I often find myself as an advocate for gay/women’s/civil/equal rights, and engaged with people who seem to be fueled only by fear and hatred of people who think differently than they do.
I write this column often from a contrarian position – I like playing Devil’s Advocate from time to time. As a self-professed “non-conformist” I have learned that it is important to question just about everything that conventional wisdom believes. The problem with the Information Age is that you can log on to the magical Internets and no matter how baseless, unfounded, or borderline retarded your particular view or position is chances are you can find somebody else just as stupid out there to agree with you.
Enter your modern day Republican party. Let me give some “real life” background: I was a registered Republican for a decade. I didn’t vote Democrat until the 2008 elections, and I still share some views that would be considered conservative (For example, I am pro-gun rights and pro-death penalty). I frankly, like many people in the current political environment, wish that we had better choices than just Coke and Pepsi. Think about that: What if your ONLY two drink choices were Coke or Pepsi? You couldn’t find anything else – Would that be enough to keep you happy for long? Not a lot of people like Coke or Pepsi. Sure, some of us will drink it if there is nothing else around, but one of the major components of democracy is freedom of choice. We don’t have that in politics right now, and it’s mostly the GOP’s fault.
When we start to cater to the extremes in any type of ideology, we run the risk of losing the 90% of people who aren’t on those outlying 5%, and that is what we’ve experienced since the 2010 elections. The sad thing is that there seems to be no end in site – It’s getting worse.
Mostly out of sheer boredom, I was “trolling” a group on Facebook called Liberal Trolls United. At first the level of ignorance was comical but rather quickly, it became a tragic looking glass into the misguided and ignorant position that many people in this country hold. I’m talking across-the-board ignorance: Obama is a Muslim. Obama is from Kenya. Obama failed out of college. Global warming/climate change is a hoax. The birth certificate is Photoshop – You get the point. Like most people who don’t like having their bubble burst with a bit of truthiness – they banned me from the page for not drinking the Kool-Aid.
The problem is that 30 years ago some asshole would walk into a bar spouting off this kind of nonsense and rather quickly somebody would smack a pool cue over their neanderthal forehead and quiet the crazy talk. Today these people find reinforcement in hatemongers like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Andrew Breitbart, and others who profit preying on the fear and stupidity of citizens too lazy to take 15 seconds to Google something they heard that may or may not be true. The problem is that Republicans want to treat a conversation about political reality like they were debating who the best quarterback of all time was. Facts are not subjective. You don’t get to decide what you agree with or disagree with when it comes to facts. You are more than welcome to interpret those facts as you see fit, and that should help shape (in an alternative reality where actual rational discourse was allowed and welcome) the debate. People don’t think Obama is an American because they just don’t “feel” like he’s “one of us” – despite the reality of the situation.
Think of how frustrating it would be to go back 500 years and argue that the Earth was NOT flat, or to go to Mississippi and argue that Jesus didn’t ride dinosaurs 7,000 years ago.
Now you try to look at something like global warming that somewhere around 97% of scientists say is a fact (you know, the guys who do this kind of stuff for a living) or evolution (where people still think that humans rode on dinosaurs 7,000 years ago despite the overwhelming fact that the Earth is billions of years old) and you wonder how you’ll ever reach those people. I don’t think I get more frustrated with ANYTHING in politics than trying to have a conversation about an issue with someone who isn’t playing with the same deck of “reality” cards that the rest of the educated world is playing with. Somehow this ignorance has become some sort of badge of learning-disabled courage for conservatives. The rest of the world is wrong. The scientists who have PhD’s and have devoted their lives to a subject are wrong. Nobel Prize-winning economists are wrong. I know better than ALL of them from my little trailer in the South because Sean Hannity said it’s all a liberal conspiracy. So hearing speculation from a TV blowhard negates experts on just about anything. It allows you to feel smart with Fox News on 24 hours a day, and your stash of gold somewhere in the backyard.
I created my own little facebook page called Politics Without The Crazy Pills to attempt to create a non-partisan place for people to discuss the actual issues facing our nation today. Sadly, people don’t respond to this kind of conversation. It’s not emotional, it’s not fun, and it’s not controversial. Fighting with a right-wing whackjob who thinks that Obama pals around with the Black Panthers is fun and emotional. Talking to somebody about Tax policy or military spending isn’t as sexy as defending Obama’s socialist regime.
Maybe that’s where we went wrong. Maybe when politics became entertainment instead of our constitutional DUTY to know and understand we lost the fight. Maybe when the “mainstream media” decided that ratings were more important than reporting the truth we lost our way.
2 years ago I would have been furious at the hypocrisy in the same Republicans yelling about birth certificates and transparency in government not having an issue with Mitt Romney refusing to release his tax returns. And here comes the problem: Republicans say things like, “Yeah well, Obama won’t show anyone his college records from Harvard 30 years ago.” as though him getting a C in Chemistry when he was 21 years old somehow invalidates his positions as the Leader of the Free World. Somehow THAT is the same thing as a man “applying for the job” of President and who is running on a platform that includes heavy economic reform based on his own success not releasing his tax returns. For the one year that we have, Romney paid an effective tax rate of around 13.9% – lower than most of us. Rich people can afford amazing accountants and offshore accounts (all legal, by the way) to help them hide their money, which is why when they complain about paying higher taxes I laugh. Romney’s taxes would show an even lower amount of taxes paid in the past because he wasn’t running for president back then and thus, didn’t have to worry about hiding his money.
It’s not about punishing a rich guy, and it’s not about class warfare. If the foundation of your candidacy is cutting taxes for millionaires while raising taxes on the rest of us, you damn sure better have some solid evidence to support your claim that rick folks (like you) are paying a fuckload more than 13% in taxes. Otherwise, you might not have a lot of credibility on that point, eh?
But hey, don’t let a little thing like facts get in the way of making an informed decision on who is running the country.