Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Obsessing About Politics

People take politics too seriously.  When you wish ill-will on a sick old woman, it is time to step back and take stock of where you are going.

In two recent items in the news, news celebrities were taken to task for insulting comments they made about a young man from Parkland High School who is advocating for gun control.  These celebrity newscasters, among others, have gone beyond really debating the pros and cons of gun control, but have made it their job to personally attack this young man and say horrible and sometimes vicious things about him - suggesting violence or even death.

Sadly, this is the level of discourse in our country today with regard to politics.  People on both sides of the political spectrum take politics far too seriously.  And oddly enough, their political viewpoints are rather shallow - the "hooray for our side, too bad for the other guy!" kind of mentality that is only ankle-deep in thought.

It was reported in the news that Barbara Bush is seriously ill and is refusing further treatment.  It is likely that she will pass away soon.  A friend of mine who is on the far left said, when she heard this news, "Good!  She deserves to die!"  I was a bit taken aback by this as it seems rather harsh. Whatever the faults of her husband or her son as Presidents were,  I'm not sure that they are transferable to the elder Mrs. Bush.

Indeed, I don't think it would be proper to be wishing ill-health or death upon even either of the Bush Presidents.  Regardless of how you feel about their political views in their actions in office, I don't think wishing death upon them is appropriate.

But it is not a Left or Right thing.  Ted Nugent made headlines (and got a visit from the Secret Service) after he went on a rant and threatened to machine-gun President Obama and Hillary Clinton to death.   This is not deep political thought - just partisan nonsense.  Dangerous partisan nonsense.

Today, however, it seems this is the new norm.  Politics has become a contact sport.  And in contact sports it is an all-out effort to win at all cost, regardless of the damage to your opponents.

There was a time in this country when people had political opinions but didn't take them so seriously.  People would talk about politics and they would vote and there was about the extent of it.  They wouldn't hate their neighbor for having different political views, much less wanting to cause them harm or taking joy in their misfortunes.

Somewhere along the line - by design - we have been coached into this mentality where we not only disagree with our fellow citizens, but wish them ill will if they disagree with our political opinions. It's not enough that we want them to lose elections, but we want them to crawl into the grave and die.

And sadly, a few deranged minds act upon this mentality and take potshots at elected officials, sometimes scoring direct hits.  When we create an environment where politics are so highly charged and we view our opponents not as human beings but as mere objects, this is the inevitable outcome.

I'm quite certain that if I were to sit down with Barbara Bush, I would have a nice conversation with her, provided we didn't talk too much about politics.  But even then, I think we could have a civil discussion and I could respect her viewpoints and she likely would respect mine.  I may disagree with her, but I don't hate her for being who she is or having the experiences that she's had in her life that lead her to have the opinions that she does have.

Because that's all political opinions are - a result of our experiences and values that we develop as human beings.  And often these are based on our upbringing, our education, where we live, and who we interact with.  We may think our political opinions are deeply held personal values, but it is quite startling how people can change their mind about politics - often 180 degree turns, and often on more than one occasion.

The hippie that wants to burn down the system in 1968 and says "stick it to the man!" ends up becoming a yuppie in 1980 and votes for Ronald Reagan.  It is the same person with two diametrically opposed views.  And neither their views nor the person are abhorrent but rather quite normal.  Does the hippie of 1968 really want to murder the yuppie he becomes in 1980 or vice-versa?  I think not.  Yet today, people think nothing of wishing death on those who disagree with them - even if they may have disagreed with the themselves of a few short years ago.

We should debate the views, but not the person.  We need to stop turning politics into a series of personal attacks.  Because personal attacks don't address the underlying issues. And if the issues stand on their own, they don't need to rely on personal attacks.  One sure way to tell if someone is wrong in a political debate is if they resort to personal attacks.  Because that means they have nothing really to say to defend their viewpoint.

From a personal perspective, taking such extreme political views and obsessing about politics in general does absolutely nothing for your own personal bottom line.  It does not make you wealthier, or happier, or more productive.   On the contrary, it distracts you (again, by design) from your own life and your own business.  It alienates you from co-workers, friends, spouses, and potential clients and employers.  And such simmering anger can make you unhappy, mentally imbalanced, and even affect your physical health.

It's just bad for you, so don't do it.  All you are doing is giving up your own life to be a pawn in someone else's game.

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HINT:  If you are talking with someone who has rabid political views diametrically opposed to your own, don't try to argue with them - it simply won't work, and you will just make an enemy out of a friend.   What I try to do is say, "Well, you might be right about that!" and change the subject.  They think you are agreeing with them, when in fact, you aren't.  Trying to "convert" people to your political point-of-view, I have learned, the hard way, is pointless.

The only thing more pointless, is getting into a political discussion with someone who agrees with you.