I’ve always enjoyed writing as an exercise because it managed to get me out of my own head. Writing something down was an exercise in escape, and also a great way to understand my own mind. And for the most part, when I write something on this blog, most of my writing came right off the cusp and flowed easily. So I wonder what it says about this political process, that I started writing this post before the very first televised debate, and on the morning of the inauguration, I’m only now just able to get my brain cohesive enough to write it. I must have written and deleted thousands of words by now. Some of them may still apply, and some of them don’t, but honestly…never in my recent memory have I been so conflicted about HOW to write something down.
I don’t like writing about politics. Why? Because I don’t spend every waking hour watching the news. I don’t wake up in the morning and read the paper. Being a reasonably logical person, I try not to write something where I’m not sure of my facts. And let’s face it…true actual facts have been rare on either side because there is such a thing as media bias. Not just that, but the majority of people, whether they want to admit it or not, get their news sources from those sources, because it’s readily available. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we make up our mind about a story before that story comes out anyway because we all have social, intellectual, emotional, religious, economical, ethical bias. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the human condition. No matter how much we say that we see things objectively, the perspectives that are usually thrust upon us, are for the most part biased, which then shapes our knowledge of a subject. Politics and history: examples of two subjects that are essentially shaped by the winners.
To introduce my own political affiliation, I’m a “center-leaning” Democrat. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, equal rights for all citizens, support LGBTQ rights, support women, support the arts, for smarter gun control laws, separation of Church and State, freedom of speech, freedom of the press…all that jazz. I also believe in smaller government, less taxes, I shoot guns at a range, I value faith in whatever form that comes in, buying “American”, and strong National safety. I’ll come back to all this towards the end, but for now, know that that’s where I stand.
Having said all that, and knowing where I stand personally…I need to get a few things off my chest, and so I hope you’ll all indulge me in letting me vent this out. I’m going to try to stay off specific views and kind of look at the entire process, and my general problems I see on both sides. This isn’t me trying to be objective. This is me stating what I see, and you’re all entitled to take my perspective and do with it what you will. I’ll try to keep it entertaining.
High Road, Low Road, No Road: During this process, you heard “They go low, we go high” as a sort of rallying cry whenever one campaign would smear the other. This implies a clear moral hierarchy. Let’s be perfectly clear. I dislike President Trump and his politics (or lack of any coherency to them). But the minute that we called him a “Fuck Cheeto with Hair” (I laughed) and called his supporters “a basket of deplorables”…we lost what tenuous grasp we had of the “high ground.” But then again, the Republicans lost the high ground with all this “birther” horse crap with President Obama, and not whole heartedly denouncing the KKK when they burned crosses and threatened his family. BUT THEN AGAIN…we called President George W. Bush the worst President ever, called him an idiot, and just called him “Dubya”, with no regard for the fact that he held the title of President. And we can go on and on and on all the way back to Washington, and I’m pretty sure someone called him a “wig wearin’ nancy boy.” It’s a Chicken or the Egg scenario, and nobody is winning that argument. (No, not even if you invoke the name of God, thank you.) In this and almost any election in recent memory, there is no such thing as a High Road. There is either THE Road, or NO Road. There’s only Good or Bad or In Between, and those fluctuate based on an individual’s perception. There is no “high road” because…and this is going to sound crazy…BUT WE DISAGREE. Disagreement breeds contention, contention breeds conflict, and conflict breeds violence, violence breeds hate. (Go ahead, make a Dark Side reference…it’ll make you feel better.)
One side isn’t the Devil, and one side isn’t Angel. What it is, is that we are all Human. To treat each other and our candidates like they aren’t, is unfair to them, but more importantly unfair to each other. It does us no good to claim that we take the High Road. Guess what? The minute that we claim that we are taking the High Road out loud, we automatically plummet OFF OF IT. Not just that but neither one of us is winning. And while we’re on the subject…
Reductive Titles / Names And Why We Hate Them: I think that if more people knew my politics, more people would label me a liberal. During the last couple of elections we seem to have gotten into the habit of calling people who believe in God, conservatives. We label liberals as God-less, we label conservatives as Bible huggers. We assume Trump voters are racist and sexist. We assumed Clinton voters were whores and tree huggers. One side wants to take away our guns and surrender to terror, while the other side wants to wear the good ol’ Stars and Stripes and go wipe out a nation that doesn’t have adequate food or water. Red and Blue, North and South, Smart and Elitist vs. Religious and Bigoted. Sigh…
We have GOT to stop this shit. In the beginning of this post, I told you all that I was a “center-leaning” Democrat and then listed some of the things I believe in. That was so I could make the following point. Neither side OWNS any of my beliefs, nor yours. A woman who gets an abortion because she was impregnated by being raped still clings to God in her time of need. A back country farmer can still be against sending his kids to become a soldier in a war that they had no stake in, and welcomes immigrants to work for them at a fair wage. A police officer can truly believe that Black Lives Matter, and minorities can be bigots. A political party does not OWN our beliefs, and to reduce the entirety of one side to a series of talking points from either candidate does us all a disservice. All of us are MUCH MUCH more than the least of humanity that support either side. And being called the same names as these dregs dehumanizes us, and only strengthens the division between us, and the hatred we have for one another. It legitimizes their anger towards us.
