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Angela Doll Carlson aka @MrsMetaphor wrote an excellent and very convicting post last week called Big but…or…what not to say in political discussions. In it, she highlights why I have little hope the political discourse in this country will improve anytime soon. Here’s a brief excerpt:
The reality is that we have a highly divided country on pretty much every single level. No one is going to sign on blindly to a sound bite. The only line it’d be possible for us all to agree on might be something like:
“We all want to live and live as well as possible.”
And frankly, that might even need engagement and discussion. As Pee Wee Herman says, “everyone I know has a big but…” We might all sign on to the statement above although I’d wager we could each offer up a big but-
“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want to pay higher taxes for it”
“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want a republican president”
“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want national healthcare “
“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want prayer in school”
Your big but and my big but are the reason we need to be able to have discussions and engagement. We need to be able to say, “yes, I hear you but I have an issue with this piece or that piece” and that cannot happen if your response to my articulated argument is to just tear me down by calling me names.
Politically speaking, I think it would be a fair statement that Angela and I do not agree on some issues, but I can disagree with her politically and still respect her as a person because she presents her views honestly and intelligently. And in doing so, encourages others to do the same. We need more people like Angela and fewer people on the far left an far right whose approach to political