I need to be nicer to others, and respect their beliefs more

Yes, this post is about me, and written to me. I am putting something in writing as a reminder of how I want to see the world, and as a reminder about respecting differences in opinion. I need to be clear, this is about opinion, not facts. I will still judge people who completely ignore factual information, like the approximate age of the earth, the DNA that we have in common with bacteria, the (sort of) recent rise in global temperatures, etc. Those are facts and, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

But which candidate you or I like, which person makes you laugh or makes you cry, which person you love or don’t love, which god you believe or don’t believe in…those are not factual decisions. Personally, I don’t believe those are things we have all that much control over. Sure, we can look for information to make us dislike somebody we used to like, so the act of trying to dislike somebody may produce the evidence needed to make that change. But, for the most part, I think we have initial reactions to things for many different reasons, and I think it’s counterproductive, and divisive to say things like, “these people are idiots for liking [fill in the blank].” Saying things like, “you don’t really like [fill in the blank], do you?” fly in the face of appreciating that people are different, and like different things.

I want Hillary Clinton to be our next president. I was a bit on the fence before, but I’m now solidly in Clinton camp. The thought of a Clinton presidency makes some people very upset. There is a lot of hatred for her, and, keeping with my goal of respecting differences in opinion, I have to allow those people to hate her. I just don’t feel the same way. I don’t see a manipulative, deceitful, empty vessel. I see a very smart, competent, reasonable, measured woman. I do not blame her for Benghazi, and I am moved by her testimony (amazingly impressive appearance before the committee) that explained so much of what happened, and made her seem even more reasonable to me. In fact, if the situation happened again, I would want somebody like her in charge. Does that mean that the response was perfect? Of course not, but hindsight is 20/20 and the mistakes could have been much worse. Did she lie to the families of those killed in Benghazi? I don’t know, and I’m not sure that I care too much. I think that there are conflicting reports about what was said in that meeting, and I think that it’s reasonable for administration officials to give partial information about things that are happening in the heat of the moment. Stuff like that simply doesn’t bother me, and, again, I’m not sure this is something I can control. This might outrage somebody else, and I don’t know if that’s something they can control either. This is where we have to respect that different things affect different people differently.

How about those private emails?  Seems overblown to me. I’m not sure she’s handled it as well as she could have, but I just don’t see any real issue there. I don’t think she was trying to hide things by having the email server, I think it happened at a time when these kinds of technologies were becoming more available, and she (or her husband, or somebody they were paying to help with their  technical support) thought it would be cool to have their own server, with their own address (not a @aol, or @hotmail address). Other than it being on a server in their house, there was really nothing different between what she and Powell and Rice did, and nobody had a problem with them. Was it a security risk? I doubt it, and I’m not sure that the State Department’s email server is the most secure place anyway.

Then there’s the claim that she’s in the pockets of big business. In this respect, the claims of her flip-flop on the bankruptcy bill was very, very disappointing to me. This was an important moment in my “switch” from a Clinton skeptic to a Clinton supporter. I found that, even as I was starting to lean toward Clinton, I was still weary, and looking for reasons to go back to Sanders. The Sanders campaign almost got me, when they were using a 2004 Elizabeth Warren interview with Bill Moyers to show how Clinton was “bought and paid for” by the big banks. Warren tells a story about interacting with Clinton (who she had such strong praise for), while Clinton was the First Lady, and how Warren was asked to teach Clinton about the bankruptcy bill. Warren talks about Clinton taking credit, rightly so, for getting the administration to veto the bankruptcy bill. But then, when Clinton became a Senator, she supported a similar bill. The thesis is that she did so because of the big donors who gave to her campaign for Senate.

I saw this and got a chill. It was evidence of what I had feared all along. Clinton was too right-leaning for my tastes, and she was, as everybody was saying, bought and paid for by big business. I was not happy. But, like Clinton does (for me) over and over, when given a chance to explain herself, she won me over. In an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, she explained this is such a reasonable way, that made complete sense to me. She explained that she worked hard to stop the bill as First Lady. When she was in the Senate, the bill came up again, and she fought to add protections for child support. I think she describes it better than I could, so watch yourself.

I find that so reasonable, and what I expect from anybody in Congress. I want them to work together. I want them to find compromise. If the majority wants the bankruptcy bill, then the bankruptcy bill should pass. If my representative is against the bill, and can come up with ways to make it better (but have to vote for it in return), that seems like the way things are supposed to work. That’s the way things have worked for a long time.

But that’s about what I like, and why. The real challenge is respecting what other people like. I really do not like Ted Cruz. I do not like the direction he wants to take the country. I do not like the sound of his voice. I do not like much about the guy. I know people who think he’s the best person in the Senate they’ve seen in a long time. They like how he won’t compromise. They like that he won’t make deals. They like that he blocks stuff (like the spending bills). I don’t like those things, and I have my reasons for not liking those things, but who am I to condemn somebody else for liking them. Can they help that they like them?

Then there’s Donald Trump. He’s the one I really can’t stand. I think he’s a bully, I think he’s mean-spirited, I think he’s unqualified for public office, and I think he’s either racist himself or at least makes others comfortable with their own racism (probably more of the latter, but that’s still not good). I think when he “says it like it is” he echos what some people feel inside but were shamed by society into thinking was wrong. That we shouldn’t condemn a whole group for the actions of a few. That sounds good to me, but clearly many Americans want to condemn all Muslims for the actions of a minority of Muslims. People think that, feel that, and when somebody like Trump says it out loud, they are liberated and feel like they aren’t alone, they aren’t bigots (because bigots can’t run for office), they are just calling it like it is.

That’s where my philosophy is truly tested: is racism like religion? Is racism fact-based? Is it fair to tell somebody who hates Muslims that they shouldn’t? It’s fair to point out all that they’re missing, because there are so many wonderful people who follow Islam (I know many of them, and am happy that I don’t dismiss them from my life because of their religion). It’s fair to point out that most Muslims aren’t terrorists. It’s fair to argue that a perceived anti-Muslim posture is part of why some Muslims do want to lash out against the West, and that giving attention to the subset of Americans who really do hate Muslims proves their point. But is it fair of me to tell somebody who hates Muslims that they don’t have the right to hate Muslims? This is where it gets hard. I want to call those people bigots (which would be accurate). I want to call those people ignorant, stupid, mean. But instead, I think it’s better to acknowledge that we all respond differently to different things. Instead of being angry at those who hate Muslims (or Blacks or Jews or Asians or Mexicans), I think my energy is better spent not hating Muslims and kindly pointing out the consequences of hating Muslims. I think it’s more productive to do what I think is right, and spend less time telling others that they are wrong, especially about something that is not fact-based. These are beliefs. These are not facts.

So how do I view the rise of Trump? Do I say that people are stupid, and people are being fooled? Or do I try to figure out what it is that people like about Trump, and imagine a world where that doesn’t exist? I have to say that his rise makes me very sad. It makes me sad that so many people appreciate his WWF style of politics. The guy who talks tough about the protesters (probably pretty easy to talk tough to anybody when you have the secret service protecting you). People appreciate that, and they seem to like it better than calm, reasonable discourse. That makes me sad, but I don’t want to get angry about it anymore. Sad is fair, sad doesn’t hurt anybody else. I’ll stick with that as best as I can.




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