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If You Like the Other Guy, Who is Evil, You Also are Evil . . . Apparently

September 2nd, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I am a racist.  I am a moron who doesn’t understand what is best for me.  I hate poor people and women.  I want old people to die.  I am a fascist and a Nazi.  Apparently, if I don’t want President Obama to be elected for a second term, all of these things must be true. That’s what I read from a lot of liberal writers and hear from many of those who have the loudest mouthpieces for their party.  And frankly, I’m a bit disappointed in myself.  I always thought better of me than that.

And, as seen from the graphic above (which I’ve seen on the Facebook pages of three people recently), you’ve got to be pretty messed up to support Obama as well.  (You really can’t win, can you?)  Here we see the implication that President Obama is among the likes of Mao Tse-tong, who killed tens of millions of his own people through forced starvation and the Cultural Revolution, Hitler, who orchestrated the systematic genocide of nearly an entire ethnic group (you try finding a single Jewish person who can’t tell you of at least one grandparent, aunt, or sibling who was slaughtered in the Holocaust . . . won’t happen), and Lenin, who signed off on the Red Terror, executed religious leaders and intellectuals, and also starved many of his own people. To put President Obama next to those other men is absurd and insulting.  I don’t want the government running my health care, either, but I’m not worried that I am going to be shipped off to a concentration camp in Idaho after being ripped apart from my screaming children, where I will be deprived of basic human necessities for months before my skeletal, hardly functioning frame is marched into a small room in which I will be gassed before my lifeless body is dumped into a pit like trash.  But, maybe I’m just naive.

Look, I am not a supporter of President Obama’s political philosophy or a majority of the specific policies he has/wishes to put in place for our nation.  I believe that our Constitution, and what makes our country so exceptional and amazing, functions as it was intended when we hold true to our founding principle of  limited government.  President Obama has a much different take on what the role of government should be.  Fine.  I won’t vote for him.  But let me also be clear on another point.  I don’t think the president is evil.  I don’t think he is the anti-Christ.  I don’t think he is an a**hole or a scumbag or a myriad of other names I don’t believe you ever should call our president . . . any president. Those of you who called Bush a fascist idiot and a pile of s*** when he was president — that was wrong, too. Not because we don’t have freedom of speech and not because the president is above criticism, but because it cheapens the political discourse and because the casual use of terms like Nazi and the coarse language that is often scrawled across poster board does nothing to make you sound reasonable and legitimate.

I think Mitt Romney is a fundamentally good man who loves his wife and kids and who wants to do what he thinks is best for the country.  I think Barack Obama is a fundamentally good man who loves his wife and kids and who wants to do what he thinks is best for the country.  Let’s talk about their different agendas.  They have two very distinct visions for the United States, and those are good discussions to have.  Let’s get passionate about it!  Let’s protest when we think something is wrong and let’s affirm with our votes and our words of support when we like what we are seeing.  But, stop jumping to these ridiculous and counterproductive extremes.  Stop screaming that all Obama supporters are  ______________ or that all Romney supporters are ________________.  (Choose your own insults for the spaces provided)

Here’s the sad truth, and this development does honestly upset me.  I don’t love politics nearly as much as I used to.  I’ve been following elections since I was in elementary school.  I was active in the political life of my college campus and interned in D.C.  When I moved to Tennessee a decade ago, most of the people I met my first year were tied to the political process.  I could talk about politicians and debates on the floor of the House and the new bill coming before the Metro Council for hours.  Not so much anymore.  I still love the history of our government and thinking about policy issues, but the level of discourse has left me almost wanting to walk away from any active engagement.  It’s so nasty and so crass and nearly devoid of thought or respect.

Some people will argue politics has always been this way.  Andrew Jackson had plenty of mud slung at him when he ran for office.  Grover Cleveland had that nifty jingle written about his illegitimate child.  Heck, there probably was a smear campaign against Hammurabi.  I think it is worse today, though,  and I largely blame the internet and social media.