And on the eve of some pretty large inaugural protests, I want as many people to remember that more than ever. Because the way tensions are, this entire things has become entirely too much of an “Us vs. Them” scenario. Especially at some of the larger marches, please keep in mind that all it takes is one person who believes that their side is the ONLY right side to take their actions too far, to spark violence. No matter how peaceful the process, there are always going to be people who believe in degrees. In many ways, “peaceful protest” is somewhat of an oxymoron. A protest, by its nature, is indicative of a group of people with strong beliefs, loudly and assertively voicing their opinions to a side that disagrees in equal or greater measure. It takes so very little to push that in either direction. Even as I write this, I read that an Anti-Trump protest turned ugly when some protesters threw things at law enforcement and Trump supporters as they exited their rally. I remember 8 years ago and again 4 years ago when racial epithets and burning crosses were being carried around on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration. All of these things…because we believe the least of us…represents all of us.
Social Media and the Chamber of Echoes: I love social media. I do. I love how I can contact my friends, see what’s going on in their lives, set up events and meets. I like that we’re capable of it now. I am a huge President Obama supporter, but not just for some of his politics. He was the first President to do the job under the scrutiny of Social Media. I know that it started during George W. Bush’s presidency, but it didn’t really gain its real power until sometime in his second term. President Obama’s election was the first real cycle in which Social Media played a significant role in electing him, and also in his 8 year Presidency. This worked in a lot of ways, but primarily, besides the media, it made those of us who were incredibly removed from the political process, much more involved. It allowed those in power to kind of HAVE to keep us updated on what they were doing, and made them more accountable to us as a whole. Information started to flow faster and faster.
But this created a new problem. Information flowed at such a fast rate, that we sacrificed speed for accuracy. Particularly when it came to the media who started reporting things faster and faster to become the people to “break a story.” Ethics were compromised and information became more biased in order to fill the gaps left from the lack in facts. I think that this may be one of the causes behind the widening political chasm between the far right and Fox News, and Far Left and MSNBC.
Here’s the thing about Social Media. The people there are our friends. We tend to keep in touch more with people who we have more in common with. Call it human nature. So when an election comes around, much of the time, we are surrounded mostly by people who agree with us. This in turn creates a catalytic effect in which your view becomes much more potent and dare I say (I do), more volatile. To stick with a chemical metaphor, when you have a volatile substance, and then you take a similarly volatile substance of the opposite value that has been created in much the same way…well…you all remember Wile E Coyote drinking nitroglycerin. Basically, when you have a strong set of beliefs compounded by other people who share those beliefs, the minute that a contrary opinion comes in, the knee jerk reaction to that contrary opinion is “ATTACK!!!” Defenses are fortified, tensions are heightened, and we are ready for all out war. In reality, all it probably is, is someone simply saying “I don’t really believe the same as you, and that’s okay.” but the way it comes out on the screen is “YOU’RE WRONG! YOU’RE THE DEVIL!! AAAH!!!”
Again…neither side has ownership of this. All of the factors I listed above, I’ve seen both sides guilty of. My nature is, when I see two volatile substances clashing…I just sit in the epicenter where the damage is neutralized. I understand that my beliefs are my beliefs, and those beliefs have their own degree, on its own sliding scale…and it’s okay. It’s why, with the exception of maybe this post, I very rarely talk about politics on social media. Why? Cause I know where I stand and I know where my friends stand. At the moment, the minute that my politics arrive in a Tweet or as a status message, it automatically will compartmentalize me into some kind of box. And bottom line…even if I say something on there, I know who will agree and who will disagree. Preaching to the choir won’t win me anything. But actually supporting what I believe by my actions, my money, or my time…that’s how I’ll be judged, not by my messages. And for those who disagree with me, or that I disagree with…I’ll be there to talk to them on our common ground. Because that’s how things are accomplished.
Okay, look…this is honestly going to be my final thoughts, and then I’m going to return to my regularly schedule programming. Free speech means that those who disagree with you have just as much right to say what they feel as you do. Free press means that the press can write or report things in any matter that they deem fit. As long as the way those rights are exercised doesn’t violate other laws, I honestly could give a damn how you go about it. Someone extolling hate speech isn’t going to change my mind about the people I love, and how something is reported won’t change actual facts, or how I feel about actual events. If you exercise those rights by bombing a building, or writing lies…then yeah, you’re the dregs of humanity that I mentioned. Otherwise, I am going to chalk it up to you and I disagreeing and let that be the end of it.
This process has shown the hypocrisy between what is said and what is done in many aspects. Things like extolling free speech, and then quelling information. Preaching love, but only for people who believe as we do. Stating one thing, but doing the opposite (okay that’s nothing new in politics). Stating that you represent us while proposing laws that do the opposite. We could go on and on. Regardless of anything else…Trump becomes President Trump, but ultimately we determine its course. But for god’s sake, let’s get out from behind these screens to do it. Now that a single party runs the government, it’s up to us to actually fight for what we actually believe in…and that means KNOWING WHAT WE BELIEVE IN. For that we need facts, patience, and each other. And by “each other” I include the people that the political parties have stated are “our enemies.” Start with the things we agree on, and fight (intelligently) against the things that we don’t. Because if we can agree that the way things are going isn’t the right way, that in itself is a small victory. That is not a concession for either side. That is common ground.
It’s a good time to revive an age old tradition of social change through actual action. Get out from behind your monitors and go talk to someone. Anyone. Find common ground. Support what you believe in, by not just signing a digital petition. Go out and do. Talk to people who you respect that don’t agree with you. Fight peaceably, argue with respect, and honor our humanity. Represent the best of us if you truly believe that those who are in power don’t.
Don’t be scared. We got this. Always have. Always will.
Peace, safety, equality…love.