Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bipartisan Politics of Meanness, Part I

In politics, as in everything else, people that don’t agree with you aren’t stupid for holding other opinions. And, even if they hold other opinions, even ones you disagree strongly with, please don't fall into the easy trap of making vicious statements toward them that you'd never in a million years say to their face (or if you would, stop it. You are doing the world no good).

Orson Scott Card wrote in the afterword of his novel Empire:
But any rational observer has to see that the Left and Right in America are screaming the most vile accusations at each other all the time. We are fully polarized -- if you accept one idea that sounds like it belongs to either the blue or the red, you are assumed -- nay, required -- to espouse the entire rest of the package. . . . and yet, if you hold any of one group's views, you are hated by the other group as if you believed them all; and if you hold most of one groups views, but not all, you are treated as if you were a traitor for deviating even slightly from party line.

It goes deeper than this, however. A good working definition of fanaticism is that you are so convinced of your views and policies that you are sure anyone who opposed them must be either stupid and deceived or have some ulterior motive.
Want some examples? Here you go, although they are comparatively tame:
Not an Obama fan? Yeah right. All your lies/talking points come straight from the DNC. Please.


The reason they don’t want her to speak to the press is because shes a loser bozo who cant talk let alone think. how stupid is she when she believes the **** she does. No wonder they want to hide her, she’s a right wing religious exstremist who wants armageddon.
Asterisks and misspellings belong to the original authors. Both comments were left on a Christian Science Monitor article entitled "Why won't Sarah Palin talk to the press?")

I can't help but wonder what the respondents were trying to accomplish. Calling the Democratic National Convention attendees a bunch of liars isn't very nice, isn't substantiated in any way and isn't going to convince anyone of anything. Republicans already agree with the sentiment, and Democrats aren't going to change their minds because of it. And calling Governor Palin a "loser bozo" is also nasty, and will accomplish nothing, and is just incorrect; by most measures of success, she can be considered one. I don't think she would have gotten where she did, regardless of her politics, without some brains. In the end, those who don't like her will agree with the name calling, and those who do will just be offended. And I doubt the people who are undecided are really going to appreciate (or be swayed by) comments such as these. It's fine to disagree with her or even an entire party, but name calling is not fine, and just adds to the vicious atmosphere of politics.

So what DO these people accomplish by writing such vitriol? Since it's not going to actually accomplish their surface goal of trying to sway people to their way of thinking, then I can only speculate. It must make them feel better, or superior in some intangible way. And that makes me feel sad that people need to tear down others in order to feel good.

I think everyone should put their political statements to the "mom" test. Would you allow someone to say that about your mom? No? Then rephrase it so that the meaning is there, without the vicious rhetoric.

We have the right to speak out against the government, or about injustices, or any wrongs in particular, and as Americans, I believe we have not just the right, but the responsibility to do so. However, as decent human beings, we need to share the ideas, but without the vitriol.

Put a stop to nasty politics on the individual level. Agree to disagree and give those who you disagree with a measure of respect - because though you disagree, they are in the end, human beings who deserve courtesy. If you are offended at something you see or hear, then POLITELY respond, or even ignore it. When you respond in kind, you are adding to the meanness quotient. Don’t be a part of that.

Show some respect. Really.

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