I hate political memes. Hate them with a fiery passion. A person’s political philosophy is, or should be, too complex to fit into a few words crammed onto a photograph. If a person’s philosophy is not too complex to do so, then I would submit that they need to delay participating in civil society until they’ve learned a bit more about the world and how it works.
That said, I can think of two philosophies that fit in a meme that are valid: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “And ye harm none, do as ye will.”
I don’t see either of those being posted on Facebook, though.
What I do often see, and maybe this is just a by-product of who my friends are, are a lot of hate-filled statements about the Right wing, about Republicans, and about Christians. I honestly do not see correspondingly angry statements coming from the Right about the Left. I’m not saying I’ve never heard or seen a mischaracterization of liberal beliefs, but they’re not as prevalent. Indeed, some of my liberal friends seem to spend hours of each day finding and posting anti-conservative memes. Their attitude seems to be, and many come right out and say this, “If we don’t stop these people, America is over. The battle between Left and Right is a battle of good and evil.”
As I write that, I realize that I have heard conservatives say similar things about liberals throughout my life. Maybe conservatives don’t use Facebook as much. Or maybe, I just expect better from liberals. I’m used to conservative rhetoric being a bit dumbed down. After all, it has to appeal to people who believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that dinosaur bones were buried in the ground by Satan in an attempt to test our faith, that the entire human race descended from a gene pool of two, and that the conflicting writings of the priests of a 6,000 year-old warrior god should be the basis for all of our modern legal practices.
When I was first becoming aware of politics as a young teen, the liberals seemed like the good guys to me, and the conservatives seemed like the boring old people from church who didn’t know how to have any fun. Now that I’m older, my image of liberals has largely shifted to a vision of cloying sweetness that wants to rule everyone for their own good. My vision of conservatives hasn’t changed a lot, but I am now aware that there’s more to conservatism than fear of change and the unknown. There’s solid scholarship behind some of their economic policies, and, as a libertarian, I share their commitment to resist socialism.
But I still expect liberals, I guess, to be enlightened, to seek truth, and to not commit sweeping errors in fact. I guess I expect them to at least try to be the good guys. So when I see things like this:
I get pretty angry. This is a pack of lies. And it’s a pack of lies intended to steer people who don’t take the time to think about the issues into giving power to people who do have time to think about the issues, but aren’t above telling stinking lies about anyone who disagrees with them. This kind of smear campaign is a growing tactic, particularly among liberal Democrats. I have evidence in my own home County right now. We have two candidates running for high office, both natives to the area, both intelligent and experienced. Honestly, I know that my County will be in good hands if either of them wins. But local Democrats have seen fit to fill my mailbox with lies about the Republican candidate, statements which cherry-pick his voting record and proclaim that, because he didn’t support a certain piece of legislation, he’s against kittens and puppy dogs and wants to eat children.
Anyone with a gram of sophistication knows that a politician must vote for a piece of legislation on its merits, its unseen implications, its obvious flaws, not based on whether or not he “likes” the concept it’s supposed to support. I can be completely in favor of marriage equality (and I am) but completely opposed to a proposed law that claims to support it, if I feel that law sets dangerous precedents along the way, or doesn’t actually do anything to further marriage equality. If my opponent uses that to say, “See, he doesn’t support marriage equality!” then my opponent is a goddamned liar.
In the local race I’m talking about, I don’t blame the Democratic candidate for the lies being spouted. I blame her supporters. They want to score points by over-simplifying the issues. They want people to make decisions without enough information. And that’s dishonest. That’s not what democracy is supposed to be about.
So, while it’s probably pointless to argue with the addle-brained, dishonest creator of this meme, I’d like to respond to it, point-for-point, just so readers know where I stand, and maybe will be encouraged to think about and research issues, instead of letting themselves be influenced by this kind of propaganda.
Republicans are against:
Okay, first of all, you can’t say ALL of a group are for or against any one point. All you can do is address the group consensus, or the published platform of the party in question. That’s what I’ll bear in mind on each point.
Children eating – (Putting aside the obvious joke. “Children eating” is different from “Children-eating.” Once again, grammar saves lives.) No law has ever been proposed by a Republican elected official or candidate which has the intended consequence of preventing children from eating. No politician would be stupid enough to propose such a thing, and I have enough faith in human nature to believe that no one wants to prevent children from eating. Many Republicans oppose programs like food stamps because they perceive the programs as enabling poverty and enforcing bad habits. They see the systems being badly abused, and they see them as a drain on the economy. You may disagree with their perception and their proposed solutions, but it is a lie to say that Republicans don’t want children to eat.
