Discourse in the 21st Century

Sharp, political discourse is on life support in the 21st century.

Let me give you an example. A while back, I posted this comic on my Facebook page. Take a quick glance if you like. To sum up, it compares the higher education systems of the Nordic countries, where education is a guaranteed right paid for by the government, and the United States where crippling student loans are becoming the norm. I particularly like how the comic makes the point that “free education reduced social inequality, and benefits both individuals and society in the long run”. It goes on to discuss how that’s an investment well worth making.

Like most things I post on Facebook, I made the post public. I’m no believer in internet privacy: if you post something online anywhere, the assumption should be that anyone can see it. This allowed a friend of a friend – let’s call him Casey – to see it when my friend liked it. Casey and I have had some political discussions before and, to put it nicely, Casey and I don’t see eye to eye on things.

I won’t post Casey’s exact responses – I’ve even deleted the original post to keep his identity private (or at least as private as possible). But, to sum up, Casey told me three things:

1. You can always move there.
2. Those countries are smaller.
2. We can’t pay for this because we’re spending too much money on illegal immigrants.

Though two of these responses are ludicrous (and I said so), I’d like to address the higher point here. On May 25, 1961, John F. Kennedy stood before the country and the world and told everyone we were going to the moon by the end of the decade. He really didn’t know how – but he understood what a momentous achievement this would be, how it would inspire the country and be a symbolic milestone in the Cold War.

Fast forward a little over 50 years, and we have the childish sniping of Fox News and MSNBC, where the more outrageous the statement, the better the ratings and the more people were interested. We don’t get Kennedy and “Ask not what your country can do for you…”, we get Rush Limbaugh’s idiotic statements about rape and obstructionism. We get “we can’t do this because…”. We get told we can’t have original ideas and goals without citing 12 different facts (off the top of your head, mind) to support it. We get, “You can always move there.” Frankly, this was 1776, the United States would still be a British colony.

This is what passes for discourse in the 21st century. We can do better. Let me start now.

Student debt is a national crisis in the United States. 7 in 10 college seniors who graduated last year had almost $30,000 in debt per borrower, with 16.8% unemployment for that same group. Of course, the hardest hit are the poor. If education is the great leveling in the playing field of social inequality, then we should be making it easier for the poor to go to college, not saddling them with crippling debt upon their graduation.

Now, in the form of true political discourse, the kind of Jefferson and Adams, we’d discuss the merits of the proposition, then once agreed, find a way to enact it.

Show me the politicians who are doing this, and I’ll show them my vote.