldly for what you believe. Engage in the public debate. It’s very American. Get your dose of AA today, the enduring American Arguments.



P.S. The picture is from the Oregon Gardens, I called it Rest Stop for a Sunny Day. It is a place to cool off, get quiet, and then re-engage in our country’s great debates. While shooting pictures in the Gardens, my brother and I engaged in the discussion of chapter three: The Role of Faith.

Categories: Culture, Government, Philosophy, Politics, Virtues Tags:
  1. August 28th, 2009 at 22:40 | #1


    Nice photo and I will add the book to my list. Don’t get as much read as I would like in the summer but should start cranking up after harvest.


  2. John
    August 30th, 2009 at 20:56 | #2

    Do you think it is really possible for the media to be unbiased? After you get past the 4 W’s,(The 5th W, Why?, is nothing but the writers opinion) it’s hard to keep the writers slant out of the story. Unfortunately, what we have now is infotainment, because the journalist trying to be unbiased is boring in comparison to a left or right wing zealot screaming.

    The term “mainstream media” is defined by the right wing as any opinion that doesn’t agree with them, so obviously the media is liberal. It’s kind of ironic that we have so many right wing talk shows on our liberal media. The left wing is just as bad, when Palin showed her inexperience in the national spotlight, she was labeled an idiot. She was just woefully unprepared for a position of that stature, but she isn’t stupid.

    I used to get upset that the left or right wing media was unfairly influencing peoples decisions, but now I don’t think that it works that way at all. The left or right wing leaners listen to their side of the media because that’s what they want to hear. It doesn’t matter if it’s accurate, or even a lie, it gives them a talking point to use on the other side. The end justifies the means is the name of the game.

  3. August 30th, 2009 at 22:26 | #3

    @Hi John

    The short version is yes, I think it is possible for the NEWS media to be reasonably unbiased. Does that mean the individual perceptions of the JOURNALISTS reporting on events won’t ever be perceived by the viewing public? Of course not; however, specific skills and tools were once taught to reporters to enhance their ability to be objective and practice being what was once called a “methodological atheist.” On the other hand, I see a distinct difference between a news reporter/journalist and a news pundit or opinion columnist. The three majors ABC, NBC, and CBS have completely abandoned any reasonable pretense of objectivity during their “news broadcasts.” CNN’s “Headline News” and FOX’s “Happening Now” programs are two of the very few that seem to truly give it a shot – mostly recording events rather than opinions on those events.

    I tend to define “mainstream media” as those outlets who have the largest market share. Add up the market share of those with a left slant and the market share of those with a right slant and I believe you pretty much have what “mainstream” America is watching. As to the 5th “W,” (geez, yet another Bush??) or “why?” If the reporter gives simply his opinions, then yes, it’s nothing more than opinion. However, it is possible for an investigative reporter to ask, say the perpetrator of a crime, “Why did you do it?” If he answers, and the reporter reports that answer, then he’s done his job without seriously injecting himself into the investigation. Most media outlets do not do this anymore – though a few still try very hard.

    Right now, while FOX has the largest CABLE market share, the combined CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as the lion’s share of CNN “advocacy journalism” is by far the winner in total market share – so I would say that is the mainstream media. Do both the left and the right accuse the media of being predominantly left or right? Absolutely, and they rarely take the time to do any research to backup the contention.

    I agree with you that people tend to gravitate toward media outlets that generally reflect their own world view. I also agree that in much “so called” reporting the ends do justify the means. That’s current media outlets. My contention is that I want the fourth estate back, those guys that went out to try and find out what happened – not the current crop of “how should we spin what happened.” I don’t know if that will happen in the foreseeable future, but whether it does or not, I do believe we need to be willing to argue boldly about those things that matter – and I mean honestly engaging the other team. I think Howard Fineman is right, part of our problem is that we won’t engage with EACH OTHER – we spend our time letting right and left wing zealots scream a bunch of crap and pretend there is nothing we can do about it. We can re-engage and try to change the status quo in the media and in our country.

    Perhaps you are also right about the notion that it “doesn’t matter.” I hope you’re wrong about that. Regardless, my best wish and hope for all of us is best expressed by one of those $%@# liberals 😀 Robert Kennedy, and his “philosophy, which he urged on others and truly tried to live by himself, was: we may be doomed, but each man must define himself anew each day by his own actions” (Thomas, 2000, p. 22). I’ve failed at a number of things, but I figure that each day is another chance to do it right. Here’s to hoping the tide is changeable 🙂

    Cheers my friend!

  4. John
    August 31st, 2009 at 18:43 | #4

    I think the main problem with trying to argue boldly for what you believe in is that the extremists monopolize the conversation. They are the ones that love to argue and also the ones who will never let their opinions sway when the other side makes a good point. The reasonable person gets shouted down and “learns” to avoid discussion because it isn’t worth the aggravation.

    It’s a “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” situation where polar opposites can look at the same issue and draw completely different conclusions. Who defines what is right and wrong? It’s all just opinion.

    Arguing with these people is an exercise in futility because just about everything gets reduced to talking points and cliches. Just because someone voted for Obama doesn’t mean they “Drank the Kool-Aid” or “Had a hard on for Palin” if they voted for McCain. When it comes time to vote, I just hold my nose and pick the lesser of the evils.

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