Healthcare for all – Why would a Republican want people to not have healthcare? I haven’t heard any argument from the Right saying that people should not have healthcare. I’ve heard lots of arguments saying that it’s not the Federal Government’s job to pay for that healthcare. I’ve also heard the very reasonable argument that paying people’s insurance premiums for them will not actually wind up giving quality healthcare to all. It will only further entrench an already bad system.
Marrying who you love – Guilty. Yep, as a party, the Republicans DO support idiotic schemes like the “Defense of Marriage Act.” As if letting a man marry a man or a woman marry a woman makes your man-woman marriage less special. There is no logic behind the party’s position on this, and I believe they only keep it alive as an issue so they can keep the votes of religious fundamentalists. I’ve actually written the RNC and asked them to drop this as an issue so that they have a shot at credibility. Times have changed. Marriage equality is the American Way and in keeping with the American spirit. Let your tired prejudices go.
Education – Nobody is against education. If they are, they’re not worthy of notice. Republicans often argue that too much public money is spent on education, that education should not be administered at a Federal level, and that the public school system is flawed. Those are questions of how education should be accomplished, not with whether it should be accomplished. And, seriously, liberals? Pay attention! Modern public education is only a little over a century old, and it was developed to turn kids into good little factory workers. Public school was invented by THE MAN, babies! So why do you hate someone for mistrusting it?
Science – This is so broad and so ludicrous that I can’t even argue it. There are pockets of the Republican Party and its membership who distrust the scientific and medical community. There are pockets of the Democratic Party who do likewise.
Global Warming – Um… Aren’t we… all… against global warming? Okay, that was too easy. I know what the author means, but hir Freudian slip is showing. Liberals love global warming, because it gives them a cause to bitch about. If they didn’t have it, they’d have to invent it. So yes, it probably looks to them like Republicans are “against” global warming, because Republicans are “against” their pet cause and the steps they want to take in the name of it. Well… so am I. Against the steps they want to take, I mean. In the political arena, I have yet to hear a single rational, science-based proposal for how to deal with the consequences of climate change. I do not deny climate change. I want to hear a good plan for dealing with it. And, in the meantime, I don’t want to hear lies and emotional anecdotes from either side. And that’s pretty much ALL I hear when I listen to public discourse on the issue.
A Woman’s right to choose – Why do we love, in America, to apply broad, sweeping titles to specific issues? “A woman’s right to choose,” could mean anything. It could mean that a woman is not allowed to choose her job, or the car she drives, or her spouse. In this case, it means a woman’s right to choose, when pregnant, whether or not to bring the baby to term. And yes, Republicans have long tried to deny women that right. But they lost that battle in 1973. It’s over. Let it go. (That’s directed at both sides.)
Veteran’s Care – I got nothing. When did any Republican oppose a veteran’s care? Which veteran? OH, you meant “veterans’ care!” ALL veterans. Okay. Which care? Like “A woman’s right to choose,” I’m sure this is a very broad name for a very specific issue, and some Republicans opposed some law which Democrats thought would improve care for veterans. But I can’t address this because it’s too vague and I lack specific knowledge. All the Republicans I know would slit their own wrists to quench a veteran’s thirst, so it seems pretty unbelievable to me.
Equal pay for women – Again, why would anybody oppose this? Why would even the most conservative Republican say, “Women should be paid less than men for the same work?” None of them would, at least in public. So, again, some bill was proposed that Republicans didn’t support, and we’re trying to pretend that that means they want women to be paid less than men. In fact, it was probably a case of a bill written in such a way that it didn’t actually do what it nominally set out to do, or it had huge, unforeseen consequences. Is it possible that there are some dinosaurs out there that really believe a woman’s place is in the home? Sure. It’s beyond possible, it’s fact. But it’s not the party’s position, and it’s silly to claim otherwise. It’s like saying that the Democrats seek a takeover by the Communist Party. Yes, some registered Democrats want exactly that. But they’re not the Party.
Headstart – And now we go from the ridiculously broad to the ridiculously specific. A specific government program to deliver pre-school programs to low-income kids. Maybe it’s a good idea. Maybe it’s not. I don’t think someone’s evil just because they like or dislike this single program. And it’s consistent with the Republican stance on limiting government-funded education that they would be against Headstart.
