Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Politics and angry people

I wasn't going to blog about the tragedy in Tucson or at least not until we had more facts about the situation but then I was involved in three different conversations about it yesterday from three wildly different points of view so I sort of felt compelled to. And truthfully this will only be about that particular event as it relates to the point I want to make.

You know my politics I was registered Independent until someone decided to co-opt the name for a political party, now I am officially Unaffiliated. You also know from my Strengths blog that one of my top strengths is Empathy. Those two end up tying together and I didn't even realize it until yesterday when I really stopped to think about why and what I believe. And why I get so frustrated with people when I am talking to them about politics.

You know I have linked this article before about how it is not only not likely but virtually impossible for the two sides to see eye to eye on any issue. But it never stops me from trying to make a point. The crazy thing for me is that I can usually see where someone is coming from, I might not agree with them at all, but I can understand and grasp why they feel what they feel. And it frustrates the heck out of me that they cannot see the other side as well. This is where the empathy light came on for me yesterday. See the deal with Strengths (talking Strength Finders Strengths here specifically) is that they are just who you are. You operate from that base continually and could never explain how you do what you do and you (this is the key part here) don't understand how others cannot.

So here is where the Tucson issue comes in to play. On Saturday the story started unfolding while I was away from the house. I watched my Facebook feed start lighting up with the story. Pieces were trickling out of Arizona, lots of false information, lots of panic. And then the blame game started. This was obviously the fault of the Tea Party! This was obviously the fault of Obama and his government takeover of everything policies! This was obviously...what ever your particular political bent was that's where you went. And then the rebuttals started, it wasn't Palin's fault, those were surveyors marks not targets for goodness sake, and when she said reload she wasn't talking about a gun...and again when discussing Second Amendment remedies didn't mean people should shoot someone. It's the left and the lamestream media's fault for blowing this all out of proportion! It's the fault of Faux News and Glenn Beck and the like for stoking the fires of fear! The left always wants to blame the right! Did you see this video clip that was just as bad as the one the opposite side just showed? And on and on and on...

You know who was really responsible for all of this? It was Jared Loughner. He did it. He bought the gun, he bought the bullets, he went to a crowd of people and he opened fire. He killed people. He wounded many others. And I am perfectly comfortable calling him crazy, though there was an opinion piece released right away about how it's wrong to say he was crazy because we don't know that he is. Guess what? I do know, want to know how? He bought a gun, bought the bullets went in to a crowd of people and started shooting! That's how I know he was crazy. No, not all crazy people are violent, but all super violent people are crazy.

And now that we are a few days out from the shooting we are starting to see more of the blame game and the it's not my fault game starting. What I would rather see is some time for self reflection. And network reflection. And political reflection. Do I believe that Jared Loughner was some sort of killing machine designed by the Tea Party movement? No, I don't. But my opinion is that he was already unstable and latched on to the hate factor that is brewing in this country and took it to an extreme. I actually believe that it would not have mattered if it were Giffords or Jesse Kelly at that rally he would have gone and he would have started shooting. Obviously I have no way to prove this, but what I have read about him, he was anti-government. Not just anti-Democratic party.

So where do we go from here? How do we dial down the arguments and turn it back into a conversation? How do we stop with the derisive, divisive, defensive talk and start in on open dialog? Because you would have thought a Judge being killed, a child being gunned down and a member of Congress in critical condition would have been a big wake up call. You would have thought. But you would have been wrong. Instead it seemed like another opportunity to scream at each other about how horrible the other guy is. But we have to stop that. We really do.

One of the conversations yesterday was on a Facebook status for a friend who does not live in the United States. He is overseas and the people posting were all overseas. I read all of the comments with growing sadness and frustration. The picture we are painting to the world is that we are all crazy. We pack our guns, we pack our rhetoric. We scream at each other and we get nothing done. It's a cartoon. But sadly, it's not that far off. We need to stop identifying our differences and start looking for common ground. And we need to stop letting the fringe define us.

When Christopher was little he would throw temper fits and then he would whine when he didn't get his way. The same as any other child. The difference is he got over it pretty quickly. You know why? Because it didn't work. I would tell him, I cannot understand you when you whine at me. And then I would ignore him until he stopped. He would follow me around for a little bit and I would completely ignore him. No response. Not a negative one or a positive one, just nothing until he used a normal voice and would talk to me reasonably again. If this worked on a two year old don't you think we could get it to work on adults?

But here is the deal, we all have to do it. We have to stop posting video clips that make our side look good and their side look bad. We have to stop watching Glenn Beck and his chalk boards and puppet shows and fear mongering. We have to stop letting Keith Olbermann and the Daily Kos define the left. We have to let people know that the Tea Party is not just a group of nut jobs who like to dress up funny and carry misspelled signs but actually started as a group of citizens who were tired of seeing money go in to the system without any discernible benefit coming out and the bulk of the movement is still that group.

And those of you reading this right now who are looking for clips to show me how I am wrong, how the left is at fault or the right is to blame, or the Tea Party is evil or it's not the fault of the crazy man...stop it. I am not arguing with you. I am asking you to stop and think and help to redefine the discussion. Before you post that link to the video showing how horrible the opposing side is, stop and think. What good will this do? And then think again. If you know KNOW that the clips showing how awful your side is were edited and taken out of context then can you not see that this one probably was as well? If you see someone using language that is designed specifically to incite an emotional angry reaction (death panels instead of end of life counseling for instance) ask yourself why you use it? What good does it do? What is the point? Are you trying to have a discussion or start an argument? Stop voting based on sound bites. Stop allowing the anger to overtake the message. Just because you don't agree with something doesn't make it evil, it just makes it something you don't agree with.

And if you are in a discussion with someone whose views you disagree with and you are interrupted by someone who is spouting rhetoric and posting clips to incite a fight treat them like you would any child having a temper fit and ignore them. The grownups need to talk now. We need to figure this out. I might not agree with what you have to say but I need to hear it and try to understand it and you need to do the same. That is the only way true non-partisan co-operation works. And I believe that is the only way to help turn our country back around.

And if you are ever in a position like the Sarah Palins, Glenn Becks, Keith Olbermanns of the world where you have a devoted fan base that listens to every word you say. Please please take the time to weigh those words before you say them. It's much easier to be clever and cutting than it is to be kind and considerate. It's much easier to pick a sound bite or two and make it a catch phrase than it is to actually research an issue and find out how to either agree or disagree rationally. Please remember that part of your fan base might just be on the more fanatical side. Is it your fault if a crazy person acts in a crazy manner? No it isn't. But wouldn't it be much better if you never even had to ask yourself that question?

1 comment:

  1. Denise,

    Your blog hit the nail on the head. Strong words or guns for that matter don't kill. Crazy people do. I don't look forward to the day when we can't have a fair debate about what we think is right or unfair because one side or the other is too worried about what someone might do with out words. Keep up the good work.

    And for the record, I want to clever, kind AND considerate.