Friday, May 3, 2013

Bipartisan Badness: Why The Versus Mentality Has Got to GO

The older I get, the more I hate politics.
Not because I don't think that they are important. Not because I think that they are useless - they are imperative - to discuss. And not because I don't have some very strong opinions.
I hate them because of the divisive, polarizing effect they have on our country.
Our political system in the US is divided into two parties, and more and more it seems like your friends, your activities, and your personal worth are defined by which side of the spectrum you choose.
I could go on.
Have people's political leanings always had this effect on the rest of their personal lives, or is this a new thing?  It's one thing to disagree with someone's political ideas, it is wholly another to generalize an entire party, vilify others based on their political party, and stoop so low as to begin attacking a person's appearance or personal life.
That may seem far fetched to some. Probably not if you have a facebook.  Especially around election time, things got nasty. There are people I love and consider good friends on both sides, and to see them attacking each other was no fun. Even more no fun was feeling like I was unwelcome in their space when they continuously posted articles attacking values that I held (or didn't hold) and generalizing groups that I am a part of (i.e., Christians.)  Again, this happened with both parties.
I don't consider myself a Republican or a Democrat.  If I had to pick a political party, I would be a Libertarian, I guess.  But I don't feel like I have to pick one.  And I don't feel like that warrants the eye-rolls and implications of stupidity that greet this answer when I am asked where I put myself politically.
I find myself whining like a kid on the playground, wondering why can't we all just get along?
Honestly, I think its because we don't want to.
There are people who have been Republicans their entire lives.  Their parents were Republican, their grandparents were Republican, and they have never considered voting in any way other than Republican.  Some Democrats are the same way.  I think that this is why political arguments get so vitriolic - the way you vote has ceased to be a product of your values, but a definer of them, because your political party has become a way in which you identify yourself.
This is dangerous, not only politically, but personally.  No one party is right all the time, but the political atmosphere right now fosters an all-or-nothing mentality.  If you're a Democrat, you better believe in everything the Democratic party says - and if you really want a gold star, you'll go the extra mile and post it on social media as well.  If you're Republican, you had better disagree with everything that's coming out of the White House right now - whether it be healthcare reform or the First Lady's birthday party.
When you fall into this line of thinking, it clouds your judgement.  You only have to see something labeled "liberal" or "conservative" and you're rushing to sign the petition or post the link to your Twitter.  This kind of mob agreement is extremely unsettling to me because no party or group is right all the time and thinking so is bound to get this country into a world of hurt - it already has.  I have seen people post completely bogus articles just because they support or decry a particular political figure that they either love or hate - the validity of the piece was not the issue here, it was the desire to post something that supported their own opinion and say "See? I'm right!"  This is disturbing.
This year was full of Congressional standoffs because the two parties refused to compromise.  Reasons were thrown around by both sides, but it was pretty clear that it boiled down to nothing but a turf war.  Neither party really wanted to make concessions, because it would signal that the other side had "won", and these days being on the "winning" side politically trumps the good of the country.
Newsflash: No one wins if the country is down the crapper.
Some issues are easier to compromise on than others, granted.  Issues where moral values and the harm of an individual are factors should not be taken lightly, and both sides should be weighed equally.  That's the job of the representatives and senators - to weigh the issues and decide what is best for our country, not the best for their personal popularity or the good of whatever corporation is paying them off.  We elect these people to decide on the fate of our nation, not to fight like two big dogs in one small yard.
I guess more than anything, this is a call to compromise, not just to our political officials, but to regular folks with a Facebook account.  In the end, the memes you post and the status updates you compose don't really do much more than tell people about your own opinions - in all likelihood, the differing opinions of those who see them will not be changed.  And if these posts call out the opposing opinion in a mean-spirited or derogatory way, the only thing you are accomplishing is pushing those people further away and towards a stronger hold on the opinions you oppose.
I personally think that compassion, tact, and a genuine appreciation and valuation of the people in your life you deem important enough to befriend on Facebook to be more important than continuously blasting everyone with your opinion.
In the end, we are all humans and Americans who want the best for our loved ones and our country.  I think that should be what defines our identity rather than where we fall on a polar political scale.

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