Sunday, December 9, 2012

You're Not Supposed to Think That!

Just because others march in lock-step to some leader, doesn't mean you have to (unless you are in the Army).

One comment I got from some angry folks was that I was in error for not thinking in a certain way.  They felt that I should buy one brand of political soap - and buy all the accessory brands as well.   Apparently they read my postings about self-determination and being responsible for your own choices, and assumed I was a Libertarian or something.  Others would read the same posts and assume I was Republican.   Still others would read my posts supporting President Obama over some lying sack of shit, and assume I was a Democrat or a Liberal.

And these people get pissed off, because my opinions here are not like a matched set of luggage.   You are not supposed to think that!  If you are a fiscal conservative, they reason, you must also be against abortions, gay marriage, the "war on Christmas" and the whole Fox News opinion package.   You can't pick and choose, cafeteria style, like some Catholic!  It is all or nothing!  If you aren't three shades shy of fascist, then you are just a RINO - Republican in Name Only!  Right?

And of course, if you are not "Right Wing" then you must assume the caricature of liberalism and be in support of all sorts of wacky things that far-out people on the left advocate.   After all, if you can't be a punching bag and straw-man, what the hell good are you?

The lefties are no better.  For them, Chis Matthews is a God, and if you are a Democrat or support a Democratic candidate, then by definition, you support the welfare state, "occupy" protesters and the legalization of marijuana.  And by God, if you don't support their agenda, then you are one of those Republi-pukes who wants to throw us all into death camps and turn American into a Fundamentalist Christian Nation!

"You've got to pick a side!" the both shout from the sidelines, "You can't simply have your own opinions on things!"   And this really pisses them off.  Like the title character in the book Life of Pi, you can't just sample from multiple religions - you have to pick one - or so the imam, priest, or pandit will say.

Like most Americans, I am "none of the above" and the major political parties don't seem to get that.  The majority of people in this country like to think for themselves, and resent the idea that you have to "follow" one party or one politician or take "tax pledges" or whatever load of crap they want you to sign up for, in order to control your thoughts and actions.

In fact, this is why most people identify themselves as "independents" and why the crackpots at both ends of the political spectrum want to close primaries to all but the party faithful.

Most Americans are kind and considerate people.  No one wants to see anyone starve or Granny denied medical care.  On the other hand, we don't appreciate otherwise healthy people going on "disability" at age 40 for "carpal tunnel syndrome" when they have never worked a day in their lives.  We want a safety net - but one that is managed properly.   We don't just want to abolish government because it doesn't always work perfectly.

But then again, we also realize that the people scraping by on Social Security are doing just that - scraping by.  They are not making $22 million a year by loading up companies with debt and then bankrupting them or taking them public and dumping worthless stock on the unsuspecting.   Most Americans favor "free enterprise" - but we don't consider that deception, fraud, trickery, insider trading, and other scams are "free enterprise" at all, but rather "criminal enterprise".

We don't have any problem with someone becoming wildly successful in this country, provided it is based on honest work, creating wealth, and based on their own merits.   Most of us do not look upon inherited wealth with awe, but rather as some sort of sickly perversion.   And no, we don't think a smarmy guy who makes a million bucks running a string of check-cashing stores is a national hero or a "jobs creator".

I think most Americans are mystified as to the media's fascination with people like Donald Trump or Sarah Palin - and quite frankly are sick of both.

But what we are really sick of is this pressure - from idiots at both ends of the political spectrum - to try to push us into their corner.   And they do this often by lying about stuff, which is never helpful.

For example, in my posting about 50 Million Americans on Welfare, I pointed out that the number of people on traditional "welfare" has stayed pretty flat over the last four years.   The GOP, in trying to incite race-war, has taken the number of people on all government programs except Social Security can dubbed them "Welfare" - often double- or triple-counting the same people who are on multiple programs.

Unemployment benefits are just that - not "welfare".   And when you tell someone who is unemployed that 50 million people are on "welfare" and that is why he can't find a job - you are lying, plain and simple.   And you are neglecting to tell him that you consider him to be one of those 50 million.

As I pointed out in that post (the second most popular on this blog) the issue of welfare reform is an important one.  But we can't have a reasonable discussion based on lying and misrepresentation of the facts.

And I think most Americans would agree with this.  We are sick and tired of misrepresentations of basic facts.  Things like "50 million Americans on Welfare!" and "Romney Created Jobs in the Private Sector!" and "If you raise taxes on the wealthy, they will not hire people!" are all basically lies and easily disproven by even a moment's thought.

And most Americans pretty much saw through these lies, which is why Romney lost.  Granted a lot of people repeated these mantras, but most of them were not very bright people - people who did not think for themselves, but rather were all-too-willing to try on opinions like a set of clothes.

And the response to that posting was interesting.   Those on the far Left thought I was "one of them" and favored expanding the welfare state.  Those on the far right thought I was a "traitor to the cause" and was providing ammunition to the "opposition".


The point is, truth is what matters in these sort of philosophical debates.  And both sides are often far-too-willing to bend the truth in order to gain political advantage.

But what was disturbing about the responses to that post was the idea that you can't think like that.   That someone one's opinions are something bought "off the shelf" as a package deal from one party or the other, and that by taking one point of view, one must buy a whole host of odious accessory views that go with it.

And heaven forbid, if you try to see both sides of an issue!

But again, I think Americans are indeed smarter than that.   One reason Americans often elect one party to the Presidency and an opposing party to the House or Senate, is that we are not all of one voice on any issue, and that we prefer stasis in our government, no matter how many dire "crises" are predicted or called out.

And we are allowed to do that.   Most Americans don't see these manufactured crises in Washington as the big deal, but rather for the political gamesmanship that they are.

"Crises" are often use - historically - to push people into ideological corners.  And often these crises are manufactured or enhanced in order to get people to vote for a particular politician.   Whether it is the hyper-inflation of the Wiemar Republic, the threat of Communism in the 1950's, riots in the 1960's,  recession in 1979 or 2009 - or the "war on terror" -  a candidate will use such "crises" to get elected and push public opinion his way.

Eventually, though, people fatigue of such perpetual "crises" and it is hard to get the public riled up about Communists in the State Department or Mosques at Ground Zero.

It's OK to think for yourself - and in fact, it really is the only way to get ahead in the world, by perceiving it as you perceive it, not as you are told to perceive it.