Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election Reflections Part 1

I am going to break my self imposed ban on writing about politics for a series of 3 or 4 posts. I really should say that I will be writing about political culture. I will tell you that my tolerance is very low for interactive discussion that devalues another’s opinion and I really won’t tolerate that behavior in the comment box. Consider yourselves forewarned.

In fact that idea is the subject of this initial post. Is it just me or have we sunk into new lows in our political discourse? This is not a new observance for me, I have been aware of it for several years.

I participated in a discussion on a video recently. The video consisted of an exchange between CNN reporter Aaron Brown and cartoonist Aaron McGruder. During McGruders hateful diatribe against the president he states that “Beliefs don’t mean anything if you are stupid.”

This comment was met with resounding cheers from commenters that believed it to be a remarkably intellectual statement. I don’t see it that way. I think the comment is soundly failing in logic, compassion and benevolence.

In my mind it is a remarkable display of both arrogance and ignorance that accompanies a mindset of hatefulness. I pointed out to the commenters that it is perfectly possible to have beliefs that effectively guide your life even if we might not have graduated from a northeastern prep school. Actually I used Forrest Gump as an example in my rebuttal trying to help them understand that the fictional character Gump had a profound belief in the power of love for his mother and for Ginny, and that his beliefs were (while fictional) nevertheless meaningful.

I was thinking in a philosophical context that separated the statement from its political hatefulness and placed it instead into the context of human reasoning and simple examination of its base logic.

As you might imagine I was immediately told that I was comparing Bush to a retard and that that somehow proved their point that I was defending the president and this made me stupid as well. The discussion culminated in a commenter declaring me a 13 year old f **** retard. If you would like to follow this predictable and sometimes bizarre discussion it can be found here . I am the commenter Sleepy7.

Now it is important to know I am essentially a political independent and cast no particular lot with either party. As a matter of information you can consider me a limited government advocate. A deadlocked Congress is a wonderful thing to me since it means the government will not actually function except in emergencies, an assessment with which Wall Street agrees.

I do enjoy an intelligent and reasoned discussion. The problem I am seeing across our country is that the process of discussing points of politics or culture often digresses into one party calling another one nasty names if you are not a member of their ideological camp.

In my opinion one of the hallmarks of intelligence and the development of useful social discourse is the ability to listen and accept that another’s position and understanding is important and meaningful to them even if we disagree with their opinion. The fact that they hold a different opinion is not the same as delivering a death sentence to our own beliefs.

In the case of the ‘you tube discussion’ it appeared the audience was unable to excise the intellectual examination of the logic of McGruders comment from their intense hatred of conservatives and the president. The fact that I would challenge the statement immediately set me as a conservative enemy in their mind and the hateful venom was quickly ejected. What is comical to me is that Bush is far too liberal for most conservatives and yet is widely despised by liberals. It’s a strange and hateful political world we occupy. I would leave everyone with this thought. Not everything in our lives or judgment carries political party implications. Perhaps we could all act in a more thoughtful and reasonable manner when dealing with our neighbors beliefs?

Beliefs do mean something to anyone that holds them; even if you are not a northeastern seaboard ‘blue state’ cartoon artist that is all too ready to dismiss the beliefs of those he considers inadequate.


Anonymous said...

Seven, I consider myself fairly neutral in politics. Interestingly, most others don't agree. Conservatives see me as liberal, and vice versa. In other words, I don't seem to please many others.

I agree with you on at least part of this. I'm not a fan or Mr. Bush, however, I'm tired to death of "bashing" techniques in politics (and the public), period. The hateful political ads, filled with mud slinging smears against the other candidate drive me nuts. I was highly impressed with a couple politicians here in NM who had great ads, self-focused, naming accomplishments rather than slamming the others. It was good to see them each win their posts. And, BTW, one was Democrat, the other Republican. How refreshing that they were willing to put themselves out there!

I'd love to see the politicians lead the way in reforming and cleaning up the process of politics. Perhaps by winning respect of constituents, they could set the pace for the rest of us. I don't think it is necessary for us to pretend what isn't possible, but I'd surely like to see a return of respect all around. One can express opinions without vile tactics.

Ilias- said...

Good to hear your voice.

