October 18, 2016

BREAKING: Having A Political Opinion Does Not Make You Special

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What is the issue?
Flickr / Nicolas Raymond
Flickr / Nicolas Raymond

In a day and age where politics have become the new religion, everyone out there that has access to twenty-four hour news stations, a social media account, and the internet seems to have a strong opinion about anything that could be remotely considered political. And if it’s not political, people will find a way to make it so.

We also live in a time that having the right or wrong opinion will either win you favor or make you a pariah in certain circles. Being that this is a rather venomous, chaotic, and irrational year for politics and the people who follow every last detail, the only way you couldn’t possibly know about these jokes we have for candidates are if you’re living under a rock or have completely chosen to cut yourself off from the outside world.

Which to me is starting to sound like a good idea, if nothing more for the fact that it’s shown me sides of people I never thought I’d see and has almost made me lose faith in my fellow human beings.

Now before I get going on the subject, let me explain my views. I’m usually the type of person to keep most opinions to myself, based on the observation that so many people voicing almost all of theirs and how obnoxious and repetitive they tend to sound. (Especially on social media and other outlets on the internet.) I’m not a follower of politics in the regard of policies, economics, legislature, etc, and studying it down to a science. More or less, it’s the morals, ethics, and psychology behind politics is what I tend to grasp more than the statistics and details. To most, this isn’t enough in forming or even worthy of having/voicing an opinion. Which, I’d probably agree with you based on the fact that I don’t pay enough attention to political minutiae.

Coincidentally, that mentality is one of the many reasons that also makes me hate politics and most of it’s followers at the same time. Because to those who do follow politics as if it were gospel, it’s just that crucial to them and their way of life and thought. And anyone who doesn’t or opposes them, either gets looked down on or shunned for not being as on the up and up or having the same opinion as another.

Years ago though, when I was younger, I found myself relating to a more leftist mentality based on the crowd I hung out with. The older I got, I grew apart from those friends (whom I still consider good people at their core) due to not sharing the same hobbies and that my own beliefs had changed. I needed a break from their scene and views. I still maintained a few of those ideals, yet I began to hear the right out a bit more. I didn’t quite agree with some of their views and how they spoke of them either; the ones I did agree with seemed to make sense. I began to realize when I re-examined my beliefs, I’m for things like gay rights, equality for all, and the legalization of marijuana.

I’m also for things like the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and working for your hard earned pay for yourself to provide for you and yours. I think and feel that as long as what you personally do with your life, the opinions you hold, and how you treat people isn’t causing harm or strife directly to others, have at it! And feel free to voice whatever opinions you like; that’s why we have the first amendment.

In addition to all of that, I personally don’t know what’s best for everyone else out there; because everyone is different and knows what’s best for them personally. I know what’s best and what works for me as an individual. So I guess you could maybe consider me a libertarian of sorts if you had to put a label on it.

For me to sit back and see what politics, social media/internet, and media coverage does to people, it’s made me make an exit from Facebook, limit my own time on the internet, and with those who have political one track minds. It’s also made me realize that both conservatives and liberals do share some commonalities, both of which might fail to realize and most likely deny if it’s brought to their attention. And it’s not so much in a political sense as it is through how they behave due to a biased way of thought. So if you will, take a step back with me and lets look at conservatives and liberals and what makes them different, yet the same. All I ask is that you please try and take off the social justice lenses and/or look at this as politically and socially unbiased as possible.

1. Speaking with passion. Anyone who has a strong belief system, whether it’s political, social, or religious feels prompted to share that world view with others. Our views are shaped due to our own personal experiences, code of ethics, upbringings, lifestyles, economic standing, background, and so on and so forth. Therefore, people tend to gravitate towards the political party or social group that offers them the most peace of mind, stability, and reinforcement of belief structure and opinions. Which having beliefs and being passionate about them is all fine and good. It’s part of what makes us human is having our own thoughts and feelings. Where it goes awry though and gets ugly is when people use their beliefs and passions against others in such a way that becomes just as vitriolic, hateful, and insulting in the same regard that people claim to hate and receive themselves. Having opinions are fine; being an overly verbose, holier than thou jerk about your beliefs is another. Which leads me to…

2. Accusations and namecalling. Yes, conservatives and liberals are both guilty of doing this to one another. How many times have you either heard it come into conversation with others or read it on social media, message boards, and other outlets on the internet? Or even in your chosen candidate’s political ads/smear campaigns? As anyone knows about politics, it’s extremely cutthroat. People will speak and act out of said passions to either get their own point across, validate/feed their own ego and opinions, or as a means of bullying for the superior opinion in getting their rival to back down and scurry off with their tail between their legs in a heated argument. It all goes back to our primal instincts when human beings divided themselves into tribes; political parties are no different. In the midst of any sort of debate, fight, or discussion how much further ahead are you in getting your point across by calling someone names like hypocrite (both tend to use this), racist, bible thumper, Commie, hippie, libtard, conservitard, and so on? Or even accusing someone of being some sort of -ist, -ism, or -phobic without even trying to understand what it is they’re trying to say without reading into or looking for subtext to use against them? You may as well push them around on the playground for not liking the same cartoons or wearing name brand clothes as you do. It really does come across that childish and obnoxious hearing and seeing grown adults lash out at one another over differences of opinion.

