Jaime Franchi's Blog

Jaime Franchi

Jaime Franchi
New York, US
July 07
Misses Write
Freelance writer living in New York. My work can be found in the NY Times, "Big" Salon, Punchnel's, Fictionique, The Broad Side, and on JedMorey.com, where I am a regular contributor. Follow me on Twitter at JaimimiMama. www.JaimeFranchi.com


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OCTOBER 26, 2012 11:21AM

Common Ground

Rate: 20 Flag

“Well, that’s the problem with liberals: they attempt to make a point without knowing the FACTS.  They are uneducated and brainwashed and just vote the way the liberal media tells them to.” 


This has been the basis of most exchanges this election year in what is quickly dissolving into the Divided States of America. You can make some substitutions here, changing “liberals” to “conservatives,” and “liberal media” with “Fox (or Faux) News.”  When faced with an unbudgeable member of the opposition (they used to be neighbors, now they are opposition), words and accusations get thrown around, along with the inevitable “We both want the same things for our children,” before we start fuming hatred and statistics and spit words like guns, abortion, George W, debt, jobs, Reagan, Clinton, and finally separate, shaking our heads at the stupidity of the other party person.


I know that this isn’t just me.  What used to be warned against as impolite topics for dinner are being hurled at each other as fast as our fingers can type, thanks to social media giving every ordinary Joe (even Plumbers Joe) a platform from which to spew.  YouTube clips set to Coldplay are edited and cut together to provide damning evidence against both parties and are shared with lightening speed.  They are lapped up by those of like mind, and dismissed by those who think, ahem, different.  And in the face of what seems to be inarguable arguments, dissent still happens.  Of course it does.  And then comes the statement: these other people, they don’t believe facts.


Whether or not you support Obama or Romney, live in a red, blue, or battleground state,  or consider yourself in the center, your voting habits and thought process surrounding whom you cast your ballot for probably has little to do with your intelligence level or a willful dismissal of factual evidence in lieu of ignorance, despite what others might try to make you believe.  The truth is, how we vote is a deep part of our identity.  It’s how we consider ourselves to ourselves, often as indelible as the sports teams we support and the brands that we show loyalty towards.


Now, a lot of what’s out there on the blogosphere and the twitterverse and on status updates are the echoes of the senseless blather of the talking points of the powers that be, who are often media and not the candidates themselves.  Yet, the suspension of one’s own critical thinking when it comes to these talking points is what I’d like to discuss here.  Why does it happen?  I recently posted on my personal Facebook page the video of Jill Biden’s hilarious accidental reference to Joe’s penis size.  In light of Rush Limbaugh’s recent comment about how “feminazis” were responsible for the shrinkage of the collective penises (peni?) of the world, it was enormously prescient.  Despite your political views, it was a funny couple of minutes devoid of political arguments.  Yet, those friends of mine on the right failed to see the humor.  In fact, they seemed to believe that the video showed idiocy not only of the second couple, but of all liberals in general.  My question is this: how can two sides interpret the same thing in such disparate ways?  The truth to that, and to the filtering of information from all sides, has to do with how we view ourselves and how we process information to coincide with what makes us feel comfortable.  If we are predisposed to be angry at Joe Biden, then that video will reflect that.  The same with CNN, Rachel Maddow, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.  Does this make us stupid?


Well, undoubtedly, some us are actually stupid.  But most of us have enough intelligence to get us through the day. No, what shapes our political preferences and how we interpret what we hear on the campaign trail is how we identify ourselves.  Our identity encompasses so much of who we are sexually, racially, socio-economically, geographically, religiously.  Most of us have our politics so engrained in us for generations: we are who we are because our fathers were who they were and so on.  They come coupled with history and tradition in a very personal way.  I have no doubt that my liberal views stemmed from a rebellion against my father, who was a conservative republican with whom I loved to argue.  And so when we hear things that directly challenge our deep-seated personal beliefs, that suggest that our way of thinking is wrong, stupid, or ignorant, we change the channel to something that relieves that discomfort.  It is a literal relief to hear like-minded people say the things we do and have always believed.  It’s hard to change, grow, and learn new things, especially when they go against the grain of who we are.


