I think I was going to write a final Dragon*con post for today, something about how much easier it is to exit Atlanta than it is to get into it, and some clever anecdotes about driving into Florida… but all that is going to have to wait.
I had scheduled this particular blog to occur a few weeks from now, but comments from readers caused me to move it up, and for that I apologize. See, this treads around politics a bit, though I think that it maybe isn’t exactly “political” per se.
When W. was running to be the 43rd President of America I was, to put it mildly, a detractor. I believed every shitty thing anyone had to say about the man and was all too happy to spread it around. I would grow enraged watching him on TV because every word he said was a lie, and I felt like he was smirking at me, gloating because he knew that a percentage of us knew he was full of shit and there was nothing we could do about it. In a word, I hated the man.
Then came 2008. McCain (who did not particularly bother me even if he was a bit philosophically… we’ll call it flexible) lost to Obama and the whole tone of the nation changed. Formerly rabid chomping madmen became blissfully calm, full of hope and wonder, and formerly happy, satisfied citizens became frothing lunatics, all virtually overnight.
I listened to the screaming about Obama while shaking my head in puzzlement. Not a citizen? Secretly a Muslim? Wants to give our country away to the Middle East? Who thinks this? Disappointment I get. Frustration I get. But where was this blinding anger coming from? These people were so upset that they’d believe every shitty thing anyone had to say about the…
I get it.
So I began thinking about myself, and trying to honestly evaluate my behavior. I realized that I was every bit as bad as any Tea Party crazy is today, I just sounded more sane because I am skilled at argument, and the media loved to show us the Tea Party inbreds who triumphantly declared they would never read another book back in the third grade and have held true to their vow. The media have largely ignored the reasoned thinkers who legitimately feel the process has betrayed them in favor of the funny sound bite that plays oh-so-well on the YouTubes. And I have fed right into it.
Now, the expected American reaction to the “opposition” flogging your guy in public is to get even angrier and try to shout even louder. On TV, in Facebook, in someone’s D&D webcomic comments. Suddenly I found myself having the reverse reaction. I started thinking back on all the things I thought about Bush Jr. that very likely were not true. By observing the vituperative gnashing over Obama I realized that I no longer hated W., in fact I felt a bit sympathetic towards him. I have tried to tell friends this a few times, and with the exception of my gaming buddies have received blank stares in response. It’s like people don’t even want to consider that whoever they’ve invested so much effort into hating might not actually be that terrible a person. Most act exactly as if they could not hear me.
Now I don’t really think I’m going to change anyone’s minds out there. Grousing over the injustice of it all and demonizing those outside our own political “tribe” is huge sport and many people are very invested in the game. Besides which, I’m 43 and this just occurred to me, I’ve a feeling it isn’t the sort of revelation you can just share and expect it to make sense to anyone else. But I also feel like I have to try.
Our political system is a giant crazy-lens that makes the people on the other side appear distorted and malignant, whether they are or not. Some really are whacky, but for the most part, they all started out as decent folks who just wanted to do some good. But that process displays monsters when there are real people through the lens, which serves the dual injustice of making the good look bad and the bad look normal. We continually feed the machine every time we don’t listen, or we get angry, or we stop talking to one another. I’m not asking for you to change your life…
Just think about it.