Enough With the Political Sanctimony

It’s no secret that the political atmosphere is rife with tension these days. It doesn’t help that both online and in the real world, there are paid trolls who are making bank off the divisiveness of various movements and campaigns. It is mentally and spiritually exhausting to deal with.

I’m simply tired of the political blame games. I’m tired of broad insults and assumptions.

Someone asked me earlier, in discussing ‘deplorables’ and ignorance and support for this side or that, “Who’s fault is that?” You know what I said?

Ours. It’s our fault.

It’s my fault and your fault. It’s everyone making sweeping assumptions and dispensing broad insults and NOT talking to the people around us in real life about the whys and hows of real life issues. We aren’t even aware of what issues matter most to the people living around us, working with us, and teaching our kids, or why those issues matter to them.

Seriously.

I think we need to step away from the internet and relearn how to speak to actual human beings. We need to be able to discuss, educate, and persuade without being complete asshats, because that’s pretty much how we all come across when all we do is obsess over who’s on the right side of politics all day online. We spend an inordinate amount of time arguing with people whose opinions we don’t esteem in the least, and whose lives we couldn’t care less about. And why don’t we care??

If you can’t see your opponent as a human being with value simply because they vote differently than you, then I’d say that says a lot more about you than it does about them. I certainly don’t like what it says about me, and as convinced as I am of my rightness, I realize that it makes no difference when I crow about it on the internet. That usually doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but it validates my opinion with every like and “Amen!” thrown my way…which is still pretty unproductive.

Being morally superior about our choice in candidate does far more harm than good. I can and will express my opinions, but I’m trying to avoid issuing insults to people I don’t even know. People whose lives, concerns, and values I can’t possibly understand. I know that their support may go to policies and candidates that I find detestable, but why should I then write them off as if they’re no better than dirt? Not knowing what led them to this choice, what good does it do to insult them now that they’ve reached it?

Basic decency has taken a critical hit in this election cycle. Even good people are so caught up in the frustration of it that they’re letting their pride and ego turn them into something unrecognizable. I get it, we’re all extremely frustrated! We’re all disappointed and disgusted and afraid. But we’re also all still human beings, and we’re more complex than “Trump voter” or “Hillary voter” or “Johnson voter”. We’re all far more complex than political affiliation. Our importance and worth extends beyond “ally” or “opponent”.

You may be right. You may have the most facts and the best arguments. You may have a brain the size of Canada.

But if you don’t have a heart, you’ve lost. It’s just that simple.

You’ve lost your ability to influence people who you will need on your side politically, and you’ve lost a crucial part of what it takes to be a decent person in general.

There’s a saying that goes like this: “You can be right or you can be happy.” Just look around you. Look in the mirror. It’s pretty clear that we aren’t choosing happy, and frankly I don’t wish to be allied with a bunch of sourpusses.

I simply cannot retain the good in me when my mind and mood is being poisoned by negative influences. I choose to be happy, and to be at peace.

 

Romans 12

 

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”says the Lord.

 

Advertisements

Bias and Empathy

Everyone has inherent bias.

In any number of ways and on various topics, we have a preconceived and prejudiced view of the world. We can’t help it; our perceptions are shaped by our own experiences. We can no more gain experience by listening to someone else than we can gain height by standing next to an NBA player. We may be able to gain understanding, but we cannot feel or think any differently unless we process other perceptions through the lens of our own known experiences. This is called gaining empathy.

The dialogue I see every day concerning societal ills (specifically for this post, racism and sexism) is simply unhelpful. We have foregone compassion to pursue some kind of experiential competition, a jockeying of anecdotes, if you will. I have been told I know nothing of racism because I’m white, or that I must have internalized misogyny because I care about a man’s voice in an abortion debate. I’ve even seen the argument that I cannot speak with any authority on race because I’m blonde. It is largely accepted in our society that some experiences and opinions hold more weight simply because they fit a certain narrative.

I don’t have to be black to know what racism is, I have experienced it first hand, and quite forcefully. I have no “privilege” that protects me from hate, because hate is a spiritual ill. It isn’t choosy about who it infects. To be told that my experience is less valid or that my opinion less valuable based on my race is in itself racist. To be told that I must always side with a woman in a debate over sexism is perpetuating sexism. These narrow parameters we insist on are limiting not only our dialogue but also our understanding. We are propagating the very things we claim to want to abolish by telling others they aren’t qualified to speak because they don’t fit our idea of a victim.

There is no way for someone else to know our experiences, or how those experiences affect us. The only thing they can do is empathize by relating to us through an experience of their own. I have never lost a child. I imagine it is unbearably painful, and my empathy for those who’ve lost a child is based on my experience of knowing love as a mother and of losing a nephew. That loss devastated me, but I know my love and my loss was less than that of his own mother, because I know that my love for my own children is greater than anything else I’ve ever known, including my love for other family members. It’s simply different. I can, however, relate based on my own experience. I can empathize. I can understand a little better because my experience is a little closer. I cannot know, however.

Likewise, when someone speaks to me of prejudice and oppression, I can relate through my own experience. When they tell me that the vehicle by which I come to relate to them is invalid, unwanted, and disrespected, they are essentially saying they do not want my understanding; they want my complete submission to their thought control. They wish to implant ideas and feelings that are untethered in either experience or reality. They don’t want me to relate, they want me to substitute my thoughts for theirs. This does not lend itself to realizing empathy, but it is pretty successful as a bullying tactic.

We used to be taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, or “Treat others how you’d like to be treated.” This valuable lesson has been twisted and now people will say, “Treat others how they treat you.” You’ve been hated? Hate others. You’ve been oppressed? Oppress others. You’ve been objectified? Objectify others. This ideology is poison. There is no empathy or compassion to be found in it, only cruel one-upmanship and tyranny. This hardness of heart is what we perpetuate when we try to shut others up and devalue their experiences by which they can relate to and understand us. Empathy and understanding are fostered in the shared experience. When we begin to relate instead of compete, we can have constructive dialogue.

Of course, our anecdotes and experiences may still be askew of absolute truth, but they are valuable in establishing a healthy consideration for others via the Golden Rule. Facts (via FBI crime data/statistics) absolutely undermine the rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement, but facts do not do nearly as much damage as their expressed disdain for police officers and their disregard for other races in general. Even the most altruistic among them cannot overcome the divide that has been deepened by the inability to value opinions outside of their own. It is much the same with modern feminists. The rampant misandry within feminism today has poisoned all conversation concerning sexism. They do not want to foster understanding, but to obliterate and subvert all opposition to their particular worldview.

It’s important to realize that we all have our own biases. We can’t help how our experiences have shaped our perceptions, but we also cannot force other people to embrace our biases. We have to get over ourselves if we wish to connect, and we have to find shared ground in order to truly foster understanding. We have to return to a philosophy of empathy which says “I do not want this to be done to me, so I must not do this to you.”