3. Facts, figures, and cognitive biases. How many times do you find yourself watching or reading your favorite news network or publication and think to yourself “You know, that makes a lot of sense! They ARE wrong and idiotic…buncha ass backwards (insert your favorite social/political insult here)”? You’re not the only one, I promise. Everyone who enjoys politics, the news, and current events has these thoughts.  Whether you’re in the cult of CNN or a Fox News Conservative, you’re on the lookout for facts to support your own personal opinions/claims that you’re either rallying for or against on a topic. Or you may even start out wanting to understand your opponents better either by speaking to somebody in person or taking it upon yourself to get on the internet or social media to find answers, only to find yourself seeing things you already think/feel to be true in your own mind. There’s only so far statistics and details will get you in an argument; mainly because you can find facts to back up any side or aspect of a topic if you look hard enough. Not to mention, searching for said details online or through your chosen medium of journalism, whether it’s printed, digital, or television broadcast only has the potential to strengthen your own conservative or liberal bias on a subconscious level. This actually goes hand in hand with…

4. The desire to have the correct, only, and superior point of view. This, I attribute mostly in part to one’s own ego. Nobody wants to be told or be made to feel as if their own rationale and views are wrong, am I right? We feel strongly about something, we voice our opinions (sometimes ad nauseum for some), and hope to discuss that with others of like mind, share an opinion with someone who feels/thinks differently as us, or even just enjoying/taking advantage the privelege of being able to voice our opinions. It doesn’t always go over as well as we might like, especially when our egos like to come out and play on a topic such as this. When another says something that we deem politically or socially unsavory, it’s as if it’s a blow to our own egos and beliefs. Therefore, our egos kick in and we instinctively get on the defensive and feel the need to defend our point of view as if someone has directly insulted our point of view and us as a person. That, or some people just take THAT much pride in being a conservative or liberal and HAVE to blow their political load every chance they get, regardless of what others think or feel. And besides, being smug and self righteous isn’t a good look on anyone.

5. Media manipulation. Lets go back to number three for just a second. Think about where you get your sources of information and from and what 24 hour news network you watch. Why do you read and watch the news networks you do? It’s simple. Based on what it is you watch and read, you’re more likely to gravitate to journalism that fits your bias best. Now think about the manner in which they report, phrasing they use, and so on. How does watching the news or reading your chosen publication make you feel while you’re focused on it? Does part of you feel satisfied for having heard what you did or are you maybe saddened or angered about the headline or topic? This is the definition of propaganda and how it works. It’s designed to be biased, encourage you to get riled up, and push a certain bias and point of view. Most people who read or watch their chosen publication or news network has succumbed to this, no matter how immune or unbiased they claim to be. It somehow still pulls you right back in day after day to tell you what you want to hear and see how they’re demonizing your opposition. And most of us as human beings willingly allow and embrace it.

6. Social/political extremism. Again, I’m a believer in freedom of speech, whether or not I may or may not personally agree with or fully understand another’s opinion on any given matter (nor am I playing devil’s advocate on either behalf here). I do acknowledge that some individuals may feel slighted due to their gender, color of their skin, religion, etc. I am aware that unfortunately for some, this is still an issue they face in their day to day lives; which in turn would cause someone to speak out about it with passion and anger. So much so that it’s causes people to be triggered and seek out microaggressions.  I am also aware that there are people who are legitimately hateful towards others, go out of their way to use hateful language/slurs when speaking to or about others, and don’t care one way or the other because they feel it’s their right to freedom of speech. Add into the fact how intetnly people or both factions listen to all the talking heads, spin doctors, and biased written journalism out there and it’s easy to see how both sides can wind up being worked up into a frenzy. This is how extremism on both sides happens. One side feels/thinks/behaves that they are correct in what they’re doing. Someone else comes along and voices an opinion (unbiased context or not), leading to an all out verbal assault from both parties, and before we know it people are looking to be hateful, superior, and judge each other based on their own perspective. Not everyone is a hateful, disgusting person like Donald Trump; nor is everyone an overly emotional, browbeating leftist either. It’s how the media is portraying individuals and pulling at our strings to get us pitted against one another a human beings, making both sides look bad in their own regard. And it works like a charm every time you turn on the TV, log into Facebook, or read news articles and headlines from your favorite journalist. Hence, propaganda.

Honorable mention: 7. Voting. Yes, every four years most consider it our civic duty to get out there and elect someone they feel is best for running the country. And at least half of the population, give or take, is going to become irrationally upset at the result. But when people encourage their fellow Americans to get out there and vote, what they’re really saying is “Get out there and vote for who I want you to vote for. You’re gonna vote for so and so, right? RIGHT?!” And even if by some reason you magically are able to convince one of your fellow human beings to vote and they vote against you, what would you do with yourself and them if they voted against your party/candidate? Encouraging someone to get out there and vote is one thing.  Having the subconscious expectation and trying to suade your friend or family member into voting for your chosen side is unrealistic and seemingly arbitrary.

In closing, I know I’m not the first one out there to have ever written a piece like this. You could search the internet for other articles and columns with the same gist as I’ve written. Nor is any of this new to anyone that can clearly see what this sort of thing does. To those who ignore, deny, or absolve themselves of behaving like this when it comes to topics of a sociopolitical manner, it’s just further proof of cognitive dissonance.

People will also dissect and interpret what they hear, read, and watch according to fit their current belief system and emotional attachments. Along with continuing to seek information and further cement and validate one’s ideologies. What I know is I personally have control over in my own mind and behaviors is that people aren’t going to change, the world won’t stop turning, and focusing on my own life and pleasing myself. Even if sometimes that means voicing the occasional unwanted opinion or observation that’ll be overlooked, ignored, and scoffed at by some. Because after all, I’m still allowed to have my own thoughts, even if there are those who will still choose to disagree with me. TC mark

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