Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

(Anybody else here a Mike Rowe fan?  I loved “Dirty Jobs” when he was doing that show, and the quality of his voice-over work on “Deadliest Catch” is amazing.  And today, I’m going to reblog something he wrote on his “The Real Mike Rowe” Facebook page, then I’ll make a few comments at the end.  For clarity’s sake, the quoted section is printed in navy blue, with the links presented in a lighter blue.)

Photo: [Bob Reidel: "Mike - Saw you hangin with Bill Maher. I had no idea you were a liberal. Really blew me away. Love everything you do but now that I know who you really are, I won't be tuning in to watch anything your involved with."]Well, hi there, Bob. How's it going? Since your comment is not the only one of its kind, I thought I'd take a moment to address it. Bill Maher is opinionated, polarizing and controversial. I get it. So is Bill O'Reilly, which is probably why I heard the same comments after I did his show. ("How could you Mike? How could you?") Truth is, every time I go on Fox, my liberal friends squeal. And every time I show up on MSNBC, my conservative pals whine. Not because they disagree with my position - everyone agrees that closing the skills gap is something that needs to happen. No, these days, people get bent simply if I appear on shows they don't like, or sit too close to people they don't care for. What's up with that? Is our country so divided that my mere proximity to the "other side" prompts otherwise sensible adults to scoop up their marbles and go home? Back in 2008, I wrote an open letter to President Obama, offering to help him promote those 3 million "shovel-ready" jobs he promised to create during his campaign. (I suspected they might be a tough sell, given our country's current relationship with the shovel.) Within hours, hundreds of conservatives accused me of "engaging with a socialist," and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe if I didn't come to my senses. When I made the same offer to Mitt Romney (who actually responded), thousands of liberals chastised me for "engaging with a greedy capitalist," and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs if I didn't take it back. You may ask, "But what did these people think about the issue at hand?" Who knows? They were too busy being outraged by my proximity to the devil. (Poor Ed Shultz at MSNBC nearly burst into tears. "You were on the wrong stage, Mike! The wrong stage!! With the wrong candidate!!!") Oy.Here's the thing, Bob - Profoundly Disconnected (http://profoundlydisconnected.com/) is not a PR campaign for Mike Rowe. It's a PR campaign for skilled labor and alternative education. PR campaigns need ... that's right, PR, and if I limit my appearances to those shows that I personally watch, hosted only by those personalities with whom I personally agree, I might as well start a church and preach to the choir. Point is, I didn't go on Real Time to endorse BM, and I didn't go on The Factor to endorse BO. I went on because millions of people watch those shows. I approached our liberal president for the same reason. Likewise, his conservative opponent. And I showed up on Sesame Street with the same agenda that I took to Congress. Closing the skills gap is bigger than you or me or any particular venue, and Real Time gave me an opportunity to reach 5 million people. I'm grateful for that, and I'll do it again if they want me back. As for Bill Maher off-camera, you'll be pleased to know that the guy was a perfect gentleman. His staff is excellent, and his after-party included an open bar with a spread I've never seen in such a setting. Bill took the time to hang out with his guests and their friends after the show, chatting about this and that for over an hour, and taking pictures with anyone who wanted one. Trust me, that's rare. Yes, he's outrageous, inflammatory, and to many, a jagged little pill. But he's also gracious, generous, engaging, and taller than he appears on TV. Which, frankly, surprised me.
[Bob Reidel: “Mike – Saw you hangin with Bill Maher. I had no idea you were a liberal. Really blew me away. Love everything you do but now that I know who you really are, I won’t be tuning in to watch anything your involved with.”] Well, hi there, Bob. How’s it going? Since your comment is not the only one of its kind, I thought I’d take a moment to address it.Bill Maher is opinionated, polarizing and controversial. I get it. So is Bill O’Reilly, which is probably why I heard the same comments after I did his show. (“How could you Mike? How could you?”)Truth is, every time I go on Fox, my liberal friends squeal. And every time I show up on MSNBC, my conservative pals whine. Not because they disagree with my position – everyone agrees that closing the skills gap is something that needs to happen. No, these days, people get bent simply if I appear on shows they don’t like, or sit too close to people they don’t care for. What’s up with that? Is our country so divided that my mere proximity to the “other side” prompts otherwise sensible adults to scoop up their marbles and go home? Back in 2008, I wrote an open letter to President Obama, offering to help him promote those 3 million “shovel-ready” jobs he promised to create during his campaign. (I suspected they might be a tough sell, given our country’s current relationship with the shovel.) Within hours, hundreds of conservatives accused me of “engaging with a socialist,” and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe if I didn’t come to my senses.

