I spend a lot of time writing about politics, thinking about politics, and conversing about politics in person and on social media. I am liberal in my approach to most things, and I almost always prefer the candidate from the democratic party over the candidate from the republican party. The things I write about, and comment about on social media, have a pretty clear left lean to them. Even if you don’t know me, and haven’t read anything else I’ve ever written, you would probably guess that I’m pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-immigration, pro-universal health care coverage, I support safety net programs to help those in need, and I am against tax cuts for the rich. I fit the identity in many ways. You’d be wrong to guess that I was vegan (I love to eat, and love to eat a variety of foods, including meat), and you’d be wrong if you guessed that I was against agricultural innovations like GMOs. But here’s what got me thinking about the topic of this post: I don’t feel the need to hide it when I disagree with the democratic party, or when I disagree with something said by a politician that I otherwise support. I also don’t feel the need to hide it when I agree with something said by a politician that I otherwise loathe. That doesn’t seem like it should be shocking to anybody, but I’m not sure that it’s the norm.
I’m a stickler for using the “right” words for things. I’m sure I get it wrong myself, especially when speaking, but I try. There are a few things that I find particularly bothersome (perhaps because of their widespread use). Students I mentor have to deal with my routine correction of them, and they often pick the “incorrect” usage just to tease me, which is fun, but the poor usage bothers me when it’s not an attempt at humor. This is, admittedly, pedantic in some respects, but I think it matters, and I’ll explain why, after describing some of these nuisances.
Trump took to Twitter this morning to share some thoughts about Amazon. He doesn’t like Amazon. My guess is that he doesn’t like Jeff Bezos, because Jeff Bezos leans liberal. There’s not much out there on his political views, but when he bought the Washington Post, there was some reporting on it, and there’s not much evidence for any support for traditional conservative/republican causes. So, like most things with Trump, my guess is that this is a personal, and petty, feud, with no principled structure at all. But Trump is still out for Amazon. And that’s going to be a big point of conflict for the Cult of Trump, who show their true colors over and over when it comes to going against their proclaimed values to follow their cult leader.
I saw this on a friend’s FB thread this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not because I hadn’t considered the premise before; I’m familiar with Dunning-Kruger. I was struck by the inability to decide which is better. Not that we can help or determine which defines us better. We are either full of doubt or confident, and I’m quite sure that it’s not always aligned with intelligence (I know plenty of people who I consider very intelligent who at least appear to have no doubt whatsoever, and I know a few people who I don’t think of as very intelligent who are plagued by doubt). But, given these two options, in a false dichotomous kind of world, which is better?
There are conflicting narratives in the political world. This has likely always been true, but the separation of the narratives feels more palpable than any other time in my life. Sure, we’ve had conflicting narratives before: Reagan painted a picture of a world where the poor were living large on the handouts of the rich, and the counter-narrative was that nobody is “living large” and that people need help. There has been the belief that deregulation is good for us because regulations provide a costly burden, and this is countered by the cost is worth the protection that regulations provide. But these were issues of perspective, not issues of mutually exclusive views of the world. That feels quite different from what we have now, especially when it comes to Trump and Russia.
I am pleased that the gun debate continues in the United States. I am saddened that it takes the killing of children in school to reignite it from time to time, and wish it would continue without any tragic events. I think we’re making a fundamental mistake in the approach though, much like the mistake many make when talking about curing cancer. There is not one cancer, there are many cancers. An effective treatment for one type of cancer may have no effect on another. Likewise, there are many issues related to gun safety, and what might prevent injury or deaths caused by one of those issues could be quite different from what is needed to prevent harm from another. But when somebody proposes something that might help one cause, it is dismissed because it won’t help all causes, so we end up talking past each other. I think recognizing that is an important step forward.
I try. I really try. I try to see things in a less frenzied hyperbolic way. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. I’m often wrong, and the benefit of the doubt isn’t deserved, but I still feel better as a human being. Others might feel worse to be wrong, but I don’t mind being wrong, and would rather be wrong while reasonable than right while frenzied. That’s just me. But twice in the last few days, I’ve tried to be that way, and it seems that I’ve been too kind. Of course, the title of the post is a bit hyperbolic and frenzied in itself, because nothing actually bit me in the ass. In fact, I’m not sure any of this affects me personally at all, but here’s where giving the benefit of the doubt seems to have failed me, and the bite in the ass (which isn’t a big deal), was my wife saying “I told you so.”