Tag Archive: Vitriol in Politics


Five years ago I moved to Washington DC with the intention of finding a job on the hill. I took a job in the private sector to pay my bills but always assumed that before long I would make it back to the hallowed halls of the Capitol. Now despite my love of government and an education in congressional politics I would be hard pressed to think of a place that seems less appealing than the hill.

When I was an intern in 2005 I saw some ugly political battles, and some even uglier attitudes and posturing be hind the scenes. Still I retained faith that “my party” would get their act together. 7 years and two changes of House leadership has proven me wrong. Not only has the party that I once identified with been imploding but the other party shows little hope of being any better.

I have been sitting back and watching the fiscal cliff battle over the holidays, and I have never been more deeply disgusted with politicians. Anyone who has a passing familiarity with the basic concept of having to do your own budget (a basic life skill) knows that when addressing a budget issue you must consider both revenue and spending. This problem is so big it can not be chipped away at from only one side of that coin.

I hate paying taxes and I tend to like my schools, roads, hospitals, and social services to be well funded, but the simple fact of the matter is that we are spending too much and we are running on borrowed time. At this rate it will not be long before our country’s proverbial credit card gets cut in half.

Leaders in both parties are acting like spoiled stubborn children, unwilling to admit past mistakes or to compromise on future actions and it really is simply disgraceful. It’s been years since Congress has passed a real budget (despite being constitutionally mandated to do so annually) and even longer since that budget has been even remotely balanced and that should outrage the American people.

We need our president to be a real leader and we need the party in charge of the House of Reps to get its act together. Our politicians need to stop worrying about keeping the fringe minority sects from their parties happy and start dealing with the reality that we are in trouble and only hard and likely unpopular decisions are going to fix that.

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Thoughts on Facebook

Over the past few days Facebook has caused a lot of problems in my life. As a prior reader may recall I started this blog to be able to openly discuss my political opinions and opinions on current events out of the spotlight and constant bickering between friends of opposite political and social beliefs. Thus as a rule I tend to shy away from political comment there, and on rare occasion point people here if they want to know my opinion on something. This week however I was taught the hard way that the all powerful social beast that is Facebook can still bite you in the ass even when you aren’t tempting fate if it were.

While the specific details aren’t particularly important the situation spiraled out of control when a random comment was taken to be a political endorsement against gay rights. When a different friend pointed out that my post had not been about the political aspect that was assumed by the first commenter, they were accused of being a “bigot”.  Within a few minutes an innocent comment had turned into an all out attack. I clarified the original intent of both myself and the accused bigot, and asserted that calling someone a bigot is not called for in that situation. (I even pointed them back to my previous post about the “hate chicken” issue a few weeks back)

What frustrated and flabbergasted me most was that despite everyone else who commented on the status making it clear the original intent,  the original commenter remained steadfast that everyone involved was being hateful because of the perceived correlation between the comment and support of an organization that discriminates against gays.  In the end I lost a friend of 18 years over a status about popcorn and I find that simply astonishing.

That same day a friend of mine posted this to his status and I found it oddly appropriate:

“I love that I have so many friends who are politically engaged and aware. However, when it comes to Facebook, I appreciate much more hearing about their personal lives rather than their political beliefs… I feel that in-person people are much more inclined to be rational, civil and reasonable. There is something about this internet that prompts us to be more divisive … I do wish there was a political filter I could turn on.”

In person I know that the conversation that happened on Facebook would not have ended in the way it did because people ARE more rational in person. I have to believe that it would be harder to forget the times that both I and the accused bigot had stood by this particular friend, supported his life choices and loved him for who he was if he had to look us in the eyes. However that is not the nature of Facebook or other social media. All of the hate and prejudice that does get spewed across the internet all blends together and combined with the somewhat ironic faceless-ness of Facebook allows all of us at times to forget that real people sit behind those keyboards and smart phones.

Next time you see someone post something on Facebook that rubs you the wrong way I suggest you take a step back and evaluate the situation. At times we all need to remember that we don’t need to take our own personal axes to grind, or our own soap box pulpits into other people’s lives unless they are actively wanting and seeking that from us. People will have different thoughts and opinions and even if they choose to inappropriately share them (a personal pet peeve of mine) the world would probably be a lot more peaceful place if we just filtered the comment out and moved on with our lives.

Swing Voters

I’ve seen a surprising trend in election coverage over this week… swing voter bashing.

 

I’ve seen swing, or independent voters, characterized as ideological idiots, fickle, apathetic, clueless, uneducated, and various other not so flattering terms from both left and right leaning media outlets. Perhaps I am slightly sensitive to this due to the fact that ideologically I am a Libertarian, but characterizing someone who doesn’t have a strong party allegiance as dumb, fickle, or an otherwise uninformed person isn’t quite fair.

 

Personally I have a degree in Political Science, I tend to keep up on political news, and heck now I even write a blog about current events. I am far from uninformed, uneducated, or fickle. Still I do not believe that either party has a platform that I can wholeheartedly agree with. In fact BOTH parties have things that I quite violently disagree with, and I honestly believe that there are quite a few people out there just like me. These people aren’t picking a candidate based on the concept of the “lesser of two evils” out of ignorance, but instead out of pure frustration with the system that only comes from knowing it TOO well.

 

Saying Washington is broken seems to be in vogue for both parties right now, but it is fairly accurate. However I think there are a growing number of independent voters who blame the parties themselves as well as partisan politics for this brokenness. The concept that ONE party can be on the “good” or “right” side of EVERY issue breeds the intolerance for active, academic political discourse that plagues our government. Even the concept of there being a “good” or “right” side to every issue adds to the vitriol that has poisoned the political environment of our country.

