Thursday, July 06, 2017

Political observations

Between family members, friends and acquaintances, I've come to know people from all sides of the American political spectrum: conservative and liberal, libertarian and authoritarian, and people who claim to have zero interest in politics. And the behavior I've seen recently from many of them isn't merely disturbing; in some cases it actually mimics the signs of mental illness.

I've seen an ardent Trump supporter, a woman old enough to vote (and, I might add, old enough to know better) throwing a public tantrum on social media -- filming herself as she flung a stack of her formerly-favorite novels in the trash bin -- after discovering that the author had publicly disparaged President #45. How DARE that author express her wrongheaded political beliefs? It's not as though she had some sort of right to speak her mind enshrined in a Constitutional amendment or anything.

I've seen people who cheer this administration's so-called "Muslim ban" (based both on the President's private description of it as such, and the way it targets people of a specific religion) and who ardently hope it will survive a Supreme Court ruling, even though our nation has long been known as the Mother of Exiles, even as millions of innocent people die fleeing terrorist-sponsored warfare. (For those of you convinced that refugees will bring more terrorism to the USA, look it up: since 9/11, not a single act of terrorism in America has been perpetrated by a refugee.) If we were serious about defeating ISIS, we'd be welcoming Middle Eastern refugees with open arms. Our opposition to ISIS is nothing compared to the fury of Syrian refugees whose lives were destroyed by ISIS, and who have exactly the kind of everyday information we need to target and destroy the terrorist groups who have taken over Syria. But this administration continues to think shortsightedly because EEK SCARY MUSLIMS.

I've seen people who describe Republicans and conservatives as mean, stupid, or (in one particularly vivid description) "excreted from the anuses of demons" because they oppose having their taxes raised again and again to fund various government programs. I've seen people who loudly hope their children will never become horrible, mean, stupid Republicans (you know, the political party I most often voted for, at least until this administration). Such people are engaging in a false dichotomy: either you care about people and want your taxes raised to help them, or you don't want your taxes raised because you don't care about anyone but yourself. They don't seem to remember that public virtue is a real thing. Many conservatives do want to help people, but prefer to spend their own money to help charitable organizations rather than handing it over to government, where 75 cents of every dollar is wasted by bureaucracy and the remaining funds may go to causes or organizations that taxpayers would not voluntarily support. But no, conservatives are all mean-spirited cusses who somehow think they have the right to keep the money they earned. (It's not like there are any mean-spirited Democrats, Libertarians, Socialists, etc. who would prefer to keep more of their paychecks. No, somehow Republicans have cornered the market on evil. Riiiight.)

I've seen people who want to sweep aside the established election laws of this country, oust the current president and install in his place the candidate who won the popular vote, or the candidate they wish had been endorsed and backed by the Democratic Party. While I empathize with their fears, I also realize we have election laws for a reason. Running roughshod over the law is extremely dangerous because it creates a precedent for casual or cherry-picked enforcement of that law; in future, when you hope to have that law on your side, it will no longer be in effect thanks to years of ignoring or selectively applying it. Trust me, you don't want that to happen. Seek to get the election laws altered, if you feel that strongly about it; in the meantime our current president did win the electoral college vote and was therefore sworn in without a serious legal challenge. If he is successfully impeached and removed from office, better get used to saying "President Pence." (Oh yeah, and while I have your attention: are you registered to vote? If you aren't, you should get that way.)

I've seen people who love the idea of pure anarchy, the absence of any kind of law to get in the way of doing what they want to do. In response to this, I usually sigh and yell, "READ HISTORY, DOOFUS!" Seriously. Every time in the past, when the established order of things -- no matter how bad that order might have been -- was swept away by anarchists in favor of no law whatsoever, the resulting power vacuum was filled by authoritarian tyrants or despotic governments who ruled by pure force, not law. "Anarchy now" leads to getting curb-stomped by a dictator later. So yeah, maybe quit bashing in shop windows for fun, get a real job and move out of your mom's basement? You'll enjoy capitalism a lot more when you can participate in it.

Do we really need to be beating on each other, rather than championing what is good and beautiful about this country? Has inarticulate, blind hatred really overwhelmed rational thought when it comes to politics? I hope not, but I'm seeing more and more indications that people aren't as concerned about being virtuous and seeing the good in others as much as they are desirous of scoring political points against The Other, however they define that concept. This isn't how to make America a good nation; it's a way of splintering us into petty city-states constantly at war with each other.

This is how a nation fails.

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