This is why it is so dangerous to dismiss the people with whom we disagree with a swipe of the hand and the accusation that they are stupid, ignorant, and don’t know facts when they hit them in the face.  That’s the core of the divisiveness that we find ourselves in as a country.  What we need is to find the common ground that unites us and allows us to celebrate the individuality that this country was founded on.  We can start by understanding that the views so entrenched in the opposition are not simply a dismissal of facts, but an affirmation of who they are, just like yours are.  Now, let’s find something we can agree on.



Republicans: Chik-Fil-A

Democrats: Whole Foods

Common Ground: Chipotle.  Who doesn’t like a burrito bowl?


Republicans: Bain take-over Dunkin’ Donuts

Democrats: gay rights advocate Starbucks

Common Ground: Pumpkin spice k-cups


Republicans: Nancy Reagan

Democrats: Michelle Obama

Common Ground: The near universal first lady worship of Jackie O


Republicans:  Pro-Iraq war Christopher Hitchens

Democrats: Marxist Hitchens

Common Ground: How can you hate Mother Teresa?


Republicans: Clint Eastwood

Democrats: Scarlett Johansen

Common Ground: Christopher Walken is still the coolest guy ever.



It's a start.  What do you think?

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Jaime, have you seen the video that Kid Rock and Sean Penn made on this subject? It's pretty good - I love the scene where Penn convinces Kid Rock to buy a Prius, and Rock puts deer antlers and a gun rack on it. (It inspired me to write something, but I'm saving it for right before Election Day.)

I believe that the Internet and cable news are responsible for much of the rancor today. There have always been divisions and sharp elbows in campaigning, but now it's in your face 24/7. Yet most of us have the same needs and participate in the same activities; the differences between us are much smaller than our commonalities.
Cranky, I have seen that video. It was pretty good.
The problem seems to be that the Republicans have lost control of their primary elections process and that's resulted in a bunch of Bat Crap Crazy Tea Party wingnut candidates up and down the ballot... this election isn't so much about Romney and Obama, but much more about the composition of SCOTUS over the next generation.
Good post. I remember the days when it was actually possible to have civil discussions and disagreements with neighbors and friends about politics. Those days seem to be gone and I'm probably as guilty as anyone. I tend to agree with Cranky and put a lot of the blame on the 24/7 news and spin that we get from TV and internet and that takes us away from discussions across kitchen tables and fences. I wish I had the answer because I used to love election years. Not so much anymore.
Their Party has become a national half-way house for lunatic misogynists.

There is a beautiful piece "On Being" with Krista Tippett worth listening to about this. A democrat and republican talk about how it once was and what we need to do to move forward. Attack the problem, not each other.

My father was a Republican, and a conservative, and he was brilliant. He wouldn't like what is happening now.
"This is why it is so dangerous to dismiss the people with whom we disagree with a swipe of the hand and the accusation that they are stupid, ignorant, and don’t know facts when they hit them in the face."

Great observation. Unfortunately, this seems to be what passes for political discourse these days. What would have been shocking and unacceptable not so very long ago - like calling the President a liar - is run of the mill. And shuts down further discussion.
common ground will only come, i often fear,
when alot of the ground has been washed away or
made otherwise inhabitable by acts of a vengeful mother nature.

maybe there is still time.

this would actually be the time for mental and spiritual
common ground, before mother nature makes
us survivors.
banding together in a tempest.
I sympathize, but I can't agree, and I think you've contributed to the false equivalency that is so prevalent here and elsewhere. MSNBC and Fux News are not equivalent; the former tells the truth from its perspective, the latter lies brazenly and repeatedly. Obama and Romney are not equivalent; the former tells the truth from his perspective, the latter lies brazenly and repeatedly.

It's also a false equivalency to blame both political parties equally. It's clear to me the Republican Party is mostly to blame for how bad things have gotten politically. The once Grand Old Party's slide began when it welcomed into its ranks defecting Dixiecrats and racist reactionaries, and that slide went straight down hill with the addition of Kindergarten Kristians and Neocon warmongers.