Anonymous said...

i do enjoy your writing seven. And i too hold on to the princple that beliefs are not conditional.

i'm back from finishing my exams and stuff and it's feels pretty good to be back!

Seven said...

Unfortunately I find that the politicians actually offer a more tempered approach than the masses offer. I think this is because the masses do not have to answer to the press or constituents for hateful positions and name calling. I do agree that the overall tenor of political discourse, even from politicians, has grown more coarse in recent years. I will write again about my beliefs in the temporal nature of politics as compared to the foundational beliefs in our lives. That part comes later. Its always great to hear from you, and I have been reading about the house search!

Ditto my friend...and I see you have been doing lots of life walking lately!

I know you must have put in a stellar performance in academia recently and it is wonderful to see you again! And that is an unconditional expression of my beliefs!

Rick said...

So far, I'm sticking to my self-imposed ban on political topics. That, and I refuse to argue with anyone who's wrong.

Seven said...

Professor Leonard,
That is smart of you. My intention is try and talk a little about the remarkable and unnecessary hate that corrupts our rational discourse. Maybe like sticking fireworks up our ass kind of confusion?

Jenn said...

The political campaigns reminded me much of my divorce.

Once the mud has been's sometimes only willpower that keeps it from being thrown back. I'll be candid - I want to sling back. I really, really do. And I have real mud. Not just made up stuff. But I don't sling.

And that doesn't make a difference to anyone but me.

I think your topic today ties in fairly well with the post you wrote about speaking one's own mind - even when it's not the general consensus.

The masses tend to persecute anyone who doesn't have their matter which side they are on....all sides do it. I'd lay down money that when you entered the chat you mention - some people actually thought...hmmm...he has a point. But they didn't want to stand out alone to say that.

And so the mud keeps a' slingin'. Somehow that's easier.

Seven said...

Yes it is intended to tie into the previous post and that is very observant of you. I think you are dead on center here; it's just too easy to go with the herd.

patti_cake said...

It's just a shame when it comes down to the nitty gritty people tend to just get defensive,mean,childish,petty. Politics. Bah. and to think I majored in poli sci :)

Reach said...

I, too, try to steer clear of diving to deep into political debate for two reasons:
1) I stand by my oath to protect the Office of the President and I think it not just to participate in hostile conversation, and
2) I remember the days that the United States citizens respected the Office of the President.

With that said, it is my belief that more of the populace do not remember days of respect. A new generation is hitting the ballots- a respectless generation. Unfortunately, I worry of our future voters if this trend continues. We, the elder voters, truly need to speak up and the Politicians need to listen on this topic.

Only my thoughts,


Seven said...

I agree with all that you say. The problem with lack of respect, in my opinion, began with a disrespectful president.
The failure to respect the individuals that have given their lives in service to their country (such as yourself) lowered the threshold for respect.
The lack of respect shown more recently is in large part media driven and in other parts the time honored tradition of young people protesting war. In some measure this has always been healthy since the young are the ones that die, but I think recently there has been a blur occuring between protest and a media cultivated disrespect/hate for the president that is short of logical and ignorant in the skill of our own self-preservation.
Much of the idea the we protest war as a tradition was generated by my generation in the Vietnam era. The same people of my generation now own the corner offices of major media communications.
However many ways they wish to spin the idea that Iraq is like Vietnam it will never past elemental tests of logic. The threat of terrorism is far more likely to kill my children and yours than anything the Vietnam conflict ever presented.
I think the young despise the very man that works tirelessly to protect them in large part because my generation has instructed them to do so in a fit of nostalgia and cultural rut-running, and I find this to be an appalling statement about my generation and its ability to adjust to different conditions.
I lay the blame at my own generations footstep which unfortunately included a very disrespectful president.

Seven said...

I cherish a good discussion. What I really find annoying is when we find political discourse that instead of relying on reasoned expression of opinion becomes a game of calling one another a f**** retard. As an example, you will see that I agree in large part with Reach above and so that one is easy for me to respond to. However if my next reader takes me to task on my comments, i welcome the discussion, but expect it to be accomplished in a respectful manner that falls short of calling me, Reach or you any foul names and discounting our opinion as the expellings of a bovine.
Glad you are back and I had no idea you were a Poli Sci major!

