Thursday, November 6, 2008


Particularly here in North Carolina, there have been some really ugly campaigns during this past election. I've never been so glad for the business to be over and done with, at least until the next go-round. The hideous negative campaigns run by the candidates themselves are bad enough, but this year in particular, the polarizations wrought by politics have become so extreme — and it's usually so damned petty.

I was brought up to have at least an ounce of class, and I try my best to maintain it, even when my wits and my temper are stretched to their limits. One thing that damn near set me off, though, was a sign in the yard of a neighbor, about how we've GOT TO STOP THE WACKO ENVIRONMENTALISTS and DRILL, DRILL, DRILL, which is the only way to lower the price of oil and become energy independent. There's no need for me to go into detail about the fallacy of the statement; that's a whole separate issue. What burns me up is the strident tone and the automatic labeling of a contrary opinion as "wacko." Most reasonable people, even if they hold a contrary view, understand — at least I hope so — that such inflammatory rhetoric simply isn't true.

But it's hardly limited to this sign, this issue, this election. What I find myself becoming increasingly intolerant of in my old age is the wholesale intolerance of conflicting points of view, no matter how well-informed they might be. Most left-leaning folks of my acquaintance are not tree-hugging socialists who love to kill babies and for whom the very mention of God sends into apoplectic fits, and few republicans I know are greedy corporate thugs who earnestly believe the rich should get richer and the poor should get poorer, all in the name of the Lord, and who will blast with their shotguns anyone who disagrees. In my experience, most of us want something akin to the same thing but have different ideas on how best to get there. Yeah, some ideas (and individuals) are indeed wacko — and it goes as much for one side as the other — but this immediate, extreme demonizing of others who hold different views, far more so than the actual issues on which we have different ideas, is what really tears us apart.

After this election, I've never been so proud to see so many Americans coming together under an umbrella of hope. I'd love to see that hope be borne out; time will tell. I will even break with personal tradition and be guardedly optimistic on this count. At the same time, I've never been so ashamed of being surrounded by so many folks (particularly in an online area I frequent) spewing bitter venom about the black Muslim socialist from Kenya who loves terrorists, and how, four years from now, we'll all be living in Marxist state.

Please. This country is in a fair mess just now. The democrats blame the republicans, and the republicans blame the democrats, but the one sure way not to fix things is to continue this ridiculous, divisive bitterness that still consumes way too many of us. Yeah, we're going to disagree, sometimes strongly, and sometimes rightly so. It's all a part of being who we are. But — to quote the King of Siam — too many a man will fight to prove that what he does not know is so. There's so much of that around that it really does make me tired. Lots of negativity for its own sake, as if it's in any way constructive.

You know, anyone is free to disagree with me. People do it all the time, as they rightly should. I disagree with others, and more frequently than I like. I usually try to get past it and figure out a way to dialogue, because I know that if we're just going to call each other wackos, idiots, etc., etc., and so forth, we're going to get done a whole lot of nothing, probably become enemies, and likely alienate others in the process.

And I hate hearing stuff like, well, that's just the way big people play. Actually, it's not. It's the way kindergartners who haven't learned better play. Many is the time that a reasoned argument, delivered without venom, has swayed me to see a different point of view. Never once in my life have I been convinced to entertain a contrary view by a bunch of insulting noise.

For all of our sakes, let us all make like we graduated kindergarten way back when we were children.

P.S. If you've read this far, you are totally, fucking, apeshit wacko. But that's okay. I forgive you.


Stewart Sternberg said...

God, I am exhausted and thrilled to have this campaign over. I hope people back off for a little while. I think you are correct about the danger of depersonalizing people and their opinions by characterizing them through extremes.It's a dangerous road. Division becomes accepted and in time it creates almost unbreachable walls.

Mark Rainey said...

I'll be the first to admit my temper too often comes up heated when things go in directions I don't agree with or that I consider just plain stupid. The main reason I rarely wax political or get involved in "discussions" of controversial issues is simply because these things typically devolve into pointless bickering, and I end up wasting far, far too much time and energy that could and should be put to better use.

Of course, there are times that silence is not the better option. As a professional writer, I feel it's important to maintain a professional face for the sake of my business. Presentation and judicious decision-making are paramount.