Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Politics and Religion

I don't talk too much around here about what I believe. I think I've maybe explained why. It's not that I'm afraid to discuss the hard questions. I love to discuss the hard questions. It's because I have very limited tolerance for those who want to rant and rave instead of discuss.

I think, really, we'd all be a little better off if we didn't avoid politics and religion so much. If we would all just shut up and listen to each other a little more. We worry too much (I think) about offending each other. Maybe we could just, you know, talk nicely. Agree to disagree. And stuff.

That said, I have been a little amazed over the last few months by the way people "talk" about politics and religion online. It started, for me, with the Presidential election last fall. I'm not going to go into detail about my political beliefs right here right now, but I will say that this was my first election where I was on the side of a winner. It was pretty exciting for me.

And, okay, I made a slew of moving to Canada jokes among my very close friends during the last Bush election. But, this time, I was on Facebook, watching people post comment after comment about moving away, assassination, bloody coups, etc. At first, I thought I was amazed at the vitriol. The hatred seemed so out of proportion. I also thought that maybe I was being sensitive that someone was harshing my liberal buzz.

But, instead of easing since the election, it's gotten worse. And it's spread. I've seen people who normally post status updates about loving God and Christianity start posting updates about hating Muslims. I've seen those assassination jokes expand to no longer just cover the President, but Congressmen and even just liberal citizens.

I've seen "ads" portraying Obama as the joker from Batman, as Hitler and as various animals. I've seen racial slurs and hate speech. And then, when someone dares to disagree with one of those people, I've seen rage, absolute rage.

Now, I'm not talking about anonymity. I'm not talking about a world where kittenmitten662 and lovelybuddy16 are debating the pros and cons of health care through name calling. I'm talking about Facebook, a world where the names are real and your kid's pictures are linked forever to your comment saying how worthless you believe the lives of others to be, as long as those others are elected officials that don't agree with you.

These are also people that I know. People that I like. I am not one of those people who accepts every friend request I get. My friends are genuinely my friends, or at least acquaintances. These are good people. Kind people. People who would not walk up to you and spew this kind of vicious rhetoric.

Some people (like one college friend of mine who I really admire) wear their politics on their sleeve. They share their beliefs in a calm, rational and tolerant way and they don't back down, standing tall without feeling the need to lay anyone else low. But others, well, others are nasty. Hateful. Cruel. Violent.

What usually hurts my feelings are the liberal and democrat bashers, because, well, that's sort of where I live, but I'm not saying that my team never acts like jerks. It's universal.

And, frankly, I don't understand it. I don't understand why people think this kind of language is ever okay, but if it were anonymous, I would at least understand how people become drunk on that feeling and forget to act like people. But, knowing that everyone really knows who you are. Knowing that you are potentially hurting, really hurting those you love and still making those
choices... It's amazing.

Do you know, for sure, that your kid's teacher shares your political beliefs. Or that your best friend from elementary school isn't going to take your bashing personally. I doubt it. I doubt anyone does.

And this, this is why we can't talk about religion and politics. Because we can't be trusted to remain civilized. And that is truly sad.


SleeplessInKL said...

I personally prefer not to comment about either topic. Any comment is bound to create friction. I'd rather stay out of it altogether.

If only people respected each other's opinions, I think the world would be a better, more peaceful place. Whatever differences we may have, we can still learn from each other. But that's just the idealistic me speaking :)

Suze said...

What's especially disturbing to me is that our own politicians are using such hateful, brutal language. The House of Reps on the day of the healthcare vote was atrocious. I didn't watch the proceedings, but I heard sound clips of congressmen yelling "Hell no!" and the like. When our elected officials can't discuss the things they are voting on - votes that have a true impact on people's lives in this country - in a civilized manner, what does that say about us? Especially, what does that say to young people who are watching this process? That yelling extremist language because you disagree with some aspect of public policy is okay? Rather than state rationally why one agrees or disagrees, it's become the norm to rant about how providing healthcare to people who can't afford it is one step away from communism. (And yes, the Dems aren't without fault, either, but I have found the conservative rhetoric particularly appalling.)

I don't shy away from talking about politics, though. I think frank, rational discussion is more important than ever. If we continue to let the extreme points of view take over the discussion (ARE YOU LISTENING, FOX NEWS? No, probably not.), we're complicit in this problem.

Strangeite said...

Like Susan, I don't shy away from political discussions. So much so that it has become a joke at my expense among my friends. I simply cannot ignore a political discussion.

I would be in denial if I didn't recognize that is simply part of my personality; however, I also feel that it is extremely important for a functional democratic republic to have actively engaged citizens.

I am a yellow dog liberal Democrat that is very upset with the Republican Party, but not for the usual reasons.

Our two party system has provided a very practical way to implement the republican (small R) system put in place by the Constitution. The push and pull of smaller government v governmental advocacy and fiscal conservatism v social progressivism, as served our country well.

However, over the last 3.5 years the Republicans have not been upholding their end of the bargain. They have abandoned their core principals to shift towards the "crazy". While I disagree with many of those core principals, I recognize the importance of having them advocated by some of our representatives.

It is like the 2 teams have been playing basketball for the last 115 years and suddenly one team has started playing rugby.

Jessi said...

Sleepless - I know how you feel. I often just keep my mouth shut when I want to speak because I just don't want the fight.

Suze - I was watching the news this morning and they were showing the threatening letters that representatives are receiving. They pointed out how some of the language (like babykiller) has come directly from the speeches on the floor. I do think that the "thug" mentality going on in Congress right now is exacerbating the hate on the streets.

Strageite - I like the basketball/rugby analogy.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

I am the only Democrat (and only female) who works in my office. My bosses watch/listen to Rush, Glenn and all those other Good Ol' Boys. They often find it funny to stream the latest episodes loudly on their computers, so that I can be "educated". And they wonder why I refuse to talk politics and put in headphones and listen to my iTunes when they pull those stunts.

And I wonder, truly, about some things. I wonder about Republicans being so disrespectful of and to the current administration. The hateful rhetoric. The name calling. The absolute fanatic hatred - is this all just a sign of our times, or is there something more to it? Would they be as hateful and disrespectful to someone with the same agendas, same goals, same vision of our country who also happened to be white? Do they somehow feel it's okay to act this way because of racial bias? I just wonder. How much does race influence their actions? Now, I'm not trying to take away from their arguments, but the way they choose to argue disturbs me. Also, being a caucasian woman, I can't speak from the experience of having racist remarks aimed at me - but I really really wonder how much that is fueling their disrespect and vitriole - whether they realize it or not.

Okay, I'm done hijacking your blog now. :-)

And Jessi, if this causes some people to leave comments blasting me and - by extension - you, please feel free to delete it. This was not intended to get you yelled at. I just honestly wonder.

Lisa said...

I haven't seen any of those ads or much hate speech on Facebook. It leads me to conclude that you need to expand your circle of virtual friends. Starting with me. You and I... we should be facebook friends. Reason #1: I love your writing. Reason #2: I'm unabashedly liberal. Almost all of my friends are liberals, too. But the not Michael Moore in-your-face kind of liberals.... much more rational and down to earth. Reason #3: I was one of those kids too. And I wrote a few book reviews in my journal back when I was doing a full-time volunteer job in Panama. For fun.

Amy said...

I love to discuss politics and religion--it makes dinners with my family more enjoyable and fun. However, in our family we know who is "blue" and who is "red" but we still love each other and agree to disagree. However, I am also sick and tired of political rantings from both sides being posted on facebook etc. Sometimes, I'm actually shocked when I see these messages and think Oh My God I really didn't know that about "Jane". Furthermore I hate seeing any posts about race, religion, sexuality etc. I had one "friend" that I have known since grade school post something horrible about my particular brand of religion. Hey I don't slam your religion don't slam mine and if you hate "X" religion members so much obviously we can't be friends and de-friended them.

Wahkonamama said...

I found you through MamaPop (loved the Duncan Hines comment!) and I'd normally lurk, but I really enjoyed this post - and the comments. I also share the same thoughts as Jenn-Jenn.

I had to do some mass-unfriendings after the presidential elections. The same people who used to lecture me about being "unpatriotic" for not enjoying the previous administration are now the ranters and ravers (for the most part... I do live in a fairly liberal state, so there are a few wackadoos to the left too). I read that as: it doesn't matter who wins elections, my opinion is the only one that counts. I think our society as a whole has lost it's sense of humility, thus all the bloviating. Yuck.

I really, really want to discuss politics rationally, intellectually, and calmly. However, all of my conservative friends/acquaintances/in-laws seem to recite the same Fox News-issued talking points over and over and over.

Jessi said...

Lisa - Yes, I suppose I do. I may have mispoken, though, I mostly see the ads elsewhere, only the way insensitive posts on Facebook.

Amy - That's the thing! You just don't know who all your audience is on Facebook. It's not a "If you wouldn't say it outloud..." thing, it's a "If you wouldn't say it over a PA system in a room full of every person you've ever met..." thing. And if you would, then I guess you deserve the consequence of bad feelings.

Wahkonamama - Welcome!!I'm pretty sure I have a post somewhere about that, too, people who told me I was horrible for not supporting the President, now not supporting the President. Such a double standard. You're probably right about the humility. People genuinely believe that if they think it, it must be true and everyone must agree. They don't mean to hurt feelings because they assume that only idiots don't agree with them. It's an epidemic.