A few days ago, I posted about religion. This week, as I was trying to soothe Wolfe to sleep one night, I saw a post on Facebook about the Chicago teacher’s strike. I usually don’t get worked up about politics–especially not on Facebook (I leave that for my dyed-in-the-wool liberal wife). But the comments on this post really made me cranky. After a few salvos in the debate, I regained my composure, but I decided it was time for me to make a list of things I want to tell my son when he gets older.
I’m not really a liberal or a conservative, but my words below are about politics. Please don’t let them make you cranky. If your blood pressure starts to rise, go write your own blog post, or even better, leave me a scathing comment. It will make my Klout score go up.
Things I Need to Remember to Tell Wolfe About Politics in General
- A true political discussion or debate is very rare. On the Internet, it never happens. What people call political discussions are usually just them blasting you with their opinion. Everybody believes they’re right and the “other side” is a bunch of wrongheaded idiots. On the Internet it will quickly devolve into every poor propaganda technique you can think of, and the “winner” will be the guy who keeps coming back to post ever more inflammatory comments long after others have tired of the thread.
- Politics is a lot like sports. Everybody is an expert. It’s surprising that these candidates hire expensive consultants to run their campaigns when there is so much free advice available.
- Talk radio is for people who want to feel like they’re smart but aren’t really, at least not about politics. Geniuses like Rush Limbaugh venture hypotheses that are so ludicrous they’re almost funny–except for the fact people think he really is a genius.
- There are smart people who are conservatives. There are smart people who are liberals. There are also a whole lot of dumb people who are both. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of labeling a whole group of people.
- Humans want to feel like they belong to a group, and that their group is right. So they assign themselves (or let the media or others assign them) a belief system and then they go around touting how great that belief system is.
- The media care most about entertainment and/or ratings. There is very little good reporting anymore. Most of it is biased in one way or another.
- As a caveat, there is almost no way to get objective facts. Once data is interpreted into information, the interpreter brings all of her own thoughts, ideas and previous experiences to bear in making sense of that data. This leads to a lot of arguing.
Some Specific Things I Should Mention to Wolfe About 2012
- The teachers’ strike in Chicago: despite what some people think, nobody goes into teaching to get rich. And guess what–when you go on strike, you don’t get paid. The teachers don’t want to be on strike, either. Anybody who thinks teaching is an easy job should give it a try. I used to work in the “real” world. I never worked as hard as I do now as a teacher (for a fraction of the pay). But I never felt as intrinsically rewarded outside of teaching either. So I teach because I’m selfish. With the current prevailing ideas about education and attitudes toward educators in this country, only two types of people will become teachers: those who are idealistic, and stupid people who can’t figure out there are a lot easier ways to make a living with your college degree. Let’s hope the idealistic ones don’t get too cynical and leave us with just the stupid people educating our kids.
- Women’s health care rights are a big deal right now. Many people are upset about birth control for women and about abortion. What’s interesting to me is that many who claim to be pro-life also support the death penalty and war (see the point about Libya below). So really they’re not pro-life, they’re anti-abortion. I personally would never abort a baby, but then again, I’m not a woman. I think if you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one. Let other people make their own decisions. I am, in general, against government intervention in our everyday lives.
- Jill Stein: the candidate for the Green Party. She doesn’t stand a chance of winning, but according to a very official looking Internet quiz, I most closely identify with her platform. I know it’s a waste of my vote but I’m inclined to vote for her anyway, although I don’t think I really fit in to the Green Party either.
- Some folks are saying President Obama caused the attacks on our embassies in Egypt, Libya, etc. because he apologized too much. I’ve also heard that at least with President Bush, our enemies hated but feared us. President Bush liked to shoot first and ask questions later. That’s why we were at war in Iraq over weapons that didn’t exist while the people who hated us flew planes into buildings and killed a bunch of people.
- There is no way to scare religious extremists. There’s also no way to apologize and get them to forget about their grievances. These people will die for what they believe in. How do you scare them? How do you apologize when your very existence is anathema to them?
- Everybody thinks they’re in the middle class. Both Obama and Romney say the middle class is households earning $250,000 and less. Liberals are saying Romney’s out of touch for his comment, ignoring the fact that Obama has said the same thing. Surely there are better things to ding these guys for than this.
- I notice a number of people talking about our need to get back to the Constitution and the ideals of our founding fathers, especially their Christian beliefs. It’s interested because many of the founding fathers were Deists, which is not really the same thing as being Christians. And while the Constitution is important, to think we should try to apply it exactly as it was written ignores the fact that we don’t still live in 1776. If you go to a doctor and he says he only uses the writings of Hippocrates because he was the founder of modern medicine, I suggest going to a different doctor.
Maybe I won’t go through the bullet lists with Wolfe. By the time he’s old enough, I’m sure I’ll have changed my views–or at least I won’t be so cranky about all this stuff. Here’s what I will tell him, though.
If people would stop buying into the us vs. them mentality–and I mean both regular people and our elected officials–and start offering solutions to the problems we are facing, then we could start to find solutions based on common ground. Last fall, your mother and I were driving on the turnpike late one night when we came upon an accident. There was a car, completely dark, in the passing lane. A truck had pulled over ahead, along with another vehicle. We all got out and started to take care of different things. I called 911, people from the other vehicle checked on the crash victims, your mother and the trucker waved cars over into the good lane (I probably should have done that, since your mother was pregnant with you at the time). The point is, we didn’t ask who was liberal and who was conservative. Nobody cared about anything except helping those people. And we did. And then the government-provided police services came on the government-provided roads and took over.
I think that’s some kind of parable. At least I feel less cranky now.