Monday, November 1, 2010
I was talking to someone recently about how adorable/silly it is that little kids think they have political views. I can remember having a very strong dislike of George H.W. Bush at the tender age of six, and I can even remember voicing that dislike to my friend Hana's mom, like we were having an adult conversation. Looking back, I can clearly see that I was simply regurgitating what I had heard my parents saying, but, at the time, those views felt like they were mine.
When I'm around kids now, and they start telling me that Obama wants to take their houses away, or that Obama is the savior of the universe, I have to laugh (and cringe a little). It's funny to see their conviction about things they know absolutely nothing about. A year or so ago, my friend James showed me this journal he'd found from when he was a kid. It was an election journal, and in it he had written his thoughts every four years about the candidates running for office. From a very early age, he was a staunch Republican. Why? 'Cause all of his outside influences told him to be. Just like I was a good little Democrat as a child
Good thing we grow out of that....
Oh wait. No we don't. Fast forward, say, ten years from those cute, childhood musings on the state of the nation. It's high school. For most of us, we live in an area that mostly reflects the views of our parents. After all, people tend to avoid living in places where everyone disagrees with them. So, all of our friends have been indoctrinated with the same political ideology that we have. We're surrounded by people who all "believe" the same things that we do. Did our friends come to these conclusions, at the age of sixteen, by any special means aside from what their parents told them? Probably not. Sure, there are some kids who really do spend a lot of time developing their political views through research, but that's not the majority. Basically, the forming of political views in high school is framed by either an acceptance of our parents' views, a rejection of our parents' views, or an apathy toward politics. It's rarely based on knowing anything about the issues, or drawing our own conclusions. I remember asking a friend who was on an anti-Bush rant in high school what she didn't like about him. Well, he was stupid, ignorant, dumb, and didn't speak well. Those are great reasons not to like that one kid who sits in the corner of your Spanish class shooting spitballs at the back of your head, but it's not a super well thought out reason to dislike a President.
We're still impressionable in high school, so we get our political views from our friends instead of our parents. But where did our friends get their political views? Yup, you guessed it. From their parents. We're all very sure of ourselves now, 'cause our parents and our friends, and the good people of Morally Upstanding County all agree with us. And we choose a college that validates that further. I can't count the number of times, as I was preparing to go off to a little Christian school in Orange County, that my mother referred to me as her "little, Republican daughter." This irked me to no end, and I think I may have eventually yelled. My dear mother (whom I do not mean to rag on at all, for I love her dearly) would also lecture me while I was at college about the importance of registering as a Democrat, so I could vote in the primaries. A) I wasn't going to vote in primaries. I was eighteen. B) I just wanted to decline to state. I had no party. I disagreed with both (and, in some cases, agreed with both). I wanted to vote on issues, not on party lines. Was that so much to ask? Resoundingly, yes. Everyone around me insisted I choose. You're for us, or against us. Which is it gonna be? At a Christian school in Orange County, questioning meant I was a liberal. At a public school in Marin County, questioning meant I was a conservative. For me, questioning was my way of differentiating myself from the people around me who had political views stronger than their reasoning abilities.
Good thing we grow out of that....
Ohhhhhhhh, wait. No we don't. Fast forward to age 25, age 45, age 65, and so on. We've formed our opinions around our parents, and then our friends, and now around commentators on cable TV who tell us everything we want to hear, and nothing we don't. If something runs counter to our firmly-held beliefs, it can't be because we were thinking about it wrong, or there are exceptions. Just shift the rhetoric, and we can make it work. Take two sort of related issues that get people hot under the collar: Abortion and capital punishment. I see campaign ads that say things like, "So-and-so will make abortion A CRIME," and "What's-her-face will NEVER seek the death penalty!" These things are supposed to make me think that these candidates are absolutely vile creatures with no sense of goodness. But let's think about this here.
The pro-abortion movement has found some absolutely brilliant rhetoric in the use of the term, "pro-choice." 'Cause what's the opposite of that? It's not pro-life. It's anti-choice. If you are anti-abortion, you are against freedom. I mean, how perfect is that? If Glenn Beck were pro-choice, this is EXACTLY the term he would've come up with. Instead of focusing on the legitimate concern for human life - which I think most of us would say is a good thing - this focuses on power. It's not about wanting to save children; it's about taking power away from women. It's about forcing religious views on people who have no interest in religion. It's control. ROOOOOAAARRRRRR!!! If people really stopped for a second to think about it, they would see that the whole anti-choice thing is bull. Sure, you can disagree about when life starts, and that's fine. You can have a civilized debate about that. But the second that you shift the rhetoric to pro-choice, you villainize the opposition. It's about those conservative meanies trying to control your body, and that's just not nice.
Capital punishment is the other side of this. Ads that run promoting capital punishment talk about cop killers and child murderers. They demand "justice" for these innocents, and insinuate that anyone who disagrees is a murder-sympathizer; that somehow, by refusing to kill a killer, one is condoning the behavior. Clearly, liberals wants to kill your innocent babies AND reward evil murderers! Again, this disregards the legitimate concern for human life. If someone who is pro-capital punishment were willing to actually consider the argument of the opposition, they would realize that, like one who fights for the rights of unborn children, one who fights the death penalty is trying to protect human life. It's not about sympathizing with killers and letting them get away with murder. It's about a hesitance to consider killing a justifiable response to killing. It's also a hesitance to execute a person who may later be proven innocent, as has been the case more times than most would like to acknowledge. It's absolutely ridiculous to refuse to see that point. Again, you can have a civilized debate about whether ending the life of a killer is justified or not, but the second you make those who are anti-death penalty out to be pro-murder or anti-justice, the conversation ends. That's it.
So, I hate you. I mean, I'm supposed to right? That's what I've learned from all of this. If you disagree with me, you are against me.