There. I just came out and said it, right in front of everybody. Do I need to be clearer? I’ll say it again, more slowly this time: I…hate…politics.
In general, I would like to never even think of myself as a person who Hates anything, but of course, that’d make me more than human, and I’m not. I certainly prefer not to be a person who dwells on my hatred of anything, let alone advertises it, but lately I’m finding it more difficult than usual to show that kind of restraint. A large part of my resolve (and I’m confident that this is a relatively common trait) is highly susceptible to external cues. I prefer to keep my head in the sand about things I don’t like, disapprove of, and fear, but that’s easier to do when those things aren’t pouring down on me as though run through a hose, and let’s face it, sand is water-permeable. The omnipresence of political nonsense on the American scene these days is drowning me.
Contemporary America is a highly politicized land. Everything is treated as political fodder and the subject of constant shouting, most especially those ideas to which we impute moral or ethical value, and the number of such ideas seems to grow exponentially by the minute. Additionally, we allow less and less room for anything other than Right and Wrong, Yes and No; everything worth discussing is a matter of polar opposites, and if Your answer is not like My answer, then it’s not only an obvious falsehood but patently evil and an attack on my person. Probably on my race, my culture, my sexual identity, my religion, my favorite football team, and my country. This is the environment in which all discussions must be arguments, and all arguments, wars.
If it weren’t real, it’d be hilarious.
The way we treat each other over differing viewpoints is bad enough. The way we treat each other over differing beliefs is worse. So if what began as a discussion about fiscal responsibility gets turned instantly into the idea that ‘Your Party’s thoughts on what’s wrong with the national economy and what would be better are Evil and My Party’s are Holy’—which has nothing to do with the demonstrable facts in the matter, let alone with either side offering any suggestion of how to fix what both could have agreed were the biggest problems—then why not just skip the discussion and appeals to reason, and get right on with punching each other’s lights out? And what should begin with the recognition of each other as fellow humans, all susceptible to our imperfections yet all, potentially, respected equals if not allies or friends, instead starts out with an assumption of all others as our inferiors, as damaged, or as willfully wicked. Even some of the most well-meaning politicians and their supporters often cross the line between being opposed to a practical, legal, or political precept and condemning all those who fail to fully agree with or support them as being immoral and/or stupid.
I understand about passionately held beliefs and feelings. And I understand that many people in my country equate their passionately held beliefs and feelings, since these have often been arrived at by means of heartfelt thought and study or even, frequently, by what they are sincerely certain is some form of direct communication from a Higher Power, also know in their hearts and minds that these must be the governing directives of the nation. But as much as they might love to live in a theocracy, this country is officially not that, and in fact was founded in fear of and opposition to the idea that one specific religion should not only dominate but control or outlaw all others. As much as those whose beliefs and feelings tell them this should be officially a godless country might wish it so, that too would oppose the founding precept that one’s religious inclination, or leaning entirely away from religion, was not the defining factor that should govern the nation. I don’t hate religion or religious people, nor agnostics, nor atheists. What drives me crazy is people who confuse or conflate their moral systems with the functions and dysfunctions of American law. And that it gets in the way of what could so often be less hostile, more productive discourse.
Along with deistic religions and anti-religions, we are a country full of secular religions, which in my view (!) comprise not only the commonly referred to ones like ‘alternative belief systems,’ say, non-theistic philosophies, but also major social and educational and fiscal ideologies, and most especially, the pursuit of power and wealth. Whether the latter two come through the romanticized American ideal means of being honest, hard-working, and clever or by means of being successfully manipulative and lucky may again be the matter of much debate, most of it driven by our own takes on morality. But we give great leeway to those who achieve one or the other, and most of all, to those who garner both. And then we revile them for having risen too high.
So we find ourselves in the throw-hat-into-ring stage of pre-election politics, as we get to do every four years in this country, and are more than ever inundated with that outpouring of purulent political sputum and venom that makes us all resemble some kind of hideous mutated hybrid, Homo sapiens Ultimate Fighting x Grand Theft Auto, rather than reasoning rhetoricians in debate and the pursuit of a nation’s better future. I suppose that it’s only natural we Americans should so commonly say that candidates for public office here have thrown their hats into the ring, given the phrase’s pugilistic origins. But it’s an unpleasant characteristic of ours, to say the least, that we seem to prefer combativeness to dialogue and action to diplomacy or contemplation.
We’re even expert at redefining all sorts of things; it makes it easier to take sides when we make sides. So not only do we have a supposed bipartisan political system—a concept problematic enough, if anyone actually intended to encourage and support any attempt at accurate representation of a wholly diversified national population—but the reigning parties are called Republican and Democratic. At face value, sensible enough, considering that this country is theoretically a constitutionally limited democratic republic, by definition. Yet neither party’s identity is fully congruent with the concept for which it’s named, nor perhaps was it ever so. The present version of each party is dramatically different from its own historic identity in many ways, too, because the national population’s majority and minority concerns and desires have continued to change over time. And don’t get me started on how different, how varied, are the definitions both parties and individuals give to words like Conservative and Liberal in pursuit of political ends. No worries; masses of us who are too lazy or foolish to examine the evidence or question the sources will simply fall into line and start passing on the same stuff as though it had any validity, spreading it on thickly and dispersing it far and wide.
What it all means to me is that my normal level of intense distaste for all things political ratchets up higher and higher with every moment that puts us closer to any election, but especially, to presidential ones. Every day seems to add another clownish, insecure, angry, prejudiced, reckless, self-aggrandizing, high-powered fool of one sort or another happy to thoughtlessly throw gasoline on the fires with word and action, without regard for all of us other clowns. Keep a good thought for all of us: this country, that we might somehow rise above all of our petty normalcies, and yes please, for me. That I don’t just go crazier than usual myself before all of this quiets down a bit again.