One of the things that seems to be missing from many of the current hullabaloos is a sense of proportion.
Meh, but who needs it? Isn’t it so much better to run willy-nilly with whatever line you’ve been fed by your preferred media source (notice I didn’t say news) without actually checking it out? Why should we be expected to do the thinking? Besides, it’s the end of the world! Of course, it’s always the end of the world.
It doesn’t matter what topic it is—religious freedom, same-sex marriage, Iran, who should go home on Dancing with the Stars—someone will find a way to fire up the rhetoric so that the real issues are obscured.
The easiest way, of course, is to head to opposite ends of the political spectrum and unleash a fusillade of half-truths and beyond-broad generalizations to ensure that the fringe partisans—the loudest and most insistent, the true believers—will defend the stories despite any evidence that disproves them. That “evidence” has obviously been faked, of course, by the opposition.
Moderates, who include both right and left, are left to roll their eyes and search for ear plugs while taking abuse from those who believe in party above all else and can only see left or right. I fear that some partisans, including some pundits, are driving around in circles since they refuse to turn left (and vice versa) … and I do often wonder if they can even wear a proper pair of shoes or only two of the same side.
Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran, for instance, brought out a lot of partisans on the Voices page, as well as moderate voices on both sides of center … not that the hard-liners believe their self-identification because of course a true-blue Democrat or true-red Republican would never veer from the party path.
Disagreements are a part of life, and I would argue that anyone who brooks no variance in opinion is far too sheltered from reality. Someone who is able to see both sides of an issue is far more to be trusted. And there’s that thing about people over party …
Yeah, I know … where would Fox News and MSNBC be if they instead featured moderates who delve deeply into issues rather than cherry-pick whatever makes their side look better? There are people on the outskirts of either side of the aisle who would have no career at all if they didn’t stir up the hard-liners. I’m lookin’ at you, Rushbo.
The reality, no matter how much some like to deny it, is that people in general do not vote in solid blocs on various issues. National vote totals for each party are indicative of that variability as, for example, Democratic candidates for U.S. House and Senate races pulled in more votes nationwide than did Republican candidates in 2012 and 2014. Yes, Republicans won more seats, but more people in the U.S. voted for Democrats … voters from all persuasions—Democrat, Republican, independent, Slightly Silly Party (bonus points if you figure that one out before watching the video at the link).
Moderates don’t shout down opposition; use of evidence relating to specific points, not insults, is how they debate issues. Talking points are anathema, as are broad generalizations such as leftist or wingnut. There are many more shades in the world than black and white, and very little could be considered to be clear-cut. There’s no “fer” or “agin” here, but rather rational and sometimes complex thought.
Perhaps this idea about the absence of disagreement somewhat explains the partisan aversion to compromise—after all, you might have to talk with people who don’t think as you do … and that’s just icky. They might even have cooties. I’ve heard, though, that there’s a cure for that.
A favorite tool of extremists is fear. We’ve seen it before with the House Un-American Activities Committee and its search, first, for Nazis, and then communists. Now the boogeymen (or boogie men, if you’re afraid of disco) are things such as homosexuality and Islam, which means that we must defeat this menace now!!! If you can make it sound like it’s the end of the world, all the better.
That means, of course, making unnecessary laws to protect something that’s not really in danger, like religious freedom, and boycotting everything and everyone with any connection to or support for whatever it is that we fear. The problem with boycotts, besides the fact that they’re often not successful, is that you would pretty much have to resign yourself to living as a self-sufficient hermit completely off the grid. Seriously, do these people not realize how many people they don’t like are producing things they use every day?
There are few things anymore that are so localized that boycotts would really hurt … other than small local businesses. The anecdotes traipsed out to prove the supposed need for a law to protect something already protected by the Constitution are straw men straight from the partisan playbook to try to hide the fact that they’ve basically codified hate … again.
My advice for maintaining your sanity: Ignore the overheated rhetoric and dig in to the truth of the matter at hand, which means broadening your perspective to look at all sides. And remember, no matter the issue, it’s not the end of the world if someone with whom you disagree gets the same rights you already have.
If there’s no chocolate, however, it just might be.