Politics Makes Loud Bedfellows

Politics Makes Loud Bedfellows

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

A conversation with a friend this week got me to thinking about politics. Specifically, why do people turn into jerks when it comes to talking about politics? More specifically, why are people I don't agree with really big jerks?

We all rant and rave and scream until we're purple about the one thing we have absolutely no control over. We argue with friends, family, and strangers about our point of view, and consider committing cartoon levels of violence on those who fail to agree with us. Yet we don’t get that passionate about our work or our families.

“Hey, my kid is smarter than your kid.”

“Oh yeah?! Well, my kid can throw a baseball farther than your kid!”

“But what does your kid know about foreign affairs? My kid was an exchange student in France for a year.”

"So? My kid believes current government bailouts are only a stopgap measure for what is actually a bigger international economic crisis."

“Well, you suck and your kid has a stupid haircut!”

My friend and I had a short conversation with a guy in an elevator that ended up just like this. We had just left an event where the discussion focused on the Governor's race and that night's gubernatorial debate. The guy said, "Jill Long Thompson shouldn't even be on the same podium as the Governor, especially with that haircut."

"Really?" I thought. "You're college educated and presumably informed about state politics, and all you got is 'haircuts?' What's next, a shot about her shoes?"

After the guy left, we tried to figure out what kind of person becomes a campaign professional or political pundit. What are they like at home? What are their relationships like? How do they act toward their family?

"They’re probably one of two people," I said. "One type are characters playing a part, like Sam and Ralph, the sheep dog and coyote from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. They’re friends before work, but once they clock in, they beat the bejeezus out of each other. Once the whistle blows, they’re friends again.

"The other type are always this loud and obnoxious to everyone, including their families. Their only friends are in their own party. They have an occasional cease-fire lunch with someone from the other side, but they argue politics the entire time."

So I posted the question some online friends to gauge their reaction. One of them wondered if it was a feeling of helplessness that drove people to these levels of anger.

There is a line from the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: "You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow."

Is doubt what really drives the anger and bitterness? The Hillary Clinton supporters who were so upset when she lost the primary, they said they would vote for McCain? The people Photoshopping Sarah Palin's head onto bikini-clad women holding semi-automatic rifles? Do they truly – deep down in the places no one talks about at political rallies – doubt their own choice, and wonder if they’re backing the wrong horse? Are they worried their candidate will fail, and they’ll look foolish for backing them? Is that what all the screaming is about?

During the 2004 election, several of us at my old job would argue via email about our choice for president. We forwarded articles about some subtle nuance of a comment the other guy made 30 years ago, and electronically shout, “See? SEE?!” Your guy is EVIL.” And we would sit back triumphantly, convinced that our know-nothing colleagues on the other side would crumble in a heap of logic, weeping that they never knew their guy was so wrong for America, they’re so sorry, and could we ever forgive them? Those weepy moments never came. Instead, they rifled back their own articles, waiting for our weepy moments. And it kept going until a couple weeks after the election.

It's all so tiring and annoying. It wastes time and energy I don't have. So I have bowed out this year. I’ve already decided who I’ll vote for, and I refuse to participate in the debate. I don’t keep up with who’s saying what, what their hot button issues are, or why they did or did not vote for the war. No one is going to convince me to switch, to cross parties, or to consider another point of view. I’m smugly close-minded on the election, and secure in my choices.

But it's not apathy on my part. Far from it. I’ll be done voting by 6:15 a.m., and spend the rest of the day waiting for my party to prevail. I just refuse to waste anyone’s time, especially mine, getting drawn into a subject that’s only going to raise my blood pressure.

Especially since the people on the other side of the debate stupidly refuse to recognize the superiority of my candidate's views.