I watched the “debate”-y thing the other night. It was terrible. I hated every moment and I’m doubtful that I’ll ever have recovered from that terrible choice. I somehow watched that whole thing and didn’t turn into a garbage demon. It was like watching two vaguely humanescent aliens trying to light themselves and each other on fire using hands made of all thumbs while doing the most suburban version of the macarena that you can imagine. But backward. While being urinated upon by hyenas. What I mean is that it was galactically awful and that I lost 16 pounds that night (interpret that as you might).
Maybe there was some tiny, almost unnoticeable redeeming virtue in this, though. As I watched, completely, incomprehensibly, tragically transfixed on this grotesque spectacle, something occurred to me: we don’t have debates anymore.
No, a debate is what happens when two people have a disagreement and try to discuss the virtues in their ideas and the problems in the other person’s ideas, but that’s not what happens in America and it’s not just Clinton and Trump. No, it’s everyone: Republican and Democrat, woman and man, black and white, rural and urban, and so on. No one’s listening to some prospective “other side,” no one cares what anyone else has to say. This isn’t news. We all know this by now, but here’s the important thing: there are two political correctnesses — one good, one bad.
Everyone hates me right now, but before you write a snarky comment about what an appalling idiot I am, allow me to explain. Don’t worry; I’ll offend you and then you can denigrate me, but just hear what I have to say (see what I did there?).
Good Political Correctness:
Let’s just call this kindness. Some people don’t believe in kindness, and that’s fine, but it flies in the face of all kinds of ethical considerations as well as health data. Kindness is good for us, regardless of whether or not that evokes images of flower crowns and bonfires. The thing about this form of political correctness is that it’s easy to comply with: just don’t be lazy. It’s not hard to imagine how you might offend someone, and when you do offend someone (it’s practically inevitable for any of us), just say you’re sorry and try to learn from it. Again, I’m not really breaking any ground here, even if I’ve just pissed off half of you. But just wait; there’s more.
Bad Political Correctness:
I said we don’t listen to one another anymore. Here’s the thing: I disagree with most of you because I’m a Far Left radical, but look at what just happened inside of you. You almost definitely got uncomfortable. You might’ve thought to yourself that I’m a ridiculous person. You might’ve thought that I must be stupid. You probably thought that, no matter what I’m about to say, I’m definitely going to be wrong. Maybe you’re right, but that’s not the point. In fact, I don’t care whether or not you agree with my political views.
More interesting to me is that people have become so used to trying to identify with the “right” side and with being unmistakably opposed to the “wrong” side that they’re completely unable to see when the other side has something valuable to say, regardless of whether it’s dressed up in highly nuanced, considerate language.
For each side (and you know what the two sides more or less look like and you know which side you’re on), there are things that you’re simply not allowed to ever say, even though, deep down, somehow, maybe in some very hidden way, there’s some truth in those things! Whoa, whoa. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating for bigotry or prejudice or hatred or science denial or any other willful ignorance, but this brings me back to the debate.
I strongly oppose both our major Presidential candidates for different reasons. If I tell you that I’m more opposed to one than the other, maybe you find that upsetting. To be clear, Donald Trump says some of the most outrageously awful things I can imagine, but the way he’s been treated by the media (to say nothing about the absolutely dishonest ways by which Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson have been treated) isn’t always fair, just as the way Clinton’s treated is often abhorrent. In fact, if you don’t pay any attention to the solutions he proposes, many of the problems that Donald Trump talks about — trade deals that are bad for everyone but the super-rich, corruption as campaign finance law, endless war, deteriorating infrastructure, problems with foreign aid, etc. — aren’t conservative radicalism. In fact, much of it is fodder that associates with the left, and more interesting than that is that some of what Donald Trump talks about is the neglect and oppression of some of the poorest Americans such that both the Republican and Democratic parties have failed to acknowledge their problems in any meaningful way.
Donald Trump is almost definitely wrong about some things. Hillary Clinton is almost definitely wrong about some things. Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Karl Marx, and Jesus of Nazareth (maybe he was the only one in his third grade class who knew that the Earth was round) were all probably wrong somehow at some point. But most Americans seem to be too busy defending their group to acknowledge so many of the complicated problems we face. Too often, we have two choices and that’s all, and the problem is that each side is probably wrong about some stuff, so we’re practically forced to be wrong on a whole host of issues. This is stupid.
I don’t know that one side is more guilty of this. Republicans chastise Obama and Clinton for everything they do before they’re even done doing it, so it’s obvious that they have no interest in earnestly considering what Democrats have to say. But try to say something among a gathering of Democrats about how Donald Trump is right to point out that poor rural whites have been abused and neglected by the system over the past few decades and then try to take a breath in the oxygen-less room you now find yourself in. Even that’s wrong: sticking up for poor conservative white people will likely get you booted from any room of relative leftists in America.
Don’t let me convince you that political correctness is bad. Let’s be honest: I couldn’t change your mind if I wanted to, and you probably disagree with me, anyway. That didn’t change in the five or so minutes it might’ve taken you to read this. But maybe just consider that there are two political correctnesses out there and you’re almost definitely doing one if not both.
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