To that sorry list, you can add political vermin like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, men without a soul and with no goal other than winning at any cost. Thanks to political operatives, a pathological liar now stands an even chance of getting elected President, presumably because half the country can no longer tell the truth from a lie -- or else they simply don't care that he's a pathological liar.

There is no way to find common ground with sociopaths and pathological liars, and to do so is not only foolish, it's dangerous.
Hey Tom, I'm not suggesting that the platforms are the same or the candidates even remotely equal. You know where I stand. What I'm talking bout is the blanket dismissal of half the country as being ignorant and stupid, brainwashed, or kool-aid drinking. Both sides accuse the other of this equally, although we come at our positions in vastly different ways. The point of this was not who is right, better, or even smarter, but that there are personal identity issues involved with how we vote, and that they go very deep. An attack on our left-or right-leaning preferences feels like a personal attack because of this. So when we dismiss other people as stupid, they come back swinging. And this is going to get us nowhere. It's easy to cast off half the country (just ask Romney), but it isn't smart. I think some thoughtful insight into the understanding of how people form their ideas is the only way we can begin to piece together this country after November 6th.
Tom Cordie: each time I read your posts I can't keep my face straight. Thanks for giving me a "comic relief". The nonsense you're saying has no base, no facts, no understanding - just lies, lies, lies. Of course, MSNBC "tells the truth" - that's why they have just a few people (obviously you're included) watching their junk, while FOX has the largest for, I believe, 12 years?! Maybe readers of OS should from time to time watch FOX and learn what's going on in REALITY from the lips of Democrats and Republican. Of course Obama tells the truth - is Benghazi rings the bell? I don't believe that he knows what the meaning of the word "truth" is. You, Mr., should provide some facts otherwise you sound so silly it's painful.
Inga - you have illustrated my point perfectly, although I think that irony might be lost on you.
You're right, of course, they can't ALL be stupid on the other side -- but when they continually vote against their own interests -- well, it gives one pause. And remember this, half the country IS below average -- and it more and more seems like they're also Republicans. As further proof, I give you Inga Zorina, proud consumer and defender of Fux News.
"Thanks to political operatives, a pathological liar now stands an even chance of getting elected President". That should be re-elected.

With all the facts coming out about Benghazi and how in real time the administration knew what was happening how can you still vote for them. Now the father of one of the dead Seals is saying that his son requested three times for assistance for the now dead Americans and was told to "stand down".

Then to add insult to injury, Sec. Clinton, while meeting with this dead man's father told him that they would get the man who made the "movie" and bring him to justice. All this in a hanger while he was picking up his son's body.

Then add Obama's lies like during the debate where he said that sequestration WON'T HAPPEN. Heck he signed the law.

What about forcing the national debt over 16 trillion, annual deficits over a trillion dollars each year, unemployment that stayed over 8 percent for all but the last couple reports. What about it will be in the 5's now?

Look, everything that happens President Obama has to sign off on. Congress can't do crap without his signature and they have not used their power to override his veto. So everything has his blessing. EVERYTHING!

But, you people keep voting against their own self interest and putting everyone in the country in harms way. So you keep listening to MSNBC news. That way you can be told only what the White House wants you to hear and believe.

Half the population is not below average. Half the populations is below the median, but you keep on believing what you want.
Jaime, I might've illustrated your point although in my view it was no point that needed any illustration . This election is not just a "normal" election when we, the voters, choose one of two candidates who might have different views but the same goal in mind - to make this country stronger and its people happier. This election is unique and different from anything we had before: this election is about what kind of country we're going to have - the country of collective misery or the country of individual desires; the country that will protect us from our enemies or the country when our people, serving our country in dangerous places, wouldn't know if our president will give a command to save them or will go to bed while they are under attack and then lie to the people to cover his actions; the country when government will pick and choose businesses, using our tax money, and enrich their friends and supporters or the country when the government would help our people and businesses strive and prosper, not struggle and suffer... I can go on and on but it is useless. You, as your favorite man, who looks and sounds more and more like a low-class demagogue because he can't even imagine that his "free loaded" life in the White House is coming to the end, don't care about this country, don't understand the seriousness of what's going on and your post is the example of liberal arrogance spiced with some kind of sarcasm.
"When modern IQ tests are devised, the mean (average) score within an age group is set to 100 "

