Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Politics of Politics

Fair warning:  this post will make you mad.  If you have any political leaning at all, it will at any rate.  Just keep in mind when it does that you've just proved my point...

...which is that we are a highly polarized society, the like of which I personally have never experienced before, and we have somehow lost sight of the fact that there can be more than one reasonable opinion on any given issue and, for the most part, we all value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for both ourselves and our neighbors.  Just because our neighbor goes about that pursuit of happiness a bit differently than we do or look different as they do it does not make them anti-American.

I remember the night Barack Obama won the Presidential election.  Most of us do, but for me it was particularly memorable in that I sat and watched the election results with my Mother's night attendant, a hippy-esque young woman with definite left-leaning views.  It would be the last night my mother would ever spend in her own home, and we, in our exuberance, really wrecked it for her.  Mother never thought of herself as a bigot, she just felt that individuals of color had their place, and it was not in the Oval Office.  Maybe the White House kitchen would be okay.  Why did she think that?  Why did people once believe that innocent young women in Salem were witches?  I won't try to justify either position, but I just accept that's the way it was.  At any rate, aside from getting into a fairly nasty argument with Mother, I did have the nagging feeling, even as I celebrated the victory, that we were really in the soup now.  The fringe elements of the right wing would mobilize almost certainly as a reaction to this particular President in a way they couldn't or wouldn't for anyone else, not even a female President.

I didn't realize just how right I would be.  The Tea Party was born out of that election.  And, like the rudimentary law of psychics, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  So, it was no surprise either that the fringe element of the left wing galvanized to come forth and do battle with the Tea Baggers (or whatever they call themselves).  What I didn't anticipate was that my husband would be one of them.

Let me give you some background first.  For all our lives together, I've been the political one.  I'm the one with the iron clad, no bending, this-is-the-way-it-is viewpoints, and he's been more or less along for the ride.  I guess they call what I am socially progressive these days as opposed to liberal.  But, whatever you label me, I favor social programs, a strong federal government, and of course I was very pro-health care reform.  I am not anti-business.  For crying out loud, I owned one.  I am, however, a proponent of government watching out for the interest of the individuals as opposed to the needs of big business.  I am not of the ilk that if you nurture business, it will trickle down to the little people.  Nurturing big business, in my opinion, primarily nurtures big business owners.  The ideology of "trickle down" is flawed to my mind.  Greg agreed with me politically for the most part, but didn't really get fired up about it, and he never got overly bothered when others saw things differently than we did.  He did become more engaged during the Presidential election.  He began watching Keith Olbermann with me most nights and, even when I'd need to take a break from Olbermann's - oh, what's the word? - single-mindedness, he would watch it without me.  After he stopped working, with time on his hands, he began to be obsessed with most of the prime time MSNBC shows.

I first realized he had gone over the deep left end when we were watching the debate over the First Responders bill back in July.  We watched the clips of New York Republican Peter King and then the fiery response of Anthony Weiner, and I made the comment that King had a point.  The Dems were, I felt it was pretty clear, playing politics with a bill that almost any American would want passed, knowing that the Republicans would line up against it procedurally, and it would give them a bully pulpit from which to point out how Republicans didn't care about the little man.  The way I saw it, none of them did - well maybe Weiner did. That seemed highly sincere.  But, it was gamesmanship with some of the most worthy of us all caught in the balance.  That's how I see it, that's how I called it. Greg became angry and told me I wasn't a true liberal.  Those are fighting words.  I got in his face, wagging my finger, and told him never to say that to me again.  That sort of shook him out of it a bit.  I think we both realized it was a stupid fight.

The next example came a short time later when Olbermann had Howard Dean on his show to discuss the proposed Mosque at Ground Zero.  I don't always agree with Howard Dean, but I agree with his stance in this instance.  To me, it seems reasonable, with a mind to various points of view.  But, unfortunately, for all the heat he's taken, it seems overly idealistic.  I think that time my husband accused me of not being liberal enough.  When in the world did we start quantifying what is liberal enough?  When suddenly did my spouse decide that my opinion was wrong, just like my socially conservative neighbors have always seemed to think it was wrong?  Wow.

Those two episodes combined got me to thinking about how it seems that people have now propelled themselves into these sharp corners and are clinging to them as though to let go is to risk death at the hands of the members of the enemy camp in the other far corner.  To my neighbors I would say:  I love my country just like you do.  I just see the role of government differently than you do.  I respect your right to your opinion, as long as it is respectfully spoken and doesn't impede on my right to my own.  I'd like to think you would listen to my point of view, but I know that you won't so just please don't impinge on my right to express it, and I will try, in kind, not to spit on that Don't Tread on Me flag one of you had flying on the public utility pole that my taxes pay for each and every time I go by. To my husband I would say pretty much the same thing, minus the flag part (which has subsequently been taken down - I think because my husband called the utility company to complain about it).

Somewhere along the way we lost the ability to be civil about our civil discourse.

1 comment:

  1. It didn't make me mad - it made me laugh. It made me remember my Mom and Dad fighting over presidential elections (which my Mom usually won because she actually understood the platforms). My Dad was a Republican with democratic leanings and my mother is a liberal Democrat (no leanings). Though, in the last 10-15 years of their marriage I think she either schooled him or wore him down, because he was definitely a Democrat in the last years. So, look at the bright side - it didn't take you 45 years of marriage to change his mind. :)