For What It’s Worth

I’ve been as guilty this political season of thinking in hyperbole and polarity as anyone else. Conversations trail off into head-shaking and agreeing to disagree and at times, feeling a level of hatred that I know is unhealthy and unwise. What to do?

canstockphoto19783479It’s easy to become addicted to outrage. Social media and commentary sections of news articles make one realize how easy it is to take sides, to devolve into name-calling and to become someone of whom no one should feel proud. Anger is addictive as well. And exhausting.

For months, I’ve read political articles and commentary. I thought at some point, I’d become desensitized. Instead, I became paranoid. I would look at people and think in political terms “what are you?” As soon as someone identified themselves politically, I mentally saddled them with all sorts of baggage.

It’s a problem to think coherently when rabid voices shriek from all sides and newspapers punch up their headlines for click bait. I value critical thinking above partisanship and I’m a cynic. I have never assumed any politician represents me. I have never assumed that they would make my life better.

canstockphoto16791947We have a system that ensures only those with a Teflon coating and a certain willingness to be flexible with integrity will rise to the top. And in the end, we know it’s all about the money and with it, the power it conveys. The two major party candidates are propped up by wealth and/or an illusion of wealth.

Let’s be open here. I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Not because I have an inkling of who she is as a person. We can’t know any of that about any of these processed, packaged and politicized humans. I’m voting for her because I don’t want to see or listen to Donald Trump for the next four years.

I don’t understand what he is saying half the time and he reminds me of that drunk, creepy guy at the end of the bar who solves the world’s problems or an uncle who slurs about how you should go into business together ’cause he knows what’s what. He uses terms like “the blacks” and throws his arm around you, sliding down your back until he’s fondling your ass and leering into your face. All you notice is how long his nose hair is, as you disentangle yourself from him.

My mind associates Donald Trump with every human being who has ever made me feel uncomfortable. Hillary Clinton reminds me of a boss who I didn’t like very much, but got fondly accustomed to, pantsuits and all. I knew that her actions and words did not always convey her intent. But she was predictable and while I didn’t always believe she did the right thing, I knew what that thing would be.

All that being said, I want to step away from the table that sets people up as enemies. I want to stop seeing us and them. I want to recognize that none of us are less human because of our political choices.

canstockphoto11122072We are formed, prejudices and all, by our environment and our experiences. I learned early not to expect anything from anyone and this extends to people in public office. I assume people are either liars or wrong in their assumptions, so I rely heavily on books and doing my own research. It frustrates my husband to no end. Why can’t you just believe what someone says?

Because every time someone at the Home Depot gives me advice, I have to make four trips back to the store. Because when people say who they are, they do something that completely contradicts it. Because when a politician says he or she is an upstanding citizen, you’ll be hearing about dick pics and secret offshore funds a day later.

Not trusting people has eliminated the element of surprise and/or disappointment. Not trusting politicians means that I’m okay voting for someone who has got a lot of smoke and likely some fire, too. My outrage meter is dampened by lifelong cynicism.

I started writing a political piece as a way to blow out the pipes. I don’t want to discuss politics with you. I just want you to know that I’m trying to understand and not demonize and not condescend to you. If we start talking politics, well, neither you nor I have the skills to maintain a civil discussion. It will likely end up with a lot of spluttering.

Declaring that one of us needs to be logical or smart or just listen, damn it, is pointless. Calling each other racists or libtards or dingleberries will neither advance the argument nor our relationship. And my assumptions that you kill things for fun and your assumptions that I eat sprouted yoga mats might be wrong.

Loocanstockphoto0367299k here, I like you. I think you are an interesting person. I especially like the way you laugh. You know a good bargain when you see one. And really, that outfit is quite flattering. I’m sure you love your wife and your grandchildren, too. And I’m pretty sure you’re nice to dogs. Your nose hairs could use a trim, but other than that, you seem an alright human.


47 thoughts on “For What It’s Worth

      1. That does cut down on the number you have to eat, because in my experience the free-range ones are hard to catch. But maybe that’s the point.

        I agree about the nature of comments. I’ve sometimes found myself wanting to (or thinking that I should) reply to the whole swath of a post and then realizing my answer will be almost as long as the post itself. So I mostly give in and let myself fasten on some tiny bit that makes me laugh.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I can’t believe how polarizing this election is. I know folks (on FB) who are losing friends over their political choices.. I know folks who are afraid to voice any opinions at work for fear of reprisals and some who have stopped talking to neighbours. I’ve always loved politics, especially American politics) but I was getting so tense I stopped watching TV entirely a couple of weeks ago. I am a very positive person and I don’t scare easily, but I am really disturbed and concerned by all this anger, hostility and willingness to become violent.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The polarization in this country has been 30-40 years in the making, but you’re right, it’s pretty damned intense right now. A woman wrote about her experience at the MN state fair wearing a Clinton t-shirt and being aggressively confronted by a Trump supporter. I’m sure there are examples vice-versa as well. It’s why so many of us stay mum on politics and you only hear from the nutters.