Do the math -- that means half the people are below average.
Inga Zorina -- Ayn Rand reincarnate
Tom Cordle, I'm not going to argue with you - in my book no one has to spent even a one minute arguing with you. You are beyond any comprehension! You, like your president, love to attack from behind - using ugly words, thinking that you intimidate your opponents (which you don't- the luck of critical thinking doesn't allow you to do even that). Once I replied to your silly post and you erased it (twice) and that action of yours showed what kind of "debater" you are. So, quit naming me in your responses. Until you provide ANY facts proving your uneducated points, I have no interest in communicating to you. Stop yelping! It might effect you voice cords!!
Hey! Did either of you even read my freaking post?

I think the following sums up how the Right feels about the left.
"Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America. "--Eric Hoffer
Jonathans view of the Republicans is typical, there is a love of America's potential but, as presently constituted we are far short of where we should be thanks to the knuckle draggers on the right.

"Believe in America. Romney 2012" is a common theme on the right.
The Tea Party is a result of those that believe in America but, were disgusted by the Bush years. Yet, the Left hates them.

"Hope and Change" on the left. We were promised a deficit cut in half and a roaring economy if we took our medicine. We took three pills and we are still on life support. Now we are to go "Forward" and the deranged and deluded march on lemming-like into the abyss.
Pretty hard to find common ground.
Don't blame me for all the noise-- I'm yelling "Shut UP!" as loud as I can.
I found this piece to be very reasonable and fair minded. I have kept my distance form most political discourse here and elsewhere till now, for the very reasons you so aptly describe. Thumbs up.
I find that a lot of the problem is looking at all issues in terms of two points of view, one wrong and the other right. Even when talking with people whose opinions you mostly agree with, they don't listen, but cast your comment in this frame. So, if you want to talk about your reservations with, say, the Kyoto climate change agreement, they start talking about the scientific evidence for global warming and, quite often, expressing disgust that you don't believe in science, rather than addressing the issue you brought up. In short, either you believe in global warming and support every scheme ever hatched to control it or you are an ostrich and science denier.

When this kind of thinking happens in politics, it's easy to lump everything together. If you don't support the Kyoto protocols, you probably think Obama was born in Kenya and women can't get pregnant from rape. In short order, your conversation is not about the best way to curb global warming, but the lunacy of Todd Akin.
Well put. I sometimes think in this electronic age, our personal identities are so... fluid, we cannot stand to hear anyone say, "I disagree," without reinterpreting that as, "You are, at your very heart, wrong." Stifles debate in the worst way.

As does flavored coffee of any kind. Just morally wrong.

I wonder how you must feel when you see a few idiots jump in here and do just exactly what you just said they ought to understand isn't helpful at all.

I feel for you. You might be heartened by the responses I got to a somewhat similar blog a short whole ago. I asked.....

Whose Side Are You On?

Rated for a well thought out essay of more importance than some would give it. ;-)

I am growing to hate that rating thingie....!

Trying again.....
Thanks for writing about this, it's important. I'm so tired of the competitive frame of reference of "I am right, and you are wrong". That is simply anti-democratic, and ends communication, as was so aptly illustrated by two members, talking at each other, scoring points, with no true dialog.

The question is, who wins in this scenario? My answer would be the puppet masters, those who don't want dialog, who love gridlock, and status quo. Specifically, I see corporate consolidation, look at media ownership over the last 30 years. as the great evil. If we're fighting each other, no one sees the great evil that unfair corporate influence has on us all.

