THE NEW AMERICAN POLITICS
Anybody paying attention to the travesty called politics in America today, and frankly who isn’t paying attention, may on mature introspection and life experience find it closely mirroring the attributes of a failing marriage. The hallmark of a failing marriage and now also our new American politics is that neither side argues for what they deem is primarily in their best interest, but rather quickly and vehemently against anything the other side covets, needs, or aspires to gain. One need not even understand or care what is in one’s own best interest or desires, and certainly one need not spend any time or effort understanding the other’s desires and interest, one need only to be rooted in destroying the other’s agenda.
The exact behaviors that characterize this antagonistic stance both in failing marriages and in current politics has been referred to by marital counselors as “The Four Horsemen;” the metaphor in the New Testament that has implied the end of times. These four horsemen are abundant and pervasive in the conduct of politics today.
The primary and most obvious characteristic is contempt. Complete and utter contempt. It has evolved so finely that one need not even understand what the other partner or party is communicating because they clearly are wrong, and ignorant. We can ascribe a litany of other personal characteristics without attempting to glimpse the other’s viewpoint such as racist, pick your phobic, wealthy, poor with no life experience, educated and out of touch, uneducated and out of touch and on and on ad nauseum.
The behaviors to express deep contempt can be seen anywhere and everywhere. Sarcasm, well honed Academy Award worthy sarcasm. Sarcasm full of ridicule and deep disdains. The natural evolution of sarcasm turns into criticism. But not criticism that evolved from critique, but rather criticism laced with commentary designed to diminish and make worthless those that disagree. This is not discourse designed to reach a mutually compatible solution, as that would violate the previous tenets, no this is designed to annihilate the opposition. Remember, there are no longer any common goals, just enemies and roadblocks.
Predictably those being scorned become defensive, and completely withdrawal from the interaction. If this goes on long enough, and the parties are unable to disentangle as happens to citizens of a nation that depend on competent governance, it typically turns into a return of offensive behavior peppered with contempt and criticism. Neither side bothering to actually listen and care what are the other’s needs and concerns, only becoming better at expressing their total disgust.
Researchers in marital counseling have perfected algorithms for examining characteristic behaviors when watching couples interact that are highly predictive of an ultimate failure and dissolution of the marriage; predictable to a great degree based on observable behavioral characteristics regardless of the actual words and communication.
The usual solution in marital therapy is to first change the behaviors, not necessarily the thoughts, but how the two sides treat one another. A concept of “fake it till you make it.” After the parties learn how to civilly communicate then they move forward with actually expressing their ideas and concerns.
I am not sure what the equivalent looks like for citizens of a country imbued with complete utter contempt for those seen as the opposition partner locked in an apparent inability to disentangle mutually contemptible behaviors. I do know that we have reached that stage in our politics when our behavior towards one another has become highly predictable of an impending complete failure. However, without the legal concept of divorce to govern this, I see that the Four Horsemen describes more than a set of behaviors, but more accurately a truly metaphoric end of times for governing ourselves in the future.