Once in awhile, someone says something that gets your immediate response of “Why didn’t I say that?” Happened to me the other day.

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman talking about our current election cycle. “No doubt there is a large wave out there. We’ll just have to wait to see what sort of flotsam is left on the shore when it recedes.”

Yep. Flotsam there will be. Too much of it, I’m afraid. At a time in our history when we sorely need intelligence, courage and the ability to compromise to work out solutions to convoluted problems, we are likely going to be left with a lot of “flotsam.”

As a student of political history, I’m fully aware of rough and tumble and often outrageous conduct we’ve engaged in for hundreds of years. “Lies and damned lies” our political dramas have been called. And they have been. Some of them.

But that was different largely for one reason: the anger and lies came from the top of the structure. In the end, the people … you and I … were the leveling influence whose common sense and feelings of fairness winnowed out charges and countercharges.

Now, destructive lies and hate speech are coming from the bottom, the place where democracy is most vulnerable: the streets. History has repeatedly proven there’s no filtering system for what’s said and takes place there. Those seeds can result in the wrong people being elected for the wrong reasons. We decide, often in haste, to replace those who anger us with those who are unknown.

In many ways, our systems of public education … especially colleges and universities … have failed. Millions of otherwise intelligent Americans are illiterate when it comes to understanding how our governing system works. They don’t grasp government’s role, know little of politics and less about how our economy operates. As long as bills are paid with enough left over for some simple pleasures, well, things must be OK. Not all feel this way. But ample evidence shows far too many do.

We are currently awash in misinformation and outright lies on several national issues. Both political parties share blame. As a journalist and an American, I can’t understand why so many organizations and individuals are feeding this raw sewage into the national body politic. It’s destructive, demoralizing and, taken to the ultimate, dangerous to our governance.

Some, unaware of the falsity of these issues, unable to form their own responses based on fact and their own research, gobble up handouts and spin, regurgitating them as truth. Misinformation replaces information; deliberate lies become accepted “fact.”

If we had a national media worth a damn, there would be a major … and I mean major … commitment to discovering facts, identifying and debunking those who manufacture the lies and professionally mounted reporting of the issues. Not polling. Not sampling. Not snap shots. Reporting.

The irony is the truth behind demagoguery on nearly every issue is easily understood IF someone wants to understand. The facts are not difficult IF it’s facts they want. Talking is what’s necessary, not shouting. Citizen input is critical, not citizen outrage based on distortions or lies. Reasoning is required, not ignorant, unbridled anger fed by those with something to gain politically or economically, even members of congress.

I don’t have answers to all my questions; not even most of them. But I’ve enough interest to want to know more, patience to get to the facts, a desire to be informed, an understanding that the outcome will affect me and those I love and a belief that those who are deliberately distorting the issues will not win!

Abraham Lincoln, on more than one occasion, said this nation could never be conquered from without by any enemy. His concern was the enemy from within: us.

What would he say today? Maybe what Howard Fineman said.

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