So we fight each other, scoring wins, and getting approbation from our peers, while Rome burns.
Whole Foods Market is run by a libertarian. Maybe Whole Foods should be the middle ground.
Great post, I agree our definition of civil discourse has been lost somewhere in these constant verbal food fights we seem to get caught up in today. There is a great deal of common ground, I would add there are those who LOVE to see us fighting.
"Hey! Did either of you even read my freaking post?"

No kidding. But they both illustrate your point perfectly.
You may remember a study done at Ohio State University some years ago on how conservatives and liberals view The Colbert Report. The Abstract of the study, The Irony of Satire:

"This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert's political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert's political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion."
Hi Jaime - don't have an answer, but I will suggest one part of an answer. The existence of an Fox News with its specific agenda - opposing main stream media, and presenting them as if biased, has created a genuinely different set of facts. And here I will admit to being a NY Times reading, NPR listening moderate republican (RINO). But while i sometime bristle at both NPR and the Times, I never confuse my disagreement with proof of a liberal agenda.

in the rare moments i bump into FOX i see not news, but news about news - that is, looking over the shoulder to see what the others are or are not saying.
Jamie - Good article. I think finding common ground is a worthwhile goal and one that typically leads to better outcomes. That being said, I tend to disagree with your primary premise that we, as individuals, are somehow separate from our ideas. I believe strongly that our ideas - our ways of processing, interpreting, and disseminating information - are who we are. In my opinion, trying to isolate the "person" from their ideas or ideology is a bit cliche; it reminds me of a '60s mantra questioning "Why can't we all just get along?".

Without ideas, a person is little more than a shell filled with water, blood, muscle, and bone; what makes us unique are the ideas that drive our opinions and decisions. Is it fair to suggest that Gandhi was separate from his ideas? Or Thomas Jefferson? Or Ted Bundy? There is little doubt that we all share commonalities, but it is that difference of ideas that marks who we are, what we stand for, and how we will embrace, or reject, the world around us. Critical thinking, a lost art in my opinion, is only grounded in reality when one questions the sources of information. Whether perpetuated by the left or right, information today is gleaned through the warp speed of the internet, often with little or no citation of source, minimal regard for truth/facts, and vicious disregard of context. None of this promotes a viable medium for critical thinking.

For many people, even those who are practiced in critical thought, the disseminators of information have created a world where sound bites and deception are the rule rather than the exception. In-depth analysis is limited to panels of hyper partisans that repeat talking points until whoever is shouting the loudest wins -this is neither honest nor helpful. The hard work of pulling the nuance and detail from this discourse is typically beyond the patience or time available to most individuals. Viewers/listeners of this analysis typically take the side most agreeable to their own positions, and tune out the rest. The end result is null; everyone believes what they believed before listening and takes the occasional "gaff" or "outrageous remark" and immediately re-posts on some form of social media. Again, this neither useful nor honest. But it has become who we are.

Ultimately, I believe that the solution exists only in the long term. If we can focus on educating our upcoming generations to understand the value of critical thinking - the value of questioning the powers that be, and themselves - then the day will come where rational and civil discourse may emerge. In his epic poem, "Paterson", William Carlos Williams left us with the warning that there are "no ideas but in things". Let us hope we have not already reached this point as we work on shifting toward a more reasoned and civil approach to solving the difficult issues facing our nation.
You said it girlfriend, and quite amazingly as I might add. I will be voting for Obama and I have never been an Undecided Voter, as evidenced by my serious as well as political satire pieces on the subject.
As an obviously intelligent woman with a free spirit, you may be interested in "Mothers Little Helper is Killing Her" . . a piece I just wrote about women who are suffering, and quite deeply at that.
I think you may be right, yet it's still hard to swallow the whole "democrats are ruled by emotions and run from facts" thing when the facts consist of: "Seventeen million black babies have been killed by abortion" (thereby proving the Democratic Party is the party of racism), "I don't hate Muslims; they hate us and want us dead," "From what I understand from doctors ... (clinical definition of a legit rape) and "Oblunder is a Muslim" (followed with a quote from Donald Trump). And the most compelling argument for party inequality: we have Stephen Colbert and they have Inga Zorina.