On Politics: An English Grad Dives In

Happy Fourth of July, people! Time to find a flag, hug your dog, take trendy Insta pics, and crack open a cold one. Because this is America, damnit!

No time like the present to talk about one of the topics your parents told you to avoid at your in-laws. We all know the topics to avoid: money, religion, politics along with questions like, “Aunt Marlene, should you really be throwing back that many glasses of wine in front of your kids?” and that “God loves the Gays” t-shirt your rather flamboyant cousin wears to family reunions just to piss of your great-uncle Albert. Truth is, politics have been around long before Uncle Sam, and definitely will be long after. We might as well not ignore this fact. This being said, I’m not condoning getting into full blown arguments with your family, friends, or complete strangers during your mother’s cousin’s daughter’s nephew’s grandparent’s funeral. These heated arguments arise from deeply rooted passion from within us and should always be treated with extreme caution. Instead, I’d like to attempt to offer a more optimistic view of politics for what they are today in America. It doesn’t start off pretty, however.

As I’m sure many of you are, I’m frickin’ frustrated. With all the media hype around Trump and Clinton, it’s hard to tell the bullcrap from the…not so bullcrap. Us, as the general public, have to constantly fight this sh*tstorm of information on a daily basis. All of this discourse comes from outlets which have anywhere from a slight to more pronounced bias. We all know the New York Times and CNN are more liberal, just as the Wall Street Journal and Fox are more conservative. What I’m not so sure about is that we constantly remind ourselves this whenever we read or watch anything. As humans, we’re constantly being bombarded with information. Whether it be billboards, commercials, or that chick at Macy’s who insists on spritzing you to death with Dolce and Gabana Light Blue, we are always taking in information and processing it to form opinions based on our real life experiences. All the discourse put out in the world comes from another human with biases, save for cold hard numbers, which we know can often be misinterpreted and manipulated as well, given the study (“COFFEE NOW OKAY TO DRINK, HUNDREDS OF ANTIOXIDANTS”, etc.). Sometimes others’ opinions match up neatly with ours, other times, not so much. And that is the beauty of being in a country such as America! Hug hug, kiss kiss!

It’s a privilege that we can speak ill of our president and not go to jail, or disagree with prominent figures in government and not face imminent death. BUT, with this comes responsibility. This (sometime) apparent lack of understanding around  is where my frustration comes from.

To political candidates and voters alike, perception is unfortunately reality. We’ve all heard Hillary name calling Trump and vice versa. The low blows and mudslinging candidates do is something I wish they’d keep to themselves, but this is certainly never going to cease. However, if we would change the quality of our arguments, the candidates might have to change the way they try to attract voters. Optimistic? Definitely! There’s no harm in the effort to move in this direction.

Voters have a duty to be informed as they face the general discourse around politics. I’ve heard one too many times ignorant arguments and counter-arguments for both presidential candidates and quite frankly, it’s frustrating as hell to watch or listen to- for ANY side (I can honestly say I haven’t heard any recently, thank Gawd). It’s not the fact there are arguments themselves (this, of course is completely inevitable), it’s the quality of the arguments I sometimes see that I find rather frustrating.

This being said, this is why there’s value in attempting to understand where the opposing side is coming from. Most of these differences come from a fundamental level of disagreement (the interpretation of the Constitution being a HUGE one, in my opinion*) and there are issues where some cannot understand why another side would think they way they do. I completely understand this, especially when it comes to social issues.

However, I could sit here all day making comments such as, “well, Hillary is going to jail and her pantsuits suck” or “Donald Trump is an idiot and his hair is ridiculous”. How do these counter arguments serve to do anything beside provide SNL with material for skits every once and awhile? To me, I find more value attempting to understand why each politician or political party may be doing or saying the things they do. When I grow frustrated by the political positions of either side (generalizing as a two-party system, here, sorry Green Party, Libertarians, and the Mickey Mouse Brigade), I find that attempting to understand how my personal experiences affect which party I align with more reminds me the opposite side as a whole isn’t inherently “wrong” or “evil”**. To an extent, it’s just a difference in opinion about how I’d like to live (or others to live), where I’d like my taxes to go, and which general direction I’d like the country to move to bring things on a very basic level. It’s too easy to sit here and b*tch about the stereotypes that stem from each party, yes. But how does this help us have a more intelligent and worthwhile debate? I’d argue it doesn’t help, and this only creates a more disillusioned general public. We don’t know what we don’t know only because we’re only scratching the surface level of why we’re disagreeing in the first place. Sometimes we’ll just have to agree to disagree, but the more we understand and can work together, the more we can potentially expect advances in bipartisanship.

I don’t want anyone under the impression that I think America is full of disenchanted, uneducated voters, because I don’t think that’s true. I’ve seen arguments I can respect, both on social media and other outlets, and I am relieved to know voters aren’t just voting against or for a candidate for their hair…or lack of. I think it’s important to take this next election for what it is: important, yes. Monumental, yes. This being said, get informed from reputable sources. Try to identify the author’s viewpoint. Read to understand, not to attack others.

Is the Huffington Post normally your news source of choice? Try reading Wall Street Journal’s articles about the same topic (even though it’s a b*tch to try and access their content online). Try not to anger at the difference in opinion. It’s uncomfortable to be uncomfortable, but it’s time we started putting more emphasis on understanding so we can more effectively debate with one another in a civilized fashion. I think there’s much progress to be made and this can help us help each other. Constantly forming and reforming your life philosophy is never a bad thing because at you’re moving forward. Just trust that at the heart of each major political party, it’s not unreasonable to believe each has the country’s best intentions in mind***.

Please take everything I say with a grain of salt, as you would any publication. Read knowing what someone else is saying is not “the truth” and is instead just more discourse being thrown out into the world. You, as a human, have the right to form your opinions which lead you to live your life the way you do in a way where you can maximize your happiness. If you disagree with me, that’s completely fine. Like with any political publication or show, you’re at complete liberty to do so, because once again, this is America, my fellow mavericks. Get out there and enjoy the fireworks!

FULL DISCLOSURE ON MY OWN POLITICAL OPINIONS:

Though I will sure as hell not be braiding your hair anytime soon, telling you who I support and why, to make this post more candid, I will reveal a couple things:

I come from a family divided on political opinions.

My experiences growing up and from going to a public university have led me to be more left of center for some issues, and right of center for others. I don’t identify completely with either major party, but instead like to think there are political candidates from either party I’d support at different times and for different situations.

To me, neither party offers the “end all, be all” solution to America’s problems at the present moment. This is like thinking one wrench will work for all screws. Sometimes it provides the perfect solution, other times, not so much.

I hope this helps you understand what I’ve written and why.

_________________________________________________________________

* There are several different ways to interpret the Constitution. To generalize at an extremely basic level, some people prefer a “loose” interpretation and others, a “strict” interpretation. How we interpret what we believe our Founding Fathers wanted for the United States of America is highly contested and each party differs in how they interpret this, hence why issues such as Obamacare are controversial.

** I realize this could be a completely generalized thing to say, especially given social factors which involve a lot of ethos. I’m not trying to downplay issues which can bring forth very passionate responses (religious rights, gay marriage, racism etc.) but would like to believe the best from each party on a fundamental level. For example, a white supremacist group leader may support a current Republican nominee, but does this make ALL conservatives racists? Hell no!

*** I obviously can’t speak to each candidate’s intentions, but I’d like to believe this for each party. I think of the circumstances upon which the two-party system was “born” and am not discouraged. Aside from corruption, unlawfulness, and other factors, I genuinely believe this system is the best for our country at this time as opposed to other systems.

 

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