Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Now back to Dancing with the Stars

I know that I have a tendency to discuss political subjects with a straight-up liberal bias.  Sorry.  It has taken me some time to decide that, yes, liberals are as cranky, stupid, and often wrong as conservatives, but you know what: liberalism is still a preferable ideology to American conservatism. 

If the above equivocation about liberals being as flawed as conservatives at all leads you to conclude that both sides suck, a pox on both houses, I’ll have nothing to do with either, well... you miss a larger point: both sides are populated with human beings and human beings are fallible, often stupid, frequently rude, and, therefore, given to saying and doing dumb things.  And in the age of the Internet and immediate connectivity, dumb things can ruin a career.  Oh, if Washington and Jefferson were alive in the age of Twitter.  What malaprops they might be haunted by!

That stated, I have to admit that my bias against the (rarely) right in this country stems from my inability to hear the intelligent conservatives over the screamers.  I have often let my inability mask what I know to be true deep in the recesses of my thick head: there are smart, articulate, learned, conservatives who are separate from the noisy jerks and (sadly) too quiet to hear.  Not all of them are dogs responding to tone and ignoring actual words.  My inability to hear them speaks to my own laziness (this is the age of the Internet, after all) as much as their (perceived) silence. But for fuck's sake, speak up, people.  You do your side no service by letting Michele Bachmann have so much airtime. 

To be sure, I am not a fan of MSNBC.  Save for the wonderful Rachel Maddow, I don’t care for the screaming left any more than the screaming right (okay, a little more).  And though I see the insidiousness of Fox News and the effect of infotainment on the populace, I can only recall Robinson Jeffers’ great poem “Be Angry at the Sun” and cool my own ire lest I join the duped. 

Lately I've tried to do as others have been opting to do: keep things light, not start debates, cool the angry rhetoric of social media, keep calm and carry on posting pictures of food.  This is, perhaps, a good course of action. But I can’t do it today.  While fond of sharing gags, puns, and what I perceive as witty little observations about life and the odd encounters that come with living in Chicago, I see how futile my actions are.  No less futile than my previous method of bickering with relatives and strangers over Facebook to achieve what I thought might be some form of common understanding.  But nothing changes, especially people.  I might as well be angry at the sun for fucking setting. 

So I opted not to add my own angry, ill-informed opinions to these angry, ill-informed discussions.  That was a nice two weeks.  But after last night, I’m afraid I cannot slide so easily back to laughing at adorable kitties.  You’ve seen the news, I take it?  The grand jury made its decision, people protested, peacefully in some places, violently in other places.  I knew what would happen if I went onto Facebook this morning.  I’d see any number of blissed-out citizens asking, “Why do they burn their own businesses?” as if the Civil Rights era and the Rodney King riots never happened.  How soon we forget conversations we’ve had for decades.  How little we learn from them. 

So I was willing to stay off Facebook, but, of course, I succumbed.  I thought maybe a quick viewing of some footage might be warranted—I should know what’s going on, after all.  But there’s a perfect hilarity that comes while watching a clip from some tragic local news outfit from Bumfuck, Iowa reporting on the grand jury’s decision not to indict that cop who shot Michael Brown.  They relate this news, which most of America has been anxiously waiting to hear, with what may be seen as trepidation—no one could have expected the reaction to be different than it was—followed by the assurance that they are returning to their scheduled program, Dancing with the Stars. 

That was it.  I lost my shit.  I started laughing like a rabid hyena. 

Upon reflection, I see that newscaster’s statement about returning to Dancing with the Stars as pretty beautiful.  Yes, there is strife, anger, inequality, violence, injustice, poverty, materialism, stupidity, and confusion to consider, but ignore all that; we’ve got Lea Thompson and Tommy Chong dancing before a panel of self-important assholes!  Doesn’t that sound infinitely more interesting?  It certainly requires zero critical thinking and social analysis. 

By way of going back to my first thoughts about why I’m re-upping with the liberal camp, let me state that while liberals are perhaps too quick to lionize Michael Brown, and that, yes, he was not a perfect human being, the reactions of most conservatives seem to be considerably worse.  If you are convinced that the community of Ferguson is taking advantage of the decision or if you are confused about the angry reaction to the story, then let me politely ask you to stop looking at trees and see the  forest.  And while there are surely some liberals fixating on the wrong questions and hammering away at the old talking points, they at least have an admirable, albeit unrealistic, goal in mind: progression away from obvious social injustice.  This is, again, not to say that conservatives are not interested in such things, but more an observation that I can’t help but make: the fringe has hijacked that party.  Objective analysis and common ground are elements of the discussion that are sorely missing in the popular sphere.  So be it.  This is perhaps nothing new: there’s been a long history of sensationalism in news and public discourse.  Cooler heads have likely always resided left of the dial, but there was always a sort of understanding that the smaller venue was where you, the individual had to search to find a more reasoned, civil form of debate.  The problem is that now we see the popular talk shows, always happy to court the lowest common denominator, as being the bastions of wisdom and the lone voices of the voiceless, the watchdogs of the government, the truth seekers.  I’d say we’ve lost perspective if I thought we ever really had any. 

So I’m not going to throw my lot in with the liberals to the extent that I will see the conservatives as enemies.  I will try to remain a bit more open-minded than that.  But damnit, people—you’re not making it easy. 

To summarize: liberals are as full of shit as conservatives, but I prefer the smell of their shit.  If you’re curious about why people are furious about last night’s grand jury decsion, examine your questions and look outside your own experience.  Realize that it is a false equivalency to expect that people will be as rational in their response as you were when you heard the news.  Stop listening to the loudest voices.  Children scream.  Adults think, reflect, and compose themselves.  And then they scream.