Thursday, June 15, 2017

It should be obvious

This should be so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said, but, times being what they are, it clearly does: Today’s shooting of a US Representative is inexcusable. There can be no defence of the attack itself, nor of the person who perpetrated it. End of story. Except, of course, it isn’t.

The USA’s politics are often described as “polarised”, and they are, but that word is far, FAR too kind: US politics have become utterly toxic. The political divide in the USA is now deep, angry, and seemingly unbridgeable, with both sides unable to agree on anything whatsoever.

I have my own views, often expressed on this blog, about why this is now the state of politics in the USA, but it doesn’t really matter what I or anyone else thinks, not when so many people quite literally hate those they disagree with—regardless of which “side” they or their adversary are on (even the same “side”). How is it even remotely possible to talk about “restoring civility” and the like when people don’t see their opponents as human?

Another thing that should be obvious: Not all people, however partisan they may be, are as aggressive and bitter as those who scream the loudest on social media. Hardly any are actually violent or likely to ever become so, but it doesn’t take many violent people to upend everything, nor does it take many vitriolic partisans to poison the discussion for everyone, making civil discourse impossible and screaming matches certain.

Anyone can point at the fringe voices that have made vitriol their standard response, aggression their standard procedure, and who have helped legitimise offensive speech. The only real difference between the “Bernie Bros” of the Left and the “Alt Right” white supremacists on the Right is some ideology—which, it must be noted, is usually partly or wholly inconsistent with their erstwhile fellow travellers on their side of centre.

Because of this, claiming that only “the other side” is responsible for the current disgusting nature of US politics—as always happens when there’s something like this shooting—is merely part of that same sick politics, boiled in its broth of seething resentment and baked within its self-righteous shell. This is one of those rare times when we can legitimately and fairly say, “a pox on both their houses.”

I have no solutions to offer. I have suggestions, sure, things that might, maybe, help turn down the volume and heat a bit, but no one’s looking for solutions. Maybe there’s too much money to be made by enabling the twisted anti-human frenzy?

So, we are left knowing two things. First, there can be no defence of the attack itself, nor of the person who perpetrated it. The second thing is the worst part: It will happen again.

That IS obvious.


rogerogreen said...

When I read the shooter was inspired by Kathy Griffin's severed head pic or the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, I just SMH.r

Jason Peaco said...

I'm going to disagree with you slightly on this. I think the divisions are bad but not as bad as people think. All we seem to see now are the extremes.

Because the only thing the media seems to cover are the people who scream the loudest. It then becomes self fulling. Where are voices of moderation? They don't make good copy. They don't make a good news story.

Thus the reason Alex Jones is being interviewed by Megyn Kelly. How about an interview with the woman who helped found the Tea Party but believes in global warming and the Paris Accords. Nope. That's not a seller for sure.

The most important thing people need to start remembering is words have consequences. If we demean and ridicule people all the time at some point someone will decide that that person is really not human and then just about anything can be done to them. After all they aren't one of us. So politicians need to stop calling people names. That's across the board. Just because you disagree with someone doesn't mean they are evil (there are of course exceptions to this rule). It doesn't mean they don't love their country.

It does mean that you can call people out if you think their health care bill will leave millions without insurance. But deal with the facts about what's going to happen. Challenge them about their priorities.

My mother had something she said to my brother and myself when we were growing up and this applies here: We don't call our brother stupid (slight pause here) even if he is. You can apply this to any situation and any name or insult you like.

But I think most of all we all need to take a chill pill. We have instant communication but we haven't mastered instant critical thinking. Everyone is quick to be outraged and respond to the latest "outrage" maybe we need to take a moment or two and think through what are response should be.

Maybe that's a way to calm down. Maybe that's a way to be just a little nicer to people. Maybe that's a way to start to make things better.

rogerogreen said...

If just ONE (specific) person would stop tweeting, that'd be a start.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I don't disagree with what you said about the media, but—and I should have been clearer about this—in this post I was talking mainly about what I've personally witnessed, not how the media portrays such discourse. Online discussion about anything political has become so vile that I usually opt out entirely.

But, for me, the most important point you made was about people taking a moment. Awhile back, well before the 2016 US elections, I adopted that very policy, and it's saved me countless times—particularly because so often the outrage du jour turns out to be blown out of proportion or not at all what it was presented as being. By taking time to, as you say, think through what my response should be, I've often been saved from feeling like a dick when I find out later that outrage would have been misplaced.

That aside, taking time out often means I don't engage in online "discussions", even when outrage is warranted, and that's saved me all sorts of stress and unecessarily elevated blood pressure.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Much of the rhetoric from Republicans has been extremely unhelpful, as has their attempt to lay blame and shame on Liberals and Progressives by taking things they said after the shooting out of context and fitering through ideological spin. But, I expected nothing less.