Of Politics and People

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
While I like to go new places and see new things, I'm not a big fan of the process of traveling. I have to fly twice a month or so for my job, and the indignity of having my Fourth Amendment rights violated, the constant inconvenience of airlines who couldn't get a flight to leave on time if our national security depended on it, and the sardine-like quality of both airports and airplanes gets on my last damn nerve. Add those issues to the fact that I seldom travel anywhere that I'd go if given the choice, and mostly I just want people to LEAVE ME ALONE on my travel days.

So imagine my delight when last week I was forced to change planes in Houston. Twice. In two days.

Overheard conversation 1: A couple was discussing the recent Republican Debate, specifically the question surrounding what should be done for a comatose patient who chose not to purchase insurance. Their consensus? Let him die. Die, die, die, because after all, it's his bed and he should be forced to lay in it, goddamnit.

Overheard conversation 2: Two men were discussing Rick Perry's bid for the Republican nomination for President, specifically his record as it pertains to the administration of the death penalty in Texas. While the men allowed that the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham was probably a mistake, it's okay because you "can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

The look on my face in the Houston Airport

The comment I made on Facebook was "You would not believe the conversations I'm overhearing here in the Houston Airport. Are we sure these people are part of the Union?"*

Seriously - what the fuck is wrong with these people? Do they honestly think that allowing people to die is right and just, and that having the state periodically put the innocent to death is the act of a moral and judicious society? I just don't get it. And the moral decrepitude of such attitudes made me wonder about the political attitudes of people of my acquaintance.

If I know someone who holds the morally indefensible position of the true Libertarian or Tea Party nutjob, then at what point does such a position become a deal-breaker in terms of my interpersonal relationships? After all, it's just politics, right? Their political position doesn't make them a bad person, or an immoral person...does it?

The older I get, the more I'm coming to think that holding a morally repugnant political position doesn't necessarily make someone an immoral person. But it sure as hell makes them an unthoughtful one. Someone cannot assert that they have a considered, thoughtful opinion advocating Libertarianism in a modern, civilized society, and simultaneously claim to be moral and just, with a dedication to doing what's right. After all, Libertarianism, by definition, is the attitude of "fuck you - I've got mine" (which they probably got through their unearned privilege, by the way). How can that be justified as a moral point of view?

So from my point of view, such an attitude makes its holder either unthoughtful and/or stupid, or immoral. In neither case are those attributes ones that I seek out in those I want to be my friends and confidantes.

And yet, and yet...

Writing off entire segments of the population due to their political opinion seems a bit...harsh. Perhaps they're fabulous people in terms of other personal qualities. Perhaps they spend their free time feeding the poor, succoring the ill, mentoring the young. Or perhaps they really are the racist, selfish assbags their politics suggest.** After all, there are other personal opinions that are single-issue deal-breakers for me, racism being the obvious example. Why is the emotionally retarded position personified in Libertarianism any different?

I haven't reached any hard and fast conclusion on this issue, as it's hard to know what's the right thing. I wonder how much of my conundrum is being fueled by the hyper-partisanship of our current political climate and how much is due to my own personal growth. Is dismissing someone on the basis of a political position unkind and immoral in its own right? Or is it a principled position, based on the standing up for what's right and just?

Where do I draw the line?

___________
*This comment precipitated the friend of a family member to tell me to go home if I didn't like the people there, followed by her "unfriending" me. First of all, getting the hell out of the state that repeatedly elected that hypocritical, cankerous choad Rick Perry will always be a priority for me without the encouragement of strangers. Second of all,  I don't feel too bad about it because the person in question leans toward the very political opinions I find so repugnant. I've decided that "good riddance," on both our parts, is probably the order of the day.

**I wonder how many Libertarians are people of color on a percentage basis? It seems to me that Libertarian attitudes depend in part on the confusion of unearned privilege with personal self-worth, and so people of color would be less susceptible to its foolishness. This may merit further study.

11 comments:

Phiala said...

According to a 2006 Pew survey, libertarians are young wealthy males; race wasn't statistically distinguishable from the overall sample (both were heavily white).

Ideology was determined by actual answers to policy-type questions, rather than by asking people to self-identify.

Eric said...

I don't really have anything to add, I just can't help staring at that poor orangutan. I say "poor": goodness knows, that could be pure anthropomorphizing on my end, that could be an orangutan's look of rapt fascination or the look of one about to be fed a huge bowl of pureed bananas or some other look.

There is a certain, specific lack of empathy in these types: many of them will have appropriate pity for people they personally know who are in a bad way, but can't extrapolate from that into an abstract mass of strangers. If it was their comatose mother risking becoming unplugged because of inadequate insurance coverage or their brother being falsely accused, well, that would be different, of course.

It's these sorts of people who caused Philip K. Dick to wonder how humans could be told apart from human-like robots (and, in his less lucid/stable moments, to fret that the robots were already amongst us).

Janiece said...

Thanks, Phiala. I suspected as much, but it's nice to get independent confirmation rather than talking out of my ass.

Jeri said...

You guys have probably already read this years ago, but I think it's pretty relative to the post:

http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html

Long, but worth the read (and the second page of black on red has GOT to be copied and pasted somewhere else to read).

