The Melodrama called, American Politics

Capitol HillI apologize for the political post. No one likes politics. What I discuss in this post may be one of the reasons for that distaste.

Let me preface this by saying that neither of the ideologies embodied by the major political parties appeal to me–which is related to what this piece is about. I consider some of my policies conservative and others liberal. And so, for now I plant myself firmly on the fence. Nevertheless, participation is paramount in democracy–or at least we are led to believe so–and therefore, I participate.

Now, I would like to briefly define something for the sake of our discussion: melodrama.

Most people are exposed to melodrama in their entertainment, as it is very prevalent in film, television, and literature. Melodrama is generally defined as: an exaggerated dramatic work, using music, and appealing to emotions. In most cases melodramatic narratives rely on a protagonist who is morally good, and an antagonist who is morally evil. Therefore, the stakes become non-negotiable. There is no compromise, no cooperation, only conflict.

There are some problems with melodrama as many scholars much brighter than myself have pointed out. Melodrama is not an accurate or realistic representation of anything. It is theater, it is drama, it is performative in its very essence. For that reason alone there is already a large disconnect from the very real issues that politics seeks to address. Melodrama is not reality.

Melodrama is polarizing. Melodrama denies complexity. Melodrama is what we are taught about WWII–the antagonists are unequivocally evil, and the protagonists stand firmly on their moral high-ground. Melodrama is easy. And unfortunately, melodrama is politics. Political discussion has been a form of melodrama for a long time–arguably forever–but it worth pointing out.

I attended a party convention (note: a party convention elects the delegates who will represent their party to run against opposing parties). The topics that garnered the largest response were not surprising. They are the typical talking points of both major political parties.

During the convention, in place of a reasoned and careful discussion of candidates, their experience, and how they plan to approach important issues, much of the speech centered around discrediting those of the opposing party. Discrediting those who were not present, and not even running in the race. The people at the convention were more interested in the depiction of the opposing party than their own. They were more excited to perpetuate the melodrama rather than discuss the reality.

The issues that political parties seek to address are important; however, I don’t want to trek into the black morass of specifics here. Rather my point is that the melodramatic approach to politics–which both parties take–renders the system impotent.

Melodramatic discussion is prevalent in politics largely because it simplifies the conflict for politicians and voters alike. Melodrama denies complexity and makes one side or the other completely and unequivocally wrong.Voting for a candidate, or choosing a party, becomes a very simple matter when you believe one of them is set on destroying the nation.

We know that we have listened to politicians and their melodramatic rhetoric for far too long when we actually come to believe that those of an opposing political party are immoral and evil.

As it turns out both parties represent and champion important ideologies which have been key at different times in our own history and in other political spheres. Neither side is completely immoral, or completely wrong. Characterizing them as such does little to solve or address real issues.The more often we adhere to one party’s melodramatic depiction of the other, the more unlikely we are to ever reach possible solutions. We should just as readily criticize our own political party as we do opposing parties if we are honestly seeking solutions.

Real issues are complex. There are many variables that affect every situation. We cannot afford blanket statements that generalize and simplify in order to manipulate and garner political support. Melodramatic depictions are detrimental to healthy discussions where disagreement and dissent can naturally occur.

Whatever your political affiliations, be wary of any voice that completely condemns OR praises any person and policy. No person or policy is without flaws nor are they without benefits.

There will always be political conflict, and there will always be melodramatic depiction of that conflict.

But just remember that whoever is pushing that melodramatic view, is really just trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

One comment on “The Melodrama called, American Politics

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