Going to extremes

When news of a baby on the way prompts derision rather than just being happy for the couple, perhaps we’ve taken extremism a bit too far.

It’s disheartening to realize how much we’ve politicized everything, and nothing more drove the point home for me last week than the reactions following Chelsea Clinton’s announcement that she and her husband Marc Mezvinsky are expecting their first child.

The new mom-to-be, Chelsea Clinton Mezvinsky.  Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage.com .

The new mom-to-be, Chelsea Clinton Mezvinsky.
Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage.com.

LifeNews, noted Huffington Post, couldn’t seem to grasp how someone who is pro-choice (WHAT? You mean it doesn’t mean pro-death??) could be excited about having a baby, nor could several people on Twitter. Amanda Carpenter, an aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, tweeted:

I love days like this when everyone recognizes a baby is a baby and not a fetus.

That was one of the nicer ones.

Two of the less-tasteful ones:

 

 

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Others couldn’t see the pregnancy as anything but a campaign strategy to help Grandma-to-be Hillary Clinton’s possible 2016 presidential run.

The cat out of the bag, Grandma-to-be Hillary could smile and joke.  Image by Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

The cat out of the bag, Grandma-to-be Hillary could smile and joke.
Image by Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

Said Politico’s Alexander Burns:

What do you get for the potential presidential candidate who has everything? If that candidate is Hillary Clinton—and you happen to be her daughter—the answer is a grandchild.

The New York Post‘s Kyle Smith even wrote an open letter to the baby (“fetus” in the URL, of course, as that was what was in the original headline):

Can you say “Campaign Asset”? Good, now let’s learn about skill sets! You only need one talent. Ready? It’s “Soften the Candidate”! Sort of like human bubble bath.

Steve Malzberg, who hosts an online show for Newsmax TV, said on his show Friday:

Pardon the skeptic in me, but what great timing! I mean, purely accidental, purely an act of nature, purely just left up to God. And God answered Hillary Clinton’s prayers and she is going to have the prop of being a new grandma while she runs for president. It just warms the heart. It brings a tear to my eye.

BWAHAHAHAAAA! At last my plans are coming to fruition! Image by Spencer Platt, Getty Images.

BWAHAHAHAAAA! At last my plans are coming to fruition! Image by Spencer Platt, Getty Images.

Seriously? Is everything a conspiracy? Ever heard of coincidence?

Newsmax executive editor Ken Chandler quickly noted that the comments were intended to be humorous and don’t reflect the views of Newsmax, but still …

Well, sure, but we know it really is a plot, right? Just like those people who foresaw Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency and manufactured that “birth certificate” back in 1961 to cover the true circumstances of his birth, this must have been in the works for a while, with Hillary consulting with Chelsea on her ovulation schedule.

Aaannd if you believe that, you really shouldn’t be here in the first place, now, should you?

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Chelsea being kissed by Mom at one week old in 1980, when Dad was Arkansas governor. Her name came from the Joni Mitchell song "Chelsea Morning." Image by Donald R. Broyles, AP.

Chelsea being kissed by Mom at one week old in 1980, when Dad was Arkansas governor. Her name came from the Joni Mitchell song “Chelsea Morning.” Image by Donald R. Broyles, AP.

As someone who watched Chelsea grow up in Arkansas’ Governor’s Mansion and then the White House, I’m simply happy for her. I would think many people would be, or would at the very least would have the good grace to keep quiet in public … but then again, I choose to have faith in humanity.

This is just the latest in what, to me, is a troubling trend: the tendency of partisans to tar everyone who doesn’t believe as they do with the same brush, totally overlooking the many variations of beliefs, even among people on the same side.

Support anything backed by President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or anyone else with a “D” behind their name? You’re obviously an extreme leftist/socialist and atheist who wants one-world rule, gulags for the wealthy, and believes that government should do everything for us.

Uhhh, dude, you're not helping your case.  Image from DailyKos.

Uhhh, dude, you’re not helping your case.
Image from DailyKos.

Stand behind the ideas of small government, federalism and a strong national defense? Then you’re obviously a rabid evangelical who believes everyone should be armed, share the same Bible-based moral values and that unfettered capitalism is the only correct path.

Reality, though, is not that simple and clear-cut. The reality, among other things, is that Democrats can be Christians, Republicans can be atheists, and very little of our world can be defined in terms of absolutes.

A Democrat who is far more likely to vote with a moderate Republican is not a “solid vote” to keep Harry Reid in power in the Senate. Someone who votes with the majority of his party 60 percent of the time is far from an extremist, except maybe in terms of his own party, which may not welcome such independence.

Congressional lockstep: like this, but not nearly as jocular.  Image of Russian soldiers marching by Bill Meyer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Congressional lockstep: like this, but not nearly as jocular.
Image of Russian soldiers marching by Bill Meyer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

And someone who votes nearly 100 percent of the time with his party isn’t necessarily voting in his constituents’ best interests, especially when, simply to score political points, it keeps work from getting done.  Bovine excrement! Why should we prize walking in lockstep more than thinking independently?

Being open to compromise is not akin to treason, nor is it a sign of being uninformed. It certainly doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a flip-flopper whose views change with the wind; life is not static and changing times require open minds willing to examine new information.

Finding agreement for the greater good is what we should be trying to do. More often than not, though, we’re simply throwing accusations around about how evil “the other side” is.

Pot, meet Kettle.  Image by John Deering.

Pot, meet Kettle.
Image by John Deering.

Heck, if most people in political parties adhered to the stereotypes put on them by the other side, I might think they’re evil too. They’d certainly be no fun.

Even worse, many don’t seem to realize the descriptions they’re applying to their rivals could just as easily be applied to them. It makes me think sometimes that these extreme partisans must be vampires because they can’t see their reflection.

Though the numbers of those in the political middle, neither too far right nor too far left, have grown, their voices often are drowned out by the fringes and they’re lumped in with the extremists on their side of center, regardless of any difference in beliefs. They’re not less passionate; partisans just don’t want to hear what they have to say if it’s not in full agreement with them. Extremism has become the norm.

See? That's where he went wrong ... he should have gotten a cat. Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

See? That’s where he went wrong … he should have gotten a cat. Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

There are good points to be made by both major political parties on any range of issues, but no one answer is the right one for everything or everybody, and we need to stop pretending that it is. More importantly, we need to actually listen to each other instead of using volume to win debates.

We’ll never agree on everything because we’re not automatons, nor do most of us think that would be a good idea.

But maybe we can start by agreeing on one thing: If Chelsea and Marc are happy about bringing a baby into the world, just congratulate them on their good news or say nothing. I’m fairly sure that being polite for two seconds won’t kill you.

Oops … and now, extremist that I apparently am, I’ll be accused of being a politically correct totalitarian who gets off on telling people what to do.

My bad. I forgot to say “Please.”

Oh, who am I kidding? The people who were hate-reading probably stopped after “Republicans can be atheists.”

It's a joke ... It's a joke.  Oh, the eyes? Don't worry your pretty little head about that.  Image from Village of the Damned.

It’s a joke … It’s a joke.
Oh, the eyes? Don’t worry your pretty little head about that.
Image from Village of the Damned.