[WARNING: a rare foray into politics by a guy who is mostly a professional joker. Adjust your heads accordingly! And if your reaction is “Who cares what some professional joker thinks?” …know that I sympathize, friends. You don’t have to care.
You guys probably didn’t know this since it’s barely been talked about in the media, but seems it is Election Day in the USA today.
….And OF COURSE I am kidding about that. The coverage about it has been relentless for well over a year, and mostly treated as an amusing sporting event (the “traditional” media) or as an occasion for never-ending propaganda (the “partisan” media), or some combination thereof. It can be wearying, brutal and dispiriting. Anyone with a sense of decency and a brain stem can only sit through so many political attacks ads before wanting to throw up, even when the stuff comes from your “side.” For lack of originality alone, it feels craven and dumb.
The entire world of politics seems craven and dumb. And it seems that way because, mostly, it is.
But issues that actually affect people DO need to be decided in any democracy, and however revolting the particulars in real time, it beats the alternative: using violence to decide who gets what, and why. When you come right down to it, that is the other option. This is not to say AT ALL that we can’t make our democracy work better: we can and should. I’m just talking about this moment in time, Election Day 2012. Big stuff is being decided.
So vote, please. Yes.
I’m not going to tell you who should vote for. You’ve already decided, maybe already voted. You’re an adult. (You better be, or it’s kid-jail for you, you little fraud.)
Full disclosure: I am voting for Barack Obama. I’m quite liberal, and happy to tell anyone that as a shorthand for where I generally land on the political spectrum. I do think the words “liberal” and “conservative” have been rendered nearly meaningless by our tribalized discourse, but that’s the available one that probably fits me best. There are a few issues where I feel very conservative, some where I feel like a radical socialist, some where it seems my stance is something closer to a staunch libertarian. Some issues I still haven’t figured out (lack of info, lack of specific education), and maybe never will. Some issues I can’t bring myself to care about that much, honestly, KEEPING IT REAL and all. I’ve disagreed with Obama about plenty of stuff, but he’s the closest realistic choice I have. In this system, he gets my vote today.
So I’ll leave the stuff about my personal beliefs there, but won’t get into the weeds arguing them with anyone. Nope, not with you either. You can try: it won’t work, I tells you. These online discussions usually don’t make anyone happy, and waste a lot of time. And this funnyman’s get fart jokes to write today.
Here’s what I really want to leave you with:
As of right now, we don’t know how this election will turn out. At this time tomorrow, presumably, we will. (OH GOD I hope so.) So roughly one-half of this country will be very happy at the outcome; roughly one-half will be disappointed and angry.
To the people whose candidate wins: celebrate accordingly, you and your allies have earned it! But also consider some generosity and magnanimity to people whose candidate lost. The greatest parts of this country — the ideals the USA stands for, even when we’ve fallen short — are SO great indeed that it is worth everyone going an extra few steps when they can, personally, and specifically trying not to be a dick to people who have different political beliefs and are mourning a setback.
It is very difficult sometimes, I know. The media and the self-interested political parties both thrive on drama. Inciting drama is very profitable to them. It’s oh-so-easy to get caught up.
And I’ve been guilty of indulging my anger and sarcasm (I AM A PROFESSIONAL, YOU KNOW) on people who see politics differently than me. But what I’ve tried to do lately is listen more, engage more, see where there is common ground. This is not to say that I take guff from people who come at me calling names and generally flinging their poo. In fact, mostly I don’t do politics on the Internet because it so quickly devolves into that, and doesn’t seem like a good use of my limited time, or anyone’s. I also don’t think I’m likely to change any random person’s heart and mind, especially if the conversation starts with “THATS JUST WHAT A LIBTARD FAG LIKE U WOULD SAY.” (Conservatives: feel free to substitute your own version how a liberal would be an online jerkoff. I know it exists.) I could trade insults with that person all day, or do something better. ”Something better” seems like a wise choice, no? So I’m talking more about my off-the-Internet life, shrinking though it may be.
I come from a very Republican / conservative family, and I love them dearly. We’ve had some very heated discussions over the years, but mostly we’ve learned to work it out and put the family first. Again, not always easy to do, especially when the passion for a particular issue (e.g. healthcare) comes from a place that affects us personally, and daily. It is impossible not to feel anger in the context of these arguments, and we have all been there.
But among the many reasons I love my Fox News-watching aging parents is that, in the end, they value our family over any political differences. Ditto my conservative siblings. When I’m at my best, I manage to do likewise.
And over the years, it turns out that we have affected how each other has seen politics: issue by issue, by degrees, I think we’ve had some good discussions that have occasionally found common ground, or at least made each other see something differently… but we’ve also learned to back off when it threatens to get too ugly. When we take that step back we can all acknowledge that politics is a important thing in life, to be sure, but not everything. By a long shot. There are points of connection that transcend the political grind, and when those connections are worked at, and cultivated, they MAY hold the hope of rising above tribalism where and when it counts. This is frustratingly slow, and it usually takes two steps back for every three steps forward. But it seems the only way to run a democracy, and to find a more perfect union. I am a short-term pessimist on this — it is a game of inches, to be sure — but very much a long-term optimist. This country survived a very savage civil war, but we’re still standing, and for all our difficult fights we remain the United States of America.
Keeping this country great — making it greater where possible — is up to each one of us, personally. When you say to yourself in disbelief something like “I don’t know why he voted for that guy!” …you’re right. You don’t know why. This hypothetical generic “he” person might not even know himself exactly where all these beliefs come from, and may still be sorting through it all. People come to their political beliefs for a multitude of complicated reasons, personal and otherwise, and sometimes change those beliefs as time goes on. Life! …it is vast and complex.
But even if you fervently believe what you believe politically and don’t see that changing in your lifetime, I ask you to consider this: the long-term way to win people to your side is probably not to shout nasty names at them. It’s not to say we can’t be irreverent and have fun with politics, especially about elected officials, ESPECIALLY those with a lot of power. Speaking truth to power — including mocking people in power, when they have earned it (hint: they all do, at some point) — seems deeply patriotic in its own way.
When it comes down to your fellow citizens, though — your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, your family — it might be worth trying something different tomorrow. Without for a minute giving up your rights or core beliefs, consider being generous and kind, or at least not-a-dick to people whose candidate lost. If you need a selfish motivation (and I often do!): over time, your example might show that people like you are kind of awesome, and that you might be worth listening to a little more closely, and you might even change a mind or two, even if slightly.
Kindness is difficult, but it’s not wasted. Kindness matched with intelligence and creativity is the force that will change the world for the better.
So vote for your choice today, celebrate or mourn or be kinda-eh-whatever tomorrow, but consider trying to connect with people feeling otherwise tomorrow on the level of fellow human; fellow citizen. Be generous. Be magnanimous. Be non-dickish.
Then tell me how it goes, ‘cause it’s hard and I can’t $^*#%@in’ do it.
…kidding. I am going to try.
Thanks for reading. And if you didn’t read it, you’re not reading this so why am I talking to you phantom-people?!
Back to writing my artisanally-crafted fart jokes, now.