When I made the same offer to Mitt Romney (who actually responded), thousands of liberals chastised me for “engaging with a greedy capitalist,” and threatened to stop watching Dirty Jobs if I didn’t take it back.

You may ask, “But what did these people think about the issue at hand?” Who knows? They were too busy being outraged by my proximity to the devil. (Poor Ed Shultz at MSNBC nearly burst into tears. “You were on the wrong stage, Mike! The wrong stage!! With the wrong candidate!!!”)

Oy.

Here’s the thing, Bob – Profoundly Disconnected (http://profoundlydisconnected.com/) is not a PR campaign for Mike Rowe. It’s a PR campaign for skilled labor and alternative education. PR campaigns need … that’s right, PR, and if I limit my appearances to those shows that I personally watch, hosted only by those personalities with whom I personally agree, I might as well start a church and preach to the choir.

Point is, I didn’t go on Real Time to endorse BM, and I didn’t go on The Factor to endorse BO. I went on because millions of people watch those shows. I approached our liberal president for the same reason. Likewise, his conservative opponent. And I showed up on Sesame Street with the same agenda that I took to Congress.

Closing the skills gap is bigger than you or me or any particular venue, and Real Time gave me an opportunity to reach 5 million people. I’m grateful for that, and I’ll do it again if they want me back.

As for Bill Maher off-camera, you’ll be pleased to know that the guy was a perfect gentleman. His staff is excellent, and his after-party included an open bar with a spread I’ve never seen in such a setting. Bill took the time to hang out with his guests and their friends after the show, chatting about this and that for over an hour, and taking pictures with anyone who wanted one. Trust me, that’s rare.

Yes, he’s outrageous, inflammatory, and to many, a jagged little pill. But he’s also gracious, generous, engaging, and taller than he appears on TV.

Which, frankly, surprised me.

I like his comments.  Very much.  And I want to add a few of my own.

First of all, when and from where did we get the idea that people we disagree with politically are the enemy?  We may have a differences of opinion about what is good public policy, or how the government should or should not respond on a given issue, but that does not make us enemies.

As some of you know, I used to work for Rick Perry back when he was in the state legislature.  One of the first things they taught at orientation was that the job should not be personal.  The guy you were opposing today on issue “A” might very well be the guy whose vote you need tomorrow to help you with your bill on issue “B.”

I used to love to read Molly Ivins, may she rest in peace.  Yes, she was loud, brassy, obnoxious, and as liberal as the day is long.  But she was also outrageously funny, and she made me laugh, and and she made me think.  Molly used to love to tell a story about John Kennedy and Barry Goldwater.  They had served in the Senate together in the 50s and were good friends.  In the early 60s, when it became that Goldwater was going to be running against Kennedy in the 1964 Presidential election, they were looking forward to it, and had already begun having discussions about a sort of traveling debate roadshow.  The idea was for a series of debates, where the two of them would slug it out over public policy before the cameras, then go out for a drink together after the show.

Democrats. Republicans. Progressives. Conservatives. We need to listen to each other.  We NEED each other.  Compromise is NOT a dirty word.  It means recognizing that sometimes the other fellow also has a good idea, and maybe we are not perfect in our judgments and opinions.

Are we so afraid of the weakness of our political views that we cannot stand to have them questioned?  Are we so intellectually lazy that we can’t form a decent argument in support of our position?  Or have we just completely lost all sense of common decency and respect, so that we simply can’t talk with each other anymore?

Standing with our fingers in our ears and yelling “NO” to those who disagree with us is the behavior of a three-year-old throwing a tantrum, but we need to do better as a nation.

Especially a nation whose founders believed in the power of ideas.

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