 

Both political parties would do well to realize that there is a base of voters out there like me, who realize undying allegiance to a party that can in it’s very nature never completely represent them  is unrealistic and dangerous. I will cast my vote in November for the candidate and by proxy for the party that I think will protect my liberty, and represent me on the issues I care about most. I’m sure neither of them will do it well enough to earn my undying commitment, but honestly I don’t expect them to. There are a lot of people out there in the exact same boat and me and that is ok, but I’d really like it if I wouldn’t have to be insulted by the media over it.

 

 

On Chicken and Marriage

I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, and while the vast majority of the people I interacted with have left an indelibly positive impression on my life, it became quite clear to me fairly early into high school (quasi adulthood) that there were things that the church as a whole stood for that I could not reconcile to the God I knew and loved.

First and foremost on this list was the way the church as a whole addressed homosexuality. I don’t particularly want to get into the theological debate on Christianity and homosexuality at this time, but I was forced to confront my own beliefs on this matter when several people I knew and loved, and whom I knew to love God themselves, came out as gay to me. The resulting crisis of faith is something that I still struggle with today, and something that I still can’t completely explain. I know I love God, and I know that I love the wonderful gay people in my life who I believe without a doubt were brought into my life by God to bless and enrich my life. I don’t believe that loving and respecting my God and my faith are mutually exclusive from loving and respecting my friends and their lives as LGBTQ people.

For me it all comes down to that love and respect. I have many moral and political disagreements with my friends on both side of the political spectrum as well as this particular issue, and that’s what brings me here today, that and fried chicken.

A few weeks ago it appeared as if the entire world was shocked that a company that has openly proclaimed a clear alignment with conservative Christian values, (to the point of having ALL of it’s stores closed on Sunday) openly and honestly explained that they support conservative Christian definition of heterosexual marriage. I think it is a little ridiculous that a company that is most famous for it’s chicken, and silly cow adds became the center of a political and cultural fire storm. However what I find MOST ridiculous is the firestorm itself.

I honestly felt at a loss standing in a tempest holding onto a bag of chicken, not because the company agreed or disagreed with my opinion, but because it tasted good. Major corporations spend their money supporting causes and candidates all the time. In fact if you looked in your pantry or on your credit card statement I am fairly certain you could find purchases from major corporations that spend money on something that you violently oppose without any trouble at all. It’s nothing new, it’s nothing shocking that a company run by conservative Christians would support related causes. Feel free to stop buying their product if you want, or to frequent their establishment more, but don’t mind me and the vast majority of other people as we choose to consume based on need, personal taste, and product quality. Honestly it doesn’t make us any better or worse of a person. I know my convictions don’t change depending on where I swipe my debit card and I doubt anyones do. Yet it sure felt like a few weeks ago many people seemed to think that they did.

I have friends who passionately believe that gay marriage is an essential human right and I also have friends who wholeheartedly believe that “traditional” heterosexual marriage is essential to maintaining a “moral” American culture. I’ve heard researched, reasoned and passionate arguments on both sides for the past several years of my life. I personally have very strong opinions on the matter, but honestly it isn’t the differences of opinion that shocked, frustrated and frankly down right pissed me off, it was the hate and vitriol with which they were expressed.

Many times I get on my soap box and explain that proclaiming beliefs in what the other side sees as hateful isn’t getting them anywhere and this week was a perfect example of that. I was shocked at the flames of hatred being spewed in every direction.

Perhaps it is because on this particular issue I tend to fall on the more “liberal” side my past experiences (no doubt influenced by what side I am on) has always seen the conservatives being more guilty of sensationalizing this issue to the point of vilification of the other side. Those proclaiming and thus fueling the “culture war” in my eyes have most frequently been conservative. In fact I myself have been called a bad Christian, chastised and attacked because of my particular stance. However for the past several weeks I have honestly been shocked at the level of hatred being spewed by the liberal side of this issue, “my camp” if you will.

I can not count the number of times I have heard, read or seen some status or other on Facebook proclaiming that anyone who dare consume “hate chicken” is a bigot, and in some instances a “perpetrator of human rights crimes”. For every well reasoned argument that I’ve read expressing an anti-chicken call to action, I read many more angry, mean spirited and down right insulting posts. Don’t get me wrong, I feel their frustration, I at many times feel their anger even, but I can in no way understand or support the HATE that came pouring out. That said some people that were organizing appreciation days and other vocal positions of support also frequently crossed the line, but over all the anger and frustration that I felt was at both sides for the escalation into propaganda and hatred.

Both sides of this issue claim that they are hated for their opinions, that they are standing on moral high ground being battered and eroded by the waves of ignorance from the opposition. In reality I think this week really proved to me that a great many people on both sides are in a pit flinging mud at one another as they both sink deeper into the mire. It is true that both sides of this issue can not inherently both be right, but this week to me they were both incredibly wrong.

In order to have any credibility in my eyes you have to recognize that there are intelligent people on both sides of this debate. There are people who passionately believe in their cause, who have strong reasons for their beliefs and who honestly want the best for the future generations in this country, and they are standing on both sides of this issue. Due to the nature of the debate both sides can not win, however that does not mean that we don’t all need to respect and love each other when we disagree. It’s ok to disagree, it is ok to passionately disagree, it is not ok to vilify one another. Propagating hate on either side and making people who you disagree with into villians will only lead to violence not to solving the issue or coming to terms that both sides can agree on. Let’s think about that next time that we are tempted to hyperbolize our frustrations (on either side) and ask ourselves if we are doing more harm to our cause than good.