I was at the gym Monday watching side by side MSNBC and Fox News’ talking politics, the budget and President Obama, and you might as well have been watching programming from two alternative universes. Each conveys its own “facts,” speaking loudly of what is right for America, and holding tight to a dogma of the right and the left.
It is this dysfunctional allegiance to dogma by both sides (and by the Catholic Church as it faces electing a new pope) that doesn’t allow for an open pursuit and search for the truth and for reasonable compromise on big issues that America needs to resolve. While dogma can give the holder a warm and comforting feeling of security in times of great change and anxiety, it doesn’t allow for growth and risking the old to find new ways, which can address the gaps in our society today.
As we continue budget wrangling in Washington, such dogmas are front and center in the debate. Democrats and the left hold onto the dogma that cutting government spending in a troubled economy will hurt progress and economic growth. They also discount the concern about deficits as much ado about nothing.
Republicans and the right make dogmatic pronouncements on the budget, saying tax increases at this time will hurt the economy, that there isn’t waste to be cut in the defense budget and that government is the problem.
The interesting thing about both sides’ budget dogma is that there really isn’t any historical fact-set that supports either one. In previous economic struggles in our country, government spending was cut or taxes were raised and the economy did just fine. Because the dogma becomes a needed security blanket, it doesn’t allow for seeing clearly what the truth is. Or at least clearly what the path to the truth might be.
It is sometimes difficult in the aftermath of elections for either side to see what reality is and what might be the best compromise for the country’s sake. Dogma prevents an objective approach to what the truth is and what the present moment demands.
In the aftermath of President Obama’s victory, he had a meeting in 2009 with Republicans in Congress. At the time, Republicans realized they needed to compromise and came to the president with some ideas. Instead of a welcoming hand and a truly open mind, he said, “I won.”
And politics became more bitter and polarized.
Today, in the aftermath of Obama’s re-election, Congressman Paul Ryan comes forward with a budget that includes repeal of Obamacare. Further denial of reality. This would be like Gen. Robert Lee’s showing up at Appomattox and telling Gen. Ulysses Grant at the end of the Civil War, “Here are my demands.”
The same thing happens in our personal lives where we hold onto rules or dogma that has been cemented in our minds, and such dogma doesn’t allow us to evolve to a better place. It causes us to stay in relationships or jobs longer than we should, long after they are fulfilling or bring us joy. In our personal life, as well as in politics, we must confront this dogma, and break our own rules at times, if we want to get to a better place and see life, each other and ourselves more clearly.
Anchoring in dogma in Washington and in all our lives blocks us from seeing a way forward and keeps us in a fog on what solutions might actually be best. Amid all the bickering and food fights, the biggest casualty of all this is the truth.