      I feel the only way around this is to stop demonizing “others” – both in the political rhetoric and in our daily lives. It’s a tall order and one that I am personally working on. It serves no purpose except to accelerate acts of violence and distrust.

      Labels are easy – taking one person at a time, listening, trying to see things from their viewpoint – hard as hell to do. I’m trying not to take the easy way, because I am a weirdly cynical optimist and believe things can and will be better even if we humans keep screwing it up.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. You are absolutely right. The demonizing has to stop. Whether or not it’s about politics, we’re allowed to have different opinions and make different choices as long as mine (and yours) are respected. “Cynical optimism.” I love that. It pretty much describes me too.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Cynical optimist!!
        I’m stealing that, thank you. And YES, holding that space for you and the other person to both keep your opposing positions, while still seeking the common goals–SOO HARD!!
        And it’s the only thing worth doing, the only way to make a true difference. Stay on the path, sister!! 👊🏼👍🏼👏🏼


  2. Luckily, some of us who have been around long enough, and have been paying attention, already know who these candidates are–you know them by their fruits. Hillary has worked hard to make women’s voices heard here and in many countries where that is an unpopular position and a huge struggle. She has worked for access to health care. She was a travelling fool as Sec of State working around the globe to the point of exhaustion to form alliances and represent our country well. Donald has worked hard to build exclusive golf courses, short lived boom and bust casino economies, and his own “celebrity” status and personal wealth. It ain’t rocket science. I am not a party shill, being an Independent, but for me the choice is pretty clear this election cycle. And yes, he is that creepy guy at the bar, but with enough money to stifle the mouths of those he has gotten handy with. YEESH.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. If I were intent on a political argument, there might be some offense to be found in the suggestion that one might be too immature/young or intellectually lazy to understand the right answer.

      But I’m not intent on arguing politics. I like you. I don’t know about your nose hairs, but I know you’re nice to dogs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hehe. Right there with you. I once saw a comedian who refused to identify with either party because he refused to be half wrong. That’s me too!


        1. I definitely make the effort to appreciate other’s views and why they have them, even if I don’t agree. I get tired of people who act like if I don’t agree than I’m a hater. No two humans agree about everything, it’s not possible. Besides which, life would be pretty boring if we could surround ourselves with those who just agree with us and don’t challenge us to expand our horizons.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. I appreciate what you’re saying about the wholesale demonizing of people who don’t agree with us. But I don’t understand the nose-holding perspective: a vote for Clinton as against Trump or a vote for Trump as against Clinton. The public-service and personal histories of both candidates are readily available for review. Like you, I find Trump retchable. Clinton, like any politician within the reality of our system, is not perfect. But I find a lot to admire in her lifetime of public service, and my vote for her will be a wholehearted vote for her..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Even if I agreed with you, Cate, I’m chucking political argument in favor of a discussion about what kind of people we are in the midst of it. It’s the same discussion I have with myself constantly in regards to religion or parenting.

      Am I listening to others? Am I trying to understand why they feel the way they do? Or have I got my rote script, so rigidly proscribed that my dialogue is one big knee-jerk reaction? It’s curiosity, I suppose, and so much more interesting to me than who is right.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What I am curious and would like to know more about is why you, and seemingly others, want this election to be about “what kind of people” we are. Ten years ago, or so, I watched “The Apprentice” before it became Celebrity. And I’ll admit it, at that time I enjoyed watching and listening to Donald Trump. I thought he was an entertaining reality show host. I even think I learned something about business and entry level jobs. Then the show wore out its welcome and got boring, and I stopped watching. To me, that particular problem, of not wanting to listen to Donald Trump anymore, has already been dealt with by turning off the TV. His personality and what kind of person he is no longer interest me.

    It’s true I tend not to like politicians in general. I’m pretty introverted and people who get their energy from working rooms and talking to a lot of people and wielding political power are a both mysterious and a little scary to me. But I know a lot of that is on me, and I generally assume, unless I have good evidence to the contrary, that most people mean well, are good people, even if their nose hairs could use a trim or whatever. Even if I might not be their BFF in real life. I’ve got my stuff too and try not to be too judgmental about other people’s stuff.