Rob said...

Discussing polictics, religion and marriage, particularly in open forums, is dangerous and frequently ends up being a toxic pill instead of a healing patch albeit clumsily applied. I feel for Seven, who wears his honesty and integrity out there on his sleve-less tank top. I especially think he is correct with the assessment that we have a disrespectful president. I've had this uneasy feeling that he really doesn't appreciate the graviational pull his words and antics have on the American psyche.
Can you imagine someone like Churchill saying "Bring it on!" That kind of rhetoric appeals to only a certain type of individual, one that uses four letter words to express the emotional flotsam they consider reason and belief.
I think we will be hearing in the next several months just how much the rest of the world respects us via the persona of the President. There's going to be a lot humble pie served this Thanksgiving.
I also feel for the religous right in this country. They were promised a lot things when they were wooed by this administration, and not just the second presidential election. They trusted this administration, and we see that they were basically lied to. How can the leader of this county face those people now?Oh, just give us another four years! Have they no shame? Better to be a knight for truth, than a pawn of deceit.

Enemy of the Republic said...

I want to apologize if some people on my blog have made you feel angry or dismissed. I know the Bush haters get very passionate. As you know, I am no fan of the current administration, but I have more in common with the so-called red states than the blue. I am not politically correct. I am not a liberal or even left. I oppose the war, largely for moral and almost libertarian reasons. Sometimes I side with various viewpoints, but the left and I part ways in my version of pro-life (I don't support abortion, although I recognize there are cases in which it must be done) and I also oppose capital punishment(so I lose the right, but if you are pro-life, you cannot give the government the authority to kill--punish yes, but not execute). I recognize the emotional satisfaction that capital punishment brings, but again, it doesn't coorespond with my beliefs and I even did a blog on it, comparing costs and proving it is cheaper to keep someone in prison without parole that to go through the execution process. What's my point? You are right: people get rude. Lately I've been more irate due to work pressures and I think it's come out on my blog, but I agree: no one should endure disrespect for an honest belief. As for what Rob says, I totally agree. If Bush were elected for helping us acheive a higher moral ground (and I do admit that I was grateful at first when he won solely because I was sick of Clinton's sleaze), but these guys were even worse.

I will be rejoining Ponder again once I get my work ducks in a row. Again, tell me that we are still pals and buds!

Seven said...

No worries. Your voice is always one of reason and respect for others and I am honored that you come here and consider you my reasoned, wise and articulate friend. Please understand that I have the skin of a rhino and great conviction in my personal beliefs. When others are overtly rude the only discomfort I feel is that our national discourse has grown so coarse and less absorbent of different opinions. When I react I am reacting in the hope of making this point to my detractors. Sadly, the point is often missed.
Funny that you would bring up the idea that liberal and conservative positions can be so easily turned upside down. I have a position that always gets me into discussion hell. It goes like this; abortion and gun control both fall under the same personal rights doctrine. Those that believe in a woman's right to choose cannot turn about and declare that a man cannot own a gun. The reverse equation is also true in my opinion; they are both personal rights issues in which the governemnt should have no part.
As far as the war situation goes I think a couple of Democrats have made a very good point that it is not 'cut and run' to expect the Iraqi government to police its new republic. It is also time I think to test the Bush Doctrine that all people love and will fight for freedom. Here is the interesting thing about this concept. This self-reliance notion is deeply conservative in concept and I fear the Democrats cannot fully embrace this message because it feels so foreign to them. Or perhaps they feel that no plan is the best plan since it can all be blamed on the Bush Admin no matter what happens. Still this message of testing the self reliance of the Iraqi people once crystallized into message is remarkably difficult for conservative to refute without obvious hypocrisy and most will not reject it. Most conservatives preach and sincerely believe in self reliance and self determination.
The most disconcerting thing to me is to be told I am a f**** retard or being ridiculous, rather than a simple "I disagree with you for these reasons". Again, for the most part, as in the youtube discussion, I literally laugh my way through partisan political hatred, but I think my detractors blood pressure was elevated and I consider that a moral victory.

Anonymous said...

As soon as a discussion or comment begins with "You liberals..." or "You conservatives..." I tune out. I'd spend my time more productively trying to convince Osama bin Laden to come down out of the mountains and caves.