I have no problem writing people off who are politically polarized from me. Surprise, surprise huh? Usually it needs to be a combination of beliefs I find untenable before that will happen. In other words if they are: racist, homophobic, and misogynistic, all combined, that will definitely tear it. But, I think we probably all know too many people who are shades of one or the other of the above, and yet we remain friends with them because they just seem misguided on that particular issue, not completely evil with a blackened little cinder for a heart.

But to your point, no. If a person is hateful and small to the point of wanting to let people die - people they don't even know, who have done nothing to harm them or theirs, who have just made a poor choice in life or been born in poverty or are the "wrong" color or religion or gender - then they get my hatred in return. Not to the point of wanting them dead, but definitely to the point of wanting them to shut the fuck up and leave me alone.

filelalaine said...

You are way too kind. Hell, I unfriend people who aren't punctual or have good RSVP manners.

If they don't have it in them to empathize with others, even on a hypothetical level, then I say good riddance to bad rubbish.

Tom said...

"Is dismissing someone on the basis of a political position unkind and immoral in its own right? Or is it a principled position, based on the standing up for what's right and just?"

Aye, there's the rub.

Janiece, you are looking at this from the perspective of the dismisser, while I have experience being the dismissee. I'm sure my ex-friend, no matter that I think his position (that of dismissing me based on my political position) and his politics are untenable, considers that he is making the "principled decision, based on the standing up for what's right and just...". I'm willing to believe that of him. One of his last statements to me was, "(aghast) You're in favor of abortion, too!" Like maybe that was almost as bad as being a Democrat.

As an aside, I would argue that no, I'm not "in favor of abortion." I'm not out there telling people they need to have an abortion, or telling people that it would be good for them and the nation, too. I'm in favor of the option being available for a woman who makes her own decision to utilize it. But that's neither here nor there.

One of the reasons that my ex-friend's decision to disregard and destroy a 35-year friendship over my choice of political party was so hard to accept was that I could not see how I would ever make that decision. I thought only a hard-core Tea Party adherent, swayed by lies and emotions rather than logic and truth, could make that kind of decision. But you seem to be taking that position away from me. So now I don't know. Is that something I may have to decide sometime in the future? Because I still do have some friends that have different opinions than I do.

But I do think you pose a valid question. How far does it have to go before the line is drawn. When is it appropriate to "Take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them." Others have decided I have gone too far, and have drawn the line all over me. To this point, I have not had to take action of that kind. Will I have to in the future? Should I?

But I feel I need to enlighten you about "the Texan in the street." No, they don't think it's OK to let people die. No, they don't think an innocent life is unimportant. If they did, they would have to recoil in horror from themselves. They don't "think" (as you and I know the word) at all. They have been told what the talking points are, and they faithfully parrot those points among themselves without actually "thinking" about the consequences to others, or what kind of people that makes them. Those are the people you overheard. Unfortunately, there are a lot of non-Texans who exist in the same "unthinkable" state (of mind). "Can't they see they are contradicting themselves?" No, they can't.

In a lot of ways, I liked being a Texan. Somewhere around the turn of the century that started to change. I may have to settle somewhere else for my old age. To paraphrase the song,

"All those Texans live in Texas...
That's why I reside in Tennesee."

Janiece said...

Tom, you make some really good points, and I thank you for your input.

I admit that when I was writing this I was thinking of acquaintances rather than long term friends. I also admit that if a long term friend (such as the Mechanicky Gal) suddenly turned into a Libertarian Ron Paul Butt-Monkey I'd probably send her to the nearest hospital to determine if she had a brain tumor. I simply can't imagine having a long-term, intimate relationship with someone who held those opinions.

You hear that, Mechanicky Gal? NO RON PAUL BUTT-MONKEYING.

I guess it depends on the evolution of the relationship. Did my friend evolve into those opinions after spending many years in a different camp? Did they always have those opinions? It seems unlikely I'd develop a relationship with them if that was true, but you never know, I guess.

And I do know that not all Texans are insane (hi, Chris!). I just had the bad fortune to be exposed to those who were, on the same day.

Matt said...

Janiece, as for where to draw the line, may I suggest the Texas state border as a good reference point? Having lived there for five years during W's second gubernatorial term and subsequent theft of . . . oops, sorry ELECTION to the office of president, I feel your pain. While it is a bit unfair to lump all Texans in to the same group, sanity does seem to be a scarce commodity there.

There also seems to be a dichotomy of opinion concerning the right to life of comatose patients. Remember Terry Schiavo? I guess since she evidently had insurance it was a crime to pull the plug, whereas someone without insurance (read peasant, immigrant, illegal alien, vagrant) takes their chances.

This is what happens when your state hero is an idiot who disobeyed orders to abandon an indefensible outpost (yes I mean William Barrett fucking Travis at the Alamo)) and gets massacred by the most incompetent general in the history of the western hemisphere (Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna).

Rant over, gotta run to class.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

OK I hear you.
Sheesh, there go MY plans for your exciting weekend in San Diego....

Janiece said...

Because we were all in danger from a Libertarian Mechanicky Gal. I'm so glad THAT's settled.

beatrice in Paris said...

I know a Libertarian non-white who comes from a privileged background. Not sure if that adds to the debate.