    So, in the absence of documented criminal and/or immoral behavior, I have always voted for and against policies rather than people. I vote for the candidate who has a plan to deal with climate change over the climate change denier. I vote against the candidate whose party platform indicates a desire to sell off the National Parks. I vote for the candidate who has a plan to work with police officers and the black community across the country to reduce violence and support police officers. I vote for the candidate who has credible foreign policy experience and who will earn the respect of other countries’ leaders and show respect in return. I vote for the candidate who will protect a woman’s reproductive rights at the Federal level. There are more issues, and obviously not everyone will agree with me on any or all of these issues. But given the way issues cluster in our 2-party system, within my political lifetime there has never been a real choice for me. Even when I’ve been mad at the Democrats or thought they were being stupid, I’ve never even considered voting Republican since I voted for the first time back in 1984 because of the policies that that party has come to stand for and to advocate. And I’m sure there are voters who feel the same way about Democrats.

    Yet the media wants to make it all about people, about personalities, and about individuals. And the public seems to be going along with it. Why? I don’t think there is a right answer, but I do find the emphasis on personality in politics kind of frustrating and hard to deal with. I feel like we would have better political discussions across the spectrum if we tried to focus more on issues and less on personalities and personal feelings about individual candidates.


    1. This piece was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not my personal political doctrine. If I seem to emphasize personality in regards to Mr. Trump, it is because his lack of coherent policy provides nothing else. I don’t watch reality TV and I’m not enjoying its presence in politics. It degrades the political discourse to the point that no one is focused on the issues.

      My intent was to address this issue of polarization, which seems more extreme than at any other time in my life. I think there is value in questioning our behavior, our attitudes and our engagement, because the environment surrounding this election seems pretty toxic.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oops, I read your post again, after I read your last comment. And I think I misinterpreted you. Maybe we’re more on the same page than I originally thought. I think we actually have a similar attitude towards politicians. And I agree with not wanting to set up as “us” vs “them.” But I still wonder what your thoughts are about talking policies vs. personalities. Is that just a completely lost cause? Or might that be a way to get some clarity?


    1. I think you are addressing a larger cultural issue, where we are spoon-fed so much about celebrity and political lives that we are unable to differentiate news from fluff.
      One of the things I’ve noticed is the frequent use of first names in campaigns and a lack of proper address for people in leadership positions. It breeds a familiarity not far from contempt. People defend complete strangers, as if they know them, when all their information comes through the media, which is, at best, secondhand knowledge.
      It’s likely a much bigger topic than can be addressed in a comment, but something to think about. Thanks for that.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have a relative who went to high school with Hillary Rodham. They didn’t get along, and to this day, my relative is rabidly anti-Hillary. This relative doesn’t like Trump either, and as a result “doesn’t have anyone to vote for” and is looking into Gary Johnson. I was just struck while talking to this relative, who is generally an all right human and nice to dogs and cats, by how much personal antipathy colored the political response. We were on a family vacation and it made for an uncomfortable discussion, but we got past it. I’m just thinking about this case because it’s not something that can be entirely blamed on the media.


        1. This is a perfect example of why it’s important not to become entrenched in a position without questioning our own motivations. Biases are inherently irrational and we all have them. It’s how much we allow them to dampen our critical thinking that makes the difference. Thanks for sharing that story.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, any idea is easier on paper than in practice. I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with myself foaming at the mouth every time someone says something I disagree with and it seems like there is a lot of that going on. We’ve all become a bit rabid and hyperbolic. I’m trying to calm myself down a bit!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks to Minnesota repression/Nice, rarely do I come across people who talk politics. Most of the work I do is in my head. It’s still work, but not as scary as being in the moment with a person who I visualize drop-kicking. There. I said it as well. My imagination can be a bit of a jerk sometimes, but it gives me something to work with.


    2. I’m like that too, Sandy, I’m scared, actually downright terrified, of some of the people I disagree with. I notice it most with people who have religious views that I don’t share but it’s there with others too. It’s associated with hyperbolic, apocalyptic language in speech or writing, and it’s associated with what some people call “passion” in tone of voice, especially when people yell or are contemptuous. I read or hear some idea I disagree with, delivered in that language and/or tone of voice, and I notice my heart pounding, my palms getting sweaty, and my face getting hot. Rational thought goes out the window. It’s very physical and sometimes I feel like I’ve actually been slapped in the face or hands even though I’m just reading something on the computer or whatever. Neuroscientists call it “emotional hijacking.” I can take deep breaths to calm down and I can remove myself from the situation, but the feeling lingers like a bad hangover, sometimes for hours. I’ve talked about it in therapy a few times, and there are some childhood experiences I could consider tracing it back to (such as being yelled at and punished by nuns in Catholic school), but it hasn’t gone away.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Glad you included that song and video too. Wow, just two and a half minutes, my kind of pop song: what a field day for the heat. Nice, good pairing. Paranoia runs deep.


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