Can’t we all just get along?

September 13, 2012


No, I know we can’t.  It’s a naive wish, but one I don’t ever stop having.

I am not a fan of politics.  This is largely because I feel that it has become nigh impossible to have civil discourse about the issues that appear to divide us.

In some respects, I think politics has always had this element in our country (and others).  I am no historian, but what little I know indicates that opponent-bashing, truth-stretching, underhand tactics to suppress voters, and other such distasteful behavior is nothing new.

Now, in our 24-hour lives where we MUST KNOW NOW and the glamor of media of all stripes infects our living rooms, kitchens, dining room tables, and bedrooms, these types of behaviors are exposed to light as never before.

Now everyone across the nation who has access to a TV, radio, or Internet device (if only through a store window or at a bar, our poorest and most unfortunate citizens are not even blissfully ignorant) knows exactly what happens at party conventions… how nominations work… how campaigns are strategized.

Now we can all hear how various fact-checkers have or have not ripped apart the speech of one candidate or another.

One might think that with all of this, things might change.  That letting the daylight in would encourage the entire populous to scream “QUIT IT ALREADY AND JUST TELL US EXACTLY WHAT YOU PLAN TO DO, OK?”

But this is not happening.

At least, not to the nation as a whole, and most certainly not to the actual politicians (at least in the venues in which we are allowed to see them).

Sure, there are some out there who are using all of this information to have informed and reasonable debates with each other.  I know these people exist, I know some of them personally.  People who come from different walks of life, people who disagree fundamentally with each other, and yet enjoy debating about those things that make them different.  And they’re still friends when the debate is over.

I don’t know how common this is.  Unfortunately, the kinds of people who tend to have those types of conversations aren’t necessarily the ones who are featured in the media, or tweet (about their political beliefs).

Controversy and malice, and yes, even hate, seem to be on the menu for consumption by the masses.  It is the people who are the MOST frustrated, who feel the MOST helpless and powerless, who have become the voices that we allow into our eyes and ears every day.

I can’t even be mad at those who are spewing “JOEBOB CANDIDATE SUCKS BALLS” tweets by the second.

You know why?

Because the motivation for such things isn’t, I suspect, just boredom or attention-seeking (for the most part).

Stuff like this is borne of fear.  Fears like “I am not being listened to,” “I am being marginalized,” “My job is going to disappear,” “This person doesn’t care that I’m just trying to feed my family,” “What will other countries think of us now?” “Oh God this will lead us to another war,” “Why are there so many more rich people?” “How come *I* don’t get handouts?” etc.

We have become a nation of fear.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that there are some voices out there that belong to people who must have actual clinical diagnoses.  There is quite a bit of totally irrational paranoia out there representing every position on the political spectrum. And certainly these truly certifiable voices may be contributing to the more normal (and dare I even say healthy?) fears that many have, making them that much more volatile.

But it’s become too easy to dismiss someone as “crazy” who is speaking out in a negative manner concerning their beliefs or concerns about an opponent, especially when the content is factually suspect on some level.

It’s too easy to dismiss someone as “stupid” or “ignorant.”

It’s too easy for us to LABEL each other.

It has become impossible for us to look at a tweet/newscast/debate, and instead of getting angry at it, to say “the person who tweeted/reported/said that is HUMAN, just like me.”

But you know what?  In my own way, I suppose I’m just as bad.

Because I am silent.

Don’t get me wrong.  Of the candidates there is one that is a better fit for my ideals, if not perfect.  I will vote for him when the election comes because I feel, as imperfect as our system is, that it’s my responsibility as a citizen.  Will I be disappointed if my candidate does not win?  Sure.  Do I think our country will go to hell in a handbasket if he doesn’t?

Well… no.  I’m afraid that in this political climate I’ve become a bit numb.  Sure, there are things that scare me about possible policies that an administration other than my chosen one may try to implement.  However, I think our system is so f’ed up that it might be impossible for any administration to get ANYTHING done – be it something I agree with or no.

At this point, I know which president we have makes a difference.  But I’m not sure how that difference will affect *me*.

Yeah, how selfish can I get, right?

I’m lucky.  I am SO incredibly lucky.  At the moment, my family is provided for.  I don’t work in an industry that might go away or be hurt based on the election of one administration or the other.  I currently have healthcare and can afford it, and the administration elected is unlikely to change that.  My taxes could not be cut, and I’d be OK – it wouldn’t mean less food for my family.

My brain hurts (and my heart hurts) trying to put myself in other people’s shoes… those who stand a chance of truly being affected by the implementable policies of one administration or another.  Because I don’t want to be just selfish.

So I talk to myself about unions (I have some family members who work in unions, some who don’t), and abortions (I’ve had friends confronted with this terrible choice), and taxes, and ecological health, fiscal policy, national debt, foreign relations (because there are ambassadors and soldiers representing me and dying for me), those in marginalized groups of various sorts and civil rights, the role of Government.

And so with all that in mind I’ve made a decision, and as I said, I’m going to vote the best way I can.

But still, I’m silent.

You’ll note I haven’t mentioned who I’m voting for.

I’m a coward.  See?  I’m part of that nation of fear.

(Well, it’s also partially because I’ve wanted to make sure that you, my reader, understand that I don’t feel that any party or political group is better than another when it comes to heightened language or hate-speak in this political season.  All are culpable.)

Instead of fear driving me to speak, fear drives me to stay silent.  I don’t want comments telling me how much my choice sucks.  I already know that no available choice is right for everyone – I really don’t need to be told.

As it is, I know I’m inviting comments about my silence, and those I welcome – harsh or not, because I really wonder how other people deal with these types of feelings.

How do you deal with your frustrations with our political system?  How do you react to language from those on the “opposing side?”  How do you remind yourself that those who disagree with you, even when they do so violently or with hate, are human?

P.S.: Since I’ve depressed you all (well, hell, since I’ve depressed myself…) here’s a pic of G to cheer you up:

Politics Shmolitics!

Politics Shmolitics!

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One Comment on “Can’t we all just get along?”

  1. Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd Says:

    I try and stay pretty quiet myself. I don’t like the whole “my side is right and your side is wrong” atmosphere. Even if I do feel that way personally sometimes, I just don’t think it adds much to actually coming up with solutions and rational discussion. I don’t like conflict in general anyway, so I make my choices, cast my votes, and talk about less divisive things like how much Aquaman sucks. 🙂


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