Politics these days tend to be an extremely hateful, caustic, and vitriolic topic to discuss and rare is the discussion participant that will only debate the issue rather than the participants in the debate.

I don't affiliate with any specific party because my world and life views tend to be mid-line, depending on the issues. Conservative when it comes to crime and punishment, liberal when it comes to societal issues.

My beliefs are my beliefs and they are based on my life's experiences, my upbringing, my spiritual beliefs, and what I see around me. To be called stupid or ignorant because of those beliefs is an assault on my person, not my stand on the issues.

As a member of the GLBT community that is fighting for equality in this country, I try really hard to understand the religious views that true Christians have, and I respect their beliefs. I don't consider their beliefs ignorant, stupid, or anything other than their personal value systems working.

It's the likes of Swaggart, Robertson, Dobson, and unfortunately, even the Pope who I cannot find any respect for, as they insist on using their positions of power to force their own beliefs and values on the world's societies.

And I stay right out of discussions concerning these people whom I cannot respect for that very reason -- because I cannot respect them and, as such, cannot reasonably and logically discuss them with anyone without insinuating my personal opinion into the discussion instead of logic and rational thought.

I have a negative opinion of Bush -- not because he has pushed for a Constitutional amendment to deprive me of what I feel are my rights as an American citizen, but because of what I perceive to be an abuse of power and pandering to special interest groups. Unfortunately, as soon as anyone realizes my sexual orientation, my positions are attacked because of that, rather than for their merit (or lack thereof).

It frightens me to see what politics is becoming these days...

Seven said...

I understand what you are saying. I have found myself also avoiding discussions of specific individuals for the same reason.
I have no idea really what it feels like to be gay and oppressed by others, however there are parts of my life where I swim in streams separate from what might be considered the norm.
In those cases, my behavior(which doesn't harm others in any way)was used to form a bias that has been very hurtful to me. I know this must be similar to what you feel. Years ago I saw an interview with Greg Louganis that left a powerful and lasting mark on me. Being raised in the homophobic south of the 60's I was not much removed from making fun. But in the interview I truly merged myself with his thought "why can't people just let me be what I want to be if I'm not hurting anyone" I have felt that pain and hurt in my life and immediately identified it as the feeling he was articulating. I have felt differently about gay sexuality since that day.
Bottom line I guess is that we as humans learn from mistakes and evolve from what we learn. Unfortunately we usually learn quickest from the things in life that create pain.
So the question becomes when will political activists have absorbed enougn pain? That progression of thought can make me sad.

Rob said...

7, on that point. I recently saw a photo taken of Jesse Jackson at the Mall, is face twisted and sobbing. Is he, a political activist spanning decades, feeling the pain? I haven't always agreed with him, but that picture drove home something. There are moments even when everyone IS looking that you show your true character. Sometimes it is better to have lived and lost, than to never have lived at all. There's a lot to be said for longevity because it means you CAN absorb enough pain.

Seven said...

I know I have been guity here of making negative comments about Jesse Jackson and I consider myself a detractor of his message that 'little black children have no hope in America today", a comment I actually heard him make. I dont necessarily challenge his truths, but rather his message. I think I remember from past posts that you also have constructed a racially integrated family like myself?
However, the fact that I have written about him in the negative is counter to the own preaching in my blog. You make an excellent point that no matter our own feelings and beliefs we should all honor that his are meaningful and real to him. When attacked I know he must feel the same human pain as each of us.
My great sin to my family is that I enjoy being in the sunshine in the clothes God gave me. A simple love of naturism and distate for clothing is my alleged sin. My fundamentalist family has had harsh words over the years, yet this tendency of mine has been with me since my childhood and is truly a part of 'who I am'. I think my preferred lifestyle is well understood in your home of Florida. Nevertheless I have endured the harsh judgment of family on this issue of simply being who I am. This is what I took from the interview with Louganis, the idea that he is like me in his pain. He was in tears and I truly understood what he was saying.
My larger point to Pat is that from our own pain can come change. Has Jesse had enough? If so it may embolden him to hold his own or it may cause him to re-think his positions. I guess those are always the questions we face as march along toward longevity. How much pain brings change and how much brings resolution about what we believe.