People can be much bolder in their ugliness when they can hide behind the anonymity of their computer keyboard.  An insulting photo or a ridiculous accusation can be “tweeted” around the globe in seconds.  Angry people can find each other much faster and gain courage from one another. And, this phenomenon has extended its impact beyond the online world in two unfortunate ways.  First, we now have a traditional print media that, in its rush to stay relevant, is trying to one-up the online outlets in tabloid trash.  If it’s incendiary, print it.  Second, the coarseness with which we communicate with one another on Facebook and chat rooms and blogs has carried over to “real life” interactions.  We have become so desensitized to the appalling disregard for basic courtesies and conversation skills that we find during the many hours we are plugged into our electronic devices, that we bring that same behavior to town hall meetings and candidate forums and even chats about the campaign with some friends over a couple of beers.

I’m not checking out of the process yet.  I’m still someone who makes sure her voter registration is updated before utilities are turned on when she moves.  I love the energy every time I go home and walk around D.C. . . . you breathe in the politics there and it’s fabulous.  I have deeply rooted and, I believe, well educated beliefs about what makes our country great and I have a vested interest in making sure that I am engaged for the sake of my children.  But, this inflammatory and absolutist rhetoric (especially when done with a lot of grammatical errors and in all caps) is so disheartening that part of me just wants to shut it out for a while and clean my mind and my spirit.

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  1. Catherine Crotty
    September 3rd, 2012 at 06:51 | #1

    Excellent post, Sarah. I’ve been a political junkie for over forty years, but I am disheartened about the coarseness of the political discourse also. I believe it reflects the growing coarseness of the culture around us, but I also believe we must stay involved in the political process by praying, becoming educated about the issues and helping good candidates. Thank you for what you do!

  2. Chuck
    September 3rd, 2012 at 10:06 | #2

    I agree with your basic point, that “inflammatory and absolutist rhetoric” is killing honest and open debate, that it is primarly fueled by the availablility of soapbxes on the Internet (and I’d throw in there the 24-hr cable news machines).

    But I disagree with what I see as the false equivalency you’ve built between the two sides. While there are certainly those who argue that anyone who doesn’t support Obama is a racist, I don’t see those people on major news networks, mass-audience talk radio, or writing Op-Ed pieces in major regional or national newspapers. But the argument typified by that graphic you posted at the top of your piece, I hear that argument 20 times a day. In mainstream, mass market media outlets, on the radio, in the Op-Ed pages. I feel the dichotomy gets even worse when one looks at social media. While I would expect a great deal of confirmation bias in my selection of friends on Facebook, there aren’t that many pro-Obama posts, and none I’d describe as “virulent.” Virtually all are links to relatively well-researched pieces about Republican policy proposals, such as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. On the other hand, my conservative friends post anti-Obama stuff daily, mostly personal attacks about how he is a secret Muslim, a Manchurian candidate, etc. If they touch on policy at all it is abject falsehoods, like how Obama is conspiring with the UN to take all of our guns away. I haven’t seen a single “Rommny will liquidate old people to feed an expansion in domestic beef production in his Soylent policy proposal,” or “Romney will make everyone wear magic undies.” Not once.
    So, not excusing either sides’ virulence, but I feel that an objective examiniation of the amount and type of crazy that’s going on out there would demonstrate a marked imbalance between the two sides….

  3. sarah
    September 3rd, 2012 at 11:08 | #3

    Beyond talk radio, on what mainstream media outlets do you hear Obama equated to Hitler? I live in Tennessee and have mostly conservative friends and I don’t hear that nearly 20 times a day! While Romney may not be compared to a genocidal dictator, you do not have to watch CNN or MSNBC for very long to have one of the pundits on there claim that Romney is using racist code words. I hear THAT every day. Now, we can debate whether or not you want to consider those networks “major news networks,” but you will hear racism proclaimed there regularly. And, give me about five minutes and I can publish plenty of links to regional and national newspapers with Op-Ed pieces making those claims as well. Or, “How big of an idiot do you have to be to support this guy?!” . . . I read that every day. Do you think Paul Krugman doesn’t believe that Romney voters are racists who want to go back to the good old days before women had the right to vote? He’s implied as much or directly stated as such in his columns more than once.

    I will agree with you . . . the extreme nastiness that some express toward Obama is worse than the worst statements made about Romney. But, I think the percentage of people who default to name-calling and prejudices and blanket assumptions about who stands on the other side of the aisle is about equal in both parties.

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