Monday, February 11, 2008

Friend...Or Other Party?

Just when did having different thoughts or political stances come to mean hate?

Friendship didn’t used to be partisan. I hear tell of a time when people would sit around a dinner table and affably or even heatedly discuss opposing viewpoints and it didn’t mean they hated each other. My older relatives remember having friends of different political parties. Those were just your opinions, not who you were in your heart.

These days the world seems to be much quicker to dismiss people based on politics. I don’t know too many people who are not of my same party. ‘Well why would you?” a friend snorts when I bring this up, “They’re assholes to think that way.” Listening to a political speech by a member of the opposition party, I’m hard-pressed to disagree. And that, I believe is the heart of the issue. Politics and debate in general has become intensely personal. The assessment of a person’s character now goes hand in hand with a person’s politics. Fairly – some of the time, sure, but undoubtedly unfairly much of the time.

And this loss of ability to debate and remain friends extends beyond politics.

Recently, I had a disagreement with a friend of mine. I figured we’d solve it by discussing the difference of opinion we had and go on our merry way. Instead of attacking my statements though, she attacked me as a person. I was stunned. I couldn’t understand why she was making this personal. Try as I might to keep the dispute to the business at hand, she kept pulling it back to personal insults. What had been a professional issue became indeed a personal one. I was deeply hurt but now I see it’s a sign of the times.

We’ve lost that ability to argue a point of view for the sake of eloquence that was so admirable in our preceding thinkers and scholars…even dinner guests.

Now most dinners I’ve been to lately feature a lot of intelligent, similarly-minded friends arguing the same side of things to each other. We can all agree on what assholes the other side is made up of and happily enjoy our pasta. It’s not a challenge to our beliefs or our oratory skills.

Is it because we don’t feel strong enough in our own cores anymore that we need to take differing ideals personally?

I certainly don’t have the answers but I know I don’t like this state of things. And heck, if you disagree with me, you’re an asshole.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Mutant Poodle said...

A guy who worked for me a long time ago was a die-hard Republican - but this was in the Clinton era, and no one was questioning your patriotism if you disagreed with the President (or, for that matter, agreed with him).

Now, given the sneering dismisssiveness so many of us who opposed the Iraq war were subjected to when it started, and the way that effort crashed and burned at such high human and monetary cost, perhaps some of us are afflicted with the world's worst case of schadenfreude.

But I digress. What worked for my colleague and me is we focused on what we thought were problems -and we agreed on a lot of them - and then differences in solutions didn't seem so insulting.

These days, those of us on the left can point to a great deal of evidence that shows that the other side's solutions to a myriad of problems have been failures, and so people who espouse them, we feel, are not paying attention. Those on the right, in order to continually justify (what I consider) their failed policy prescriptions are able to do so through severe cognitive dissonance, and the response to their opponents becomes highly personal.

I saw Janine Garafolo on the Daily Show say, a few years ago, that at this point she considered support for Bush a character flaw - not a helpful construct, admittedly, but one I completely understood. Mostly because in order to think Bush a success, you need to invent a whole new set of facts.

And when people start arguing about what reality is, as opposed to how to address it, things get very personal.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Brett said...

I used to enjoy political debate and discussion, but then along came the internet, where every anonymous ass-hat with a modem suddenly felt empowered to firehose his own self-anointed political wisdom and insight all over basically anyone he picked as a recipient.

Thanks to the internet and the profusion of cable news channels all clamoring to grab and retain eyeballs surfing past as fast as the clicker-thumb can twiddle, "discussion" now has been boiled down -- rendered like lard -- to screeching sound bites. To hell with context and nuance and understanding -- LET'S JUST HAVE A BELLOWING CONTEST!

WHO'S LEADING IN THE POLLS!?!

WHO'S UNDER INVESTIGATION!?!

WHO'S THINKING ABOUT MAYBE FORMING AN EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER RUNNING IN THE 2024 ELECTIONS!?!

POINTLESS INANE FACTS! I NEED DATA! SCORES! HIGHLIGHTS! SOUND BITES! FUCK UNDERSTANDING! FUCK RELEVANCE! ME LIKEY BLINKY BLINKY!

And now I find myself little interested in talking politics except with known friends and then only in live face-to-face encounters.

I dunno that this is improvement.
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B (conservative Republican, yet still somehow not a totally worthless human being)

6:51 AM  

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