We’ve all heard about the nastiness of today’s political climate and the countless reasons as to why; social media, devolving of culture, the length of the campaign season or even the candidates themselves.
I’d say they all play a role but that the main driver of vitriol is we the people. We all like to think we value other’s opinions and give them their respective due, but seriously, have you been in a political conversation lately? If it’s between people with opposing views there is apt to be very little conversing going on and lots of judging based on false, negative assumptions.
For example, I hate poor people. Or so I’ve been told. I’ve also been called selfish, heartless, a tool of big business, uncaring, ignorant and my all time favorite, a disgrace to my gender. I’m kind of proud of that one actually.
Why all the hate? Apparently my preference for free market capitalism, limited government and individual freedom makes me as popular as a heart attack in some circles and justifies an enormous amount of contempt by my morally superior betters.
No boo hooing for me though as I expect this treatment when wading through the noxious swampland of Internet comment sections and am rarely bothered by it. I know once someone starts throwing insults during a political discussion, they’ve lost the argument and I can move on.
What turns my stomach though is when a family member or friend does this. It’s disheartening to say the least, when a person you like and respect and who you assume feels the same in return, attributes to you the lowliest of character traits because of your political philosophy. And this flows in both directions you know; Left to right, Right to Left.
It’s not done so overtly as the coward gleefully spewing vile while hiding behind an anonymous screen name. It comes in our daily conversations with people we know in the form of believing that this person who you say is your friend is coming from a place of bad faith.
Instead of acknowledging that we both want essentially the same good things for society but just have different ideas on how to get there, motives become morally suspect and productive conversation becomes impossible.
Here’s how it works.
What the Right Says and What the Left Hears
Are you against raising taxes on the wealthy because you feel it’s counterintuitive and will end up hurting those it is supposed to help? That means you’re selfish and only want what’s yours at the expense of the less fortunate.
Concerned that our bloated and unaccountable welfare programs rob people of their dignity and keep them trapped in a vicious cycle of dependency? Oh you heartless jerk, you want to see poor people dying in the streets.
Think there is too much uncertainty on whether man is having an effect on climate change to justify sweeping wide CO2 reducing reforms that will enormously impact jobs and income levels, especially at the lower end? You’re a “denier” being spoon-fed lies by the Koch brothers
What the Left Says and What the Right Hears
Passionate about raising taxes on the rich because you feel they have not paid their fair share and poor people will benefit from more revenue? Stop spouting Marxist nonsense and get a clue about economics.
Think our welfare programs should be expanded upon because they do more good than harm and exemplify the country’s compassion for the poor? You’re an ignorant pawn of the far Left who wants a society dependent on government and who manipulates people in to voting for things that harm them by luring them with “free” benefits.
Think man is having a serious impact on the planet’s climate and that taking steps to reduce CO2 now will prevent future catastrophe? You’re a Socialist who wants nothing less than the destruction of American capitalism itself.
Demonization of Ideas
I could go on but you get the idea I’m sure. The first sentence on each issue offers valid starting points on where to begin a discussion and, gasp, possibly learn something new. Unfortunately, many of us instantly jump straight to the second one, which is loaded with character judgement and has 0 to do with the issue at hand. It’s called the demonization of ideas you disagree with and is killing rational debate in this country.
We all make false assumptions about people; that’s human nature and unlikely to change. Can we at least stop questioning the humanity of those we disagree with though? Can we try to remember that every nasty political meme we post denigrating a politician or political party is also painting all your friends/family members who happen to vote for that person or party with the same wide brush?
Whether you believe we are made in God’s image or we evolved from a pool of goo, we all share the common trait of being human. Wonderfully flawed human beings at that but still worthy of courtesy and respect.