One time, I had dinner with a couple from Ireland. During dinner, I vented my frustration with the political climate in America and said the whole left vs. right dichotomy was destroying the country. The boyfriend said, “There is no left or right in America. It’s all right.”
He was right, but he was wrong. In the context of European politics, he was correct. America has no organized or coherent left wing like Europe. The problem is his comment is intellectually identical to that American chestnut about Europe being a bunch of communists. Both scream of self-centered ignorance. That’s what I don’t like about Europe. They sound just as smug as America, and they’re just as broke and just as internally divided. (In my friend’s defense, I also said I was sick of the bar for this country being lowered. He said, “Yes, but it will rise again. It always does.”)
But since we are talking about America, let’s look at why our view of left vs. right within the context of our own culture looms too large in our culture. I’ll go as far as saying it’s a major component why our economy is in the tank.
The problem is our politics have become our religion. In fact, it’s infected our religion, even among atheists. In an age where we need to figure out how to pay down our debt, overhaul our infrastructure, and restructure our tax laws, everyone has an opinion spoonfed to them by some demigod with a microphone. My wife thinks I’m too into politics, but the problem is I’m usually driven to rage by someone on one side or the other who wants to lecture me about the wrongness of my views and why theirs is the One True Way. I call these types “ideots.”
The problem is no one seems to have a sense of humor about politics, and let me tell you something about people with no sense of humor. They herd innocents into gas chambers and slam airplanes into buildings and lie awake at night worried that someone, somewhere is either not driving an electric car or having some kind of fun they don’t approve of. In short, they’re in love with dogma, masturbating into their Bible, Koran, or copy of The God Delusion.
And it’s better for them if you don’t agree with them. Then they can feel smarter than you.
I, however, am dogmatically opposed to dogma of any kind. It never represents reality.
Worse, it never represents the reality of the person up on their soapbox. I know more than a couple of Tea Party devotees who scream that all government aid programs should be slashed yet are suckling at the taxpayers’ teats. One of them had the nerve to lecture me about people milking welfare when they’ve been on welfare for years. I guess it’s “OK for me, but not for thee.” Or take the inherent racism of some people who claim not to see race. Well, maybe they do when it allows them to pat themselves on the head for being so open-minded, but they sure as hell get upset when a black man makes a buck and says, “Yeah, it was hard work, education, and luck.”
So, they’re not supposed to own the counter? Just eat at it? Sounds a bit racist to me.
Yes, I know that sounds like an old Rush Limbaugh bit, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The point is we’re all guilty of hypocrisy, especially when we get up on our soapboxes and make bold declarations we can’t back up. It’s fine to take a stand, but make sure 1.) you understand no one’s obligated to give it credence or even listen to it, or 2.) remember you haven’t walked in the shoes of the person who disagrees with you. You can say you have, but you’d be deluding yourself.
It’s good to get involved in politics. Apathetic citizens get exactly the government they deserve, and so do those who decide the other side is evil. It’s a democracy (and don’t give me that bullshit that “It’s not, it’s a representative republic.” That’s a democracy, dumbass.). You’d better have someone who violently disagrees with you to hash things out with. We have 300 million people in this country. One-size fits all is too unrealistic to even qualify as fantasy.