GMO Free Food – wait, didn’t you say Republicans are against science? Make up your mind, please! Genetically Modified Organisms are a scientific development, largely intended to increase our food supply and make crops resistant to disease and pests. Is there a possibility that, in monkeying with genes, we’re creating something we don’t fully understand? Yes. Is it true that modifications made to our diet through technology have left us more susceptible to cancers and other nasty diseases? Yes. Is it reasonable to call GMO-based foods “Frankenstein Foods” and suggest that they’re part of a vast conspiracy to hand the world over to Wall Street? No. The liberal hysteria about GMOs is exactly comparable to the Right-wing hysteria about vaccines bringing about autism. Neither fear is scientifically grounded, and, indeed, the very fact that anti-GMO crusaders use the term “Frankenstein” to describe food based on GMOs shows that they fear science. Frankenstein was a cautionary tale about a man, a scientist, trying to take on the role of God. Anyone who wants to characterize Republicans as anti-science needs to stay the hell away from this argument. People who live in glass houses, and all that.
Voter’s Rights – which voter? Oh, right, again… Tiresome of me to keep pointing that out, isn’t it? This too-broad term refers to the issue of voter suppression, and concerns that there are voter registration laws which are too tight in many states, some of which are perceived to unfairly apply to minority voters. There’s a pretty good (surprisingly good, since it’s on a major TV network’s site, and TV news is usually badly lacking in real content) article about the issues here. I’m not sure I understand why requiring IDs (which is meant to prevent election fraud) penalizes minorities more than non-minorities. But I think it’s a bit silly to say Republicans are “against voters’ rights.” It’s more appropriate to say that they back laws that tend to make it more difficult for minorities to vote.
The Separation of Church and State – fair enough. A lot of Republicans believe that we should have prayer in schools, and that it’s a shame “Christmas Vacation” was renamed, officially, “Winter Holiday.” A lot of Republicans will get behind statements like “America is a Christian nation.” But I think it’s more accurate to say, “A lot of Republicans don’t seem to understand why the separation of church and state is so important.” Which is funny, since most Republicans are extremely anti-Islam, and nowhere are church and state so closely bound as they are in nations like Iran.
Teaching Evolution in Schools – Again, yeah, some object to this. And some think we should teach the first few chapters of Genesis as “Science.” But I keep coming back to, “You let the military-industrial complex build indoctrination centers for your children, and you think the REAL issue is what’s on the State curriculum?” I know, I know, stop bitching about public education, ya wacky libertarian. What are ya, some kinda nut? Probably.
And People still vote for them? – Yes, they do. Because this country is a democratic republic. It is not a one-party democracy, which is a code word for a dictatorship. You think it sucks when the party you don’t belong to is temporarily in power? Imagine what would happen if there were no other party?
Believe me, I get why people don’t want to vote for Republicans. For a lot of my friends, marriage equality is a line in the sand. Really, it is for me, too. I won’t vote for a candidate who wants there to be a law saying my gay friends can’t get married to the people they love. But I also won’t vote for a candidate who says they can, and then advocates a bunch of policies that I consider to be misguided or fiscally irresponsible.
Demonizing the opposition is not the answer. Calling someone “evil” because you disagree on the role of government or on economic systems is not going to accomplish anything. Calling everyone who votes for a candidate you don’t like evil or stupid is no way to encourage the development of civil society. And telling outright lies about the people you disagree with says to me that you doubt the veracity of your own arguments.
Win the argument with facts. Facts are enough. If they’re not, then there’s something very wrong with the argument you’re putting forth anyway.
Greta article! We agree on so may points! I have yet to find a socialist who knows how to debate. Most end up threatening to throw their opponent off the thread (FB), or declare themselves the victor by exclaiming that it is this way or that, and that’s thats! They even treat their friends who disagree like sh_t. I have yet to find a way to deal with them, and that’s why I rarely engage. Any suggestions for dealing with rude friends with closed minds?
Thanks! Sadly, my only suggestion for truly RUDE friends is what you’re already doing–don’t engage. Extremists, and those who views are just regurgitations of someone else’s view, will never be able to debate you. They’ll just go emotional and twist your argument: “You say you don’t think the state can provide health insurance efficiently? So you’re saying you WANT BABIES TO DIE IN PAIN!!!” It’s pointless. The only mind you can change is an open one. And unfortunately a lot of smart people close their minds as they get older, because they’re just tired of listening to the static.