If you’re like me, you occasionally leap into political debates and disagreements — as long as it’s from the safety of your computer.
The anonymity, immediacy and reach of the Internet gets people fired up about politics. That’s good, in a way. We’re more informed about issues, and more engaged as voters, than any time in our history.
But there’s a downside. Because the Web is such a polarizing, self-selecting information filter, and because we live more of our lives on it and through it, people start to politicize every aspect of life, even trivial ones like fast food or comic books or coffee.
I don’t unfollow people for their politics because I understand that this really is who people are now. I don’t think they realize that because of this politicization, they’ve become greatly diminished. Boring, hectoring, supercilious, condescending, self-important and taken up with politics for much of the day. And YES, caring. Caring, caring, caring. We all care. I care. You care. Everybody cares. You don’t care that I care and I don’t care that you care. What’s important, everyone thinks, is that I myself care. You? You’re another story. (i.e. not as important as *my* story). My caring, like all my egotistical pursuits, takes precedence over everything else.
It’s important, in politicization, to never see the other’s point of view as even sometimes workable. Politics is a zero-sum game, unlike most of reality. “The other person’s view can only be stupid and evil. It’s motivated by money, by a desire to enslave people, or simply by wrong thinking made manifest. The candidate from the other party is not even human, could never be human, and therefore we are allowed to say the vilest things about him and do the internet equivalent of repeatedly poking him in the eye with a sharp stick. My own candidate, on the other hand, was hand-forged on Mount Olympus from 24 carat humanness. His motives are of the purest, his intellect beyond measure, his kindness and loving personality something for us all to aspire to. His back-story is as good as any covered-wagon tale. He only wants to help people. The other fellow – and I use the word fellow in the abstract, for he is not human, after all – does/wants/thinks/is none of these noble things. He makes me angry enough to kill.”
In that same vein, Sunny Bunch, a writer for the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon, wrote this recently:
This may sound odd coming from someone who has spent his life working in political reporting, but I find it extremely sad when people can’t separate politics from the rest of their lives. I’m not talking about people getting worked up about politicians; we live in divided times, so things are bound to get heated when talking about elected officials. I’m talking about people who say “I want nothing to do with [Person X] because he is a conservative/
liberal/Republican/Democrat in his personal life.” …
I’d like to think I’m more tolerant about this sort of thing because I’m a conservative who loves pop culture. If I had to boycott every artist I disagreed with, well, my iPod would be pretty empty and my DVD shelves would be bare. Being tolerant of differing opinions is a defense mechanism, in a way: without tolerance for those I disagree with, I’d go nuts.
If you disagree with that last sentence, you’re stupid and evil and should be banned from typing on the Internet.