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Choosing sides…

When I was 10 years old, my mother and I made a hastily planned migration from Alaska to California. We moved around a lot at first, so for a while my schooling took place via mail. When we settled down again, in the Silicon Valley in California, I suddenly found myself in a weird situation at school. I was in the fifth grade, and the area we were staying was mainly populated by the wealthy elite. I entered the class mid-year, and so the teacher assigned others from the class to show me around.

The first day, the girl assigned to me was one of the wealthy elite, as were most of the girls in the class. She took me around and introduced me to some of the others, showed me around the school, and also made sure to share the gossip about the ‘dog’ from that lowlife group of girls over there, who wears the SAME sweater EVERY day. Uh-huh. Okay. While everyone in the wealthy elite group was generally nice to me and somewhat helpful, I found little to say to them (my family was NEVER wealthy), and wasn’t impressed by their judgmental attitude.

The second day, the girl assigned to me was one of only 4 girls in the class who wasn’t part of the wealthy elite. She, too, was nice to me, and fairly helpful. She introduced me to the other three members of her group. (The girls in this school were literally sharply divided into these two groups.) During the course of the lunch hour, I told the sweater wearing girl what the other group had said about her sweater. Her response was to defend her devotion to the sweater, and note that she washed it EVERY night.

I often think back to this experience, because it was the first time I encountered two so clearly separate groups and needed to choose between them. My day with the wealthy elite girls made it obvious that they looked with disdain upon the other girls, so being friends with both groups wasn’t likely to be manageable. As for the group that I chose, as you might guess, I made my choice based on their attitudes. I’d rather hang out with people who defend themselves but don’t malign others than those who judge people as lesser based on faulty assumptions they make.

More recently, I’ve been soaking up some knowledge about politics. It’s something I’ve ignored for most of my life, and finally decided that I really should stop ignoring. So, in between other pursuits, I read political articles from both sides of various debates, news articles, etc. It didn’t take me a particularly long time to decide which of the two main political parties I tended to agree with more often.

In the last couple of weeks, though, I noticed a trend that reminded me of that choice I made back in the fifth grade. I work as a moderator for an online community currently. I look at logs of people saying and doing things they ought not to say or do (according to the TOS) all day. I haven’t seen anyone claiming to be a supporter of Obama or the Democratic party and then spewing *hate-speech and vulgar insults. Often, those spewing *hate-speech and/or vulgar insults are insulting our current president and the Democrats along with everyone else.

When I read the news articles, I see the same sort of trend. The people who are violent, obnoxious, and go around spewing *hate-speech and insults… seem to far more often be in opposition to Obama, and to the Democratic party in general, than in support of it.

It kind of makes choosing a side easy.

*When I say ‘hatespeech’, I refer to denigrating someone’s race, gender, sexual preference, etc. in highly derogatory or vulgar terms.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Punning Pundit | September 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I think you know my political history, and where I stand. So I don’t feel too bad saying: just trust me when I say I’m a stanch Democrat. Because, yes. We do that too.

    We demonize the Republicans, call them names, insult them and their parents, and generally sling all sorts of ad hominem attacks.

    I prefer to chose sides not based on the company I’m keeping (Gods, hippies drive me crazy), but rather based on the quality of ideas those people stand for. I want a living wage for all people. I want equal pay for equal work. I want an environment that doesn’t kill people. I want police to be part of my community, and not a foreign force imposing the will of the status quo. I want… shit, I want parking spaces to cost what the market will bear.

    These things are only ever possible to get when Democrats are in office. So I stand with them. Unfortunately, that means hearing a lot of people “on the other side” having their humanity devalued…

  2. Rena | September 8, 2010 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    I understand what you’re saying, but there’s something I’d like to point out. I don’t know your entire political history, but I do know: You have a degree in Poly-Sci. It makes perfect sense for you to choose a side based on the quality of the ideas, because you have the necessary knowledge and training to understand those ideas, and at least make an educated prediction about how they will affect this nation.

    I don’t have a degree in Poli-Sci. Actually, I have no degrees at all. For most of my life, I’ve ignored politics, politicians, and the government in general – and you know why.

    What this means is that basically – In my opinion, at least, I don’t have the knowledge or the training that would enable me to determine the quality of the ideas that anyone stands for. I don’t even know what the term ‘living wage’ means, for instance. To some of the things you just mentioned, my response would be: ‘yeah, I kinda think I would like that too… on the other hand, I can see why it might not be feasible…’

    Without the knowledge or the training – I can’t choose anything based on the quality of ideas that I don’t fully understand. Instead, I make a partial reserved judgment based on something I DO understand.

    Every group that fights with another group will have at least a few individuals within that group who will demonize the other group and throw verbal rocks, or maybe literal rocks, etc. etc.

    I don’t judge the Republican party because a few of their members dislike Democrats. (Seemingly, EVERY Republican dislikes Democrats, from the way the Senate has acted during Obama’s presidency, but that’s beside the point…) I do, and will judge them on the basis that from what I’ve seen so far – many of them (not all, but many) encourage not hatred of Democrats, but racial prejudices, gender prejudices, sexual preference prejudices, etc. etc.

    If there’s something I KNOW, it’s that I hate stereotypes and prejudices. Since the time I was a child, this has been one of the things I have most hated and tried to make sure I DID NOT DO.

    So while I’m not really qualified to judge the quality of their ideas – I feel plenty qualified to judge the effects that they seem to cause in the world around them.

  3. Rena | September 8, 2010 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    BTW – I probably wasn’t clear enough in this post. I realized after I wrote my comment reply that I used the term ‘hatespeech’, meaning it in the way it’s applied in my job… and that this may not clearly communicate to anyone else what I meant.

    So, when I say ‘hatespeech’, I refer to denigrating someone’s race, gender, sexual preference, etc. in highly derogatory or vulgar terms. I’m really sorry if that wasn’t clear in the original post.

  4. HeruFeanor | September 8, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Note that the viewpoints below may be colored by the specific blogs I read and pundits I watch, but I think it’s fairly accurate.

    While both sides have their lunatic fringe, which will denigrate and dehumanize the opposition in really disgusting ways, each side deals with this fringe in very different ways. On the Republican side, this is represented by Ann Coulter and Glen Beck, one of which has regular talk show appearances, and the other has his own major prime time talk show (not to mention many others, but those are probably the worst). On the Democratic side, this is represented by … well, I don’t really know. I’ve seen liberals go by who are just as crazy, but they’ve all been on obscure blogs and backwaters of the Internet. Some of my more extreme liberal friends sometimes post links to them, and they bother me, but none of them seem to have been mainstream enough for me to bother remembering their names. The craziest well known Democratic pundit figure I can think of is Michael Moore, and he’s been fairly marginalized for a while, and even at his peak didn’t hold a candle to the mainstream Republican crazies.

    I think this is due to a certain integrity gap that’s grown up lately. When a Democratic pundit goes off the deep end, advocating crazy shit and seriously demonizing the Republicans as a category, people stop paying attention to them. Democratic pundits who make that their stock and trade never get off the ground to begin with. Republican pundits who do the same get regular appearances on Fox News.

    Recently, a Republican Party official encouraged some potential Green Party candidates in Arizona, helped get them on the ballot, and gave them a bunch of money, in order to siphon votes away from Democrats in those races. When it was exposed that he had done this, he was proud of it. He gave a major interview describing the strategy, and is generally seen to have a bright future in the party.

    Also very recently, a couple Democratic Party officials in Michigan tried a similar tactic, attempting to get some Tea Party candidates on the ballot (registered with “Tea Party” as their official political party). They notarized their applications, gave them a bunch of money, and generally facilitated getting them on the ballot, likewise to siphon off Republican votes. First of all they failed to get them on the ballot, due to various technicalities, but more importantly, when it came out that they’d done this, one of them resigned, and the other was fired. They fully realized that while what they were doing was not illegal, it was a shameful way of cheating the system, and the Democratic Party establishment had the integrity to appropriately chastise them for it.

    I find myself really glad that my politics don’t align with the Republican Party to begin with, because if they did I’d have nobody to vote for. I won’t Republicans as a group (being those who are registered as or regularly vote Republican), but I have a very low opinion of the integrity of the Republican Party organization.

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