Clowns to the left and jokers to the right

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By Jim Rohrer

My favorite news source is Michael Smerconish, who has a weekday three-hour news and political discussion show, on Satellite radio station POTUS. His tag line is the title of this article.
He appeals to me because of his fairmindedness. He is a true centrist, and in the three or four years I have been an avid listener, I have not seen one instance of biased discussion of an issue. It’s obvious as I listen to his callers that they are open-minded and endeavor to see both sides of an issue before deciding how they feel.
He has daily poll questions on which several thousand callers vote. One day the questions was, “Does knowing a person’s political leanings impact your decision regarding hiring them for a non-political position?” I was surprised by the question, expecting that nearly everyone would vote no. I don’t think a person’s political views define who they are or the degree of their goodness.
There are many whose political views are much different than mine, but whom I greatly love and respect. Seventy percent of the viewers who voted agreed with me. I was surprised that it wasn’t higher given the moderate appeal of this show.
My wife and I were once invited to a long weekend at the golf villa of friends. On the morning of the second day, we awoke first and turned on a cable news station. Our host, upon coming into the room and seeing the station, yelled at us that this station was not allowed in his house.
It was such a strong and negative reaction that it made for an uncomfortable visit. Years later I recalled the experience with another friend. My friend laughed and said he had endured the same reaction while staying in the golf villa. I guess our political differences trumped friendship.
I admit to being bothered by the rude and insensitive political attacks that occur daily on Facebook, Twitter and now even on television. Our country has been traditionally led by presidents who have spoken about the hope and promise of America. They have been replaced by a leader whose message is about anger and fear.
There is much anger in America. Listen to AM radio and you will hear the anger and tribalism. Change is difficult, and the fact that the economy is a global one has caused perhaps more change than we want. Add the change brought by mechanization of just about everything, and the degree of change turns to frustration and anger.
The truth is that America doesn’t hold all the high cards as it once did. Change is being demanded, and we liked things the way they once were.
Mother’s Day has come and gone, and so it seems, have some of mom’s most important principles: “If you can’t say anything nice about somebody, say nothing at all.” Our moms also taught us that behavior by someone else doesn’t excuse our bad behavior.
The polarization has come because our two political parties have used much ingenuity to convince us that our party is great and the other is awful. Our ideas are correct, and the other guy’s ideas are wrong. Thus, you must support us.
Then, this deception is reinforced by cable “news impersonators” who pass on political opinions as news. We citizens fail to look at both sides, but rather retreat to our corner and defend every utterance from the news provocateurs. The disappointing aspect of the polarization is the disrespect we sling back and forth.
My mom is not alive anymore, but when I come up short in my language or behavior, I can still see the disappointment on her face. I know that her love for me never diminished, but she would expect me to abide by the standards she taught.
We can all do better in terms of treating each other as fellow Americans. I’m going to try harder and to avoid getting my mouth washed out with soap.

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. (More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.)