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“You know, Las Vegas has more car vandalism than most cities,” the car rental agent told me. “You really need that extra insurance.”

Eric Frydenlund mug

Eric Frydenlund

I felt the unsettling conflict between a damage claim and the insurance cost rising in my gut. I could also feel the money leaving my wallet. I had been sold a bill of goods.

In politics, we have been sold a bill of goods. The mythological conflict between left and right, conservative and liberal — and if you believe the myth, good and evil — has played a debilitating role in the body politic.

The purveyors of this myth — the politicians, their consultants, the NRA, the talking heads, Russian operatives, the advertising agencies framing the myth — profit from our gullibility by selling a simple concept from Marketing 101: differentiation. Whether selling cars, refrigerators or politics, “position” your product to emphasize the difference with your competition.

Like a good suspense novel, conflict sells.

That’s great for selling cars. Not so good for solving problems.

Yes, we are divided on a number of issues: abortion, immigration, gun control and changing social norms to name the obvious. Yet like the car rental agent, the purveyors sow the seeds of division to reap the harvest of special interests. For in the cynical world of politics, the best ideas do not win. The well-heeled agenda of special interests wins.

Difficult problems requiring complex solutions become simplistic slogans that offer only false “either/ or” choices. The choice between gun control and gun rights rejects achievable compromise. The choice between pro-choice and pro-life neglects the shared goal of preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Serious questions deserve serious answers not found at the extremes of the political spectrum.

The real divide in our country exists between the haves and have-nots; or more particularly, between the have-lots and have-nots. Now there’s a real difference. The wealthiest “1 percenters” now own 40 percent percent of the nation’s wealth, creating a chasm of inequality that the wealthy are more than happy to frame as political rather than economic.

Mike McCabe, candidate for Wisconsin governor, speaks of the vertical economic divide in our country rather than the horizontal political divide.

“We’ve grown used to thinking about who’s on the left and who’s on the right. A magical thing happens when you think instead of who’s on top and who’s on the bottom. Thinking horizontally divides people who could and should be united. Thinking vertically makes it possible to see that people who we think are enemies actually have much in common.”

Naivety lies not in the belief we can all agree. We can’t. Our gullibility lies in the belief that our political parties can mediate our disagreements and shed some sunlight on our common values.

On a bright sun-drenched day in Florida, an eclectic collection of liberals, conservatives, science nerds, science novices — a cross section of humanity — eagerly await the Falcon Heavy Lift launch. Hearing the flight controller’s “SpaceX Falcon Heavy: go for launch,” an expectant cheer rises from the thousands gathered at the Kennedy Space Center.

“Five, four, three, two, one, ignition” the crowd chants in unison with the voice of mission control. The rocket leaps into the sky, rising over the Atlantic Ocean, riding a 400-foot tail of fire, like an acetylene torch cutting open the heavens.

We are cheering, shouting, pumping our arms in a triumph of human ingenuity over any and all challenges. In the clear sky, the Falcon can be seen for miles down range, rising to space and lifting our spirits.

Why is it only in times of triumph and in times of tragedy that we strip away the thin veneer of our contradictions and discover our common humanity; which, in our shared interests of survival, exist in all times?

I purchased car insurance that I did not need. I purchased the adversarial myth of our political system that does not work. I’m not buying it anymore.

Eric Frydenlund is a columnist who lives in Prairie du Chien and writes about nature, politics and social issues from a systems perspective.


(15) comments


Here is an interesting read which seems to accurately describe many of the comments/commenters here.


Aren't you just crank using a new screen name, HolmenPackerFan?


Let"s all get together and help stamp -out Bugs , aka CowChip Runoff MaNure,
as there is no place for old Geezers, like him, in our World.
Could you imagine if he had kids?
Lord have mercy on our soul!!!

Buggs Raplin

Striving fearlessly for coherence.

Buggs Raplin

Note to the Tribune. I heard your publisher left. I'm available. I'll make the paper more interesting.


oops another correction, my post should read " the fact that liberals know so much more..."


You nailed the problem on the head, liberals, THINK they know so much more. How can compromise be sought when one side thinks they are superior,? Trust me, it’s only in your mind.


hoaxer you always show how little conservatives know, thus the conclusion that the other side must know a lot more. Just stands to reason.


The Dems had control of the Whitehouse congress and the senate and Odummy was president for eight years and we still have problems??? Not to intelligent if you ask me


well you should of voted to keep them in power hoaxer, Rome wasn't built in a day! It takes time to undue all the harm the Bush GOP did to this country. And now Trump is doing his best to botch things up. That is the democrats primary job is to undue what the repubs did. Too bad the public has such a short memory or they would figure this out.


I would venture to say that the political divide in our country today is not due to the fact that liberals are so much more, but the fact that conservatives know so little. It is appalling how easily the tea baggers fall in line with every line that comes out of the GOP and the NRA and info wars, without even a thought of whether its really true or not. I guess they just don't care as long as they can cling on to something that gives reinforcement and justification to think they way they do. Reasoning is no longer an option for them.

Buggs Raplin

Note to the Tribune: Eric's columns don't engender much response, especially this one that opens with a 'mythological' conflict between liberals and conservatives. Huh? Mythological? Seems pretty real to me. Chris Hardie, the gentleman farmer, is another columnist whose weekly columns don't draw much comment, as do those of ace reporters Mike Tighe (Kate's husband) and Jourdan Vian. I know my criticisms of all your columnists will meet with indifference, but I'm just trying to help the Tribune become more interesting. A couple other things: increase the size of the avatars for on-line commenters. They were initially too big, now they're too small, and for God's sake let there be comments to letters to the editor.-Chip DeNure aka Buggs Raplin, faithful subscriber to La Crosse's finest daily newspaper.


For gosh sakes, Buggs, you really do have a lot on your plate to deal with, don't you? My heart goes out to you. I didn't realize you had all these horrible, ponderous problems on your shoulders.

Buggs Raplin

My plate? Full of bacon cheeseburgers. Yum.


buggs just stick to your info wars stuff, leave the tribune to those who have at least a partial grasp on reality.

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