The Hermeneutics of Political Gardening

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow

The words of David Mallett plays on Spotify as I read a section of Hans-Georg Gadamer's 'Truth and Method' about the circular structure of understanding. I started thinking about text criticism of the news stories Google presents to me. Yes, the great Internet filter bubble shapes what I see. 'In Maine, Ron Paul vies to extend Mitt Romney losing streak', 'General gunned down in Damascus', 'Funeral for Powell boys draws 1000-plus in Tacoma, Wash.', 'Romney wins straw poll of Republican conservatives', 'Weak housing has hurt consumer spending', and 'Obama and the birth control controversy'.

What is the context we understand these stories in? How might other people understand these stories, say a century from now as the study the early 21st century in a college history class. How might my ancestors, for example, those that farmed in New Brunswick, Canada after the revolutionary war, understand this.

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
We are made of dreams and bones

David Mallett's words drift back in. What is this circular structure of understanding? How does it relate to pullin' weeds and pickin' stones? People have often asked me who aspiring bloggers should read. I usually suggest starting with the essays of E. B. White. His ability to relate his experiences repairing a hen house roof on a saltwater farm in Maine to European politics at the beginning of World War II is remarkable.

Is there something about this circular structure of understanding that relates to current political discourse? It seems as if so much of the political discourse is based on fairly narrow circles of understanding.

For example, in the birth control controversy, Rick Santorum describes birth control as 'something that costs just a few dollars'. Now, if you are using condoms that you buy at a discount in bulk, or perhaps pick up from a free clinic, and only have sex a couple times a month, Santorum may be right, however, the most commonly prescribed birth control pill costs between $100 and $200, depending on where you get it.

Now for someone with a net worth of between $800,000 and $1.9 million, like Rick Santorum, a couple hundred bucks a month might not be a big deal. Yet there are communities here in Connecticut where the media household income is closer to $12,000 a year. A couple hundred bucks a month can be ten to twenty percent of the household income, and perhaps, these are the households that would benefit most from birth control.

Yet all of this brings me back to the filters or bubbles we all live in. We find our views shaped by the media we consume, whether it be the news that Google selects for us, the talking heads on cable news, the inside the beltway advisors, or even our view of what American life is like based on what we see in the backgrounds of sit-coms and police dramas on prime time television.

No wonder there is such divide and rancor in politics today. Maybe it is time to get back to the garden, whether it be the one that Mallett sings about or White writes about.

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