The Eye of the Beholder
You say “tomato,” and I say “tomato.”
Ok, so maybe that doesn’t translate into print as well as I had hoped.
The point is that we all see things differently, even when we see the same thing. We all watched the same debate. We all saw the same two candidates. 52.4 million of us watched, but yet there are probably at least 52.4 million different takes on the evening (some of us have gone through several different opinions as we process everything). As we all talk around the proverbial water cooler (which currently probably means posting to our friends’ Facebook walls), it becomes apparent that even if we agree on who the winner of Friday’s debate was, we all saw different things, and have different reasons for our judgment. And the farther we are from each other on the political spectrum, the larger the differences loom. While some saw Barack Obama conceding to John McCain by agreeing with him on some issues, others saw it as a bold move to put his money where his mouth is and actually listen to what his opponent had to say, without the usual knee-jerk polarization. On Obama’s stance on Iran, some heard “diplomacy,” while some heard “weakness.” Both seemed to dodge questions about the economy, but depending on your perspective, some dodged better than others.
As the media is so fond of telling us, with their color-coded red and blue maps, the country is becoming ever more polarized on issues. These polarizations come from the fact that we all bring something different to the table when we watch a debate – or even when we watch American Idol. That’s the wonderful thing about living in such a large, diverse country, a country with a strong basis in freedom of thought and speech, where we can express ourselves and our differing opinions without fear of repercussion. At least, not repercussions from the government. There will probably be repercussions if you tell your colleagues you think the next debate should involve dunk tanks. Trust me on this.
With all of these issues, and all of these different opinions, it becomes increasingly important for us to do our job as citizens. That job is at the same time the hardest and easiest job you’ll ever have. That job is to think. Because we all can watch the same debate, listen to the same speech, read the same report, and come up with very different views, why would you trust someone else to make those judgments for you? This election year, and every year, we need to inform ourselves and think for ourselves. We can’t just listen to the pundits. We can’t just listen to the sound bites. We can’t just listen to (dare I say it?) the blogs. We have to know what we think, ourselves. Maybe we find we always agree with Bill O’Reilly – or Ariana Huffington. But we have to know why we agree, and that means not just taking their word for it. The pundits are human – just as human as you, or me, or even that weird guy in accounting. We all have our own take on things, and we should know what that take is, not just adopt someone else’s. Our democracy, our country, is built on dissent and discussion, and being an informed, active citizen, in this election season and going forward, is how we’ll all become stronger.
But don’t just take my word for it.