Commentary
5:00 am
Fri August 3, 2012

Richard Crowson: Political Climate Change

Stuck as we currently are, in the white-hot heat of another political campaign season, it seems a good time to think for a moment about this climate of ours. Not our global climate but our political climate. It’s out of whack.

We used to be able to differ with one another without our temperatures climbing to such dangerously high levels. It wasn’t very long ago that we kept our ice caps on our heads even as we discussed our deepest differences. One person knew that another person was of the opposing political persuasion; they debated, argued even, found a little common ground or agreed to keep disagreeing, then went out and shared a meal or a drink together. A little warming happened but things cooled back down to a normal level and all was well.

But we don’t keep our ice caps on our heads anymore. The ice melted a while back. The intense heat of gargantuan sums of campaign money fueled relentless negativity. Warm areas of disagreement got hotter and hotter as they were magnified by television and radio’s uncivil political talk shows.

The opposing side was no longer considered the “loyal opposition.” The opposing side became a bunch of “right-wingers” or “libs” or much, much worse. It got even warmer. Name-calling became the norm. This form of psychological violence is a way of dehumanizing those considered the enemy. It’s a short-cut way of dismissing them so we are no longer burdened with all of that messy empathy. Empathy used to clutter up our mental space, but without it we can now allow hate to infill our minds. And it’s getting hotter still.

Our overly-warmed ice caps can be allowed to slip right off our heads. Now we can just hurl the useless things at our opponents. Our oceans of incivility rise higher and higher.

Political warming is an absolute reality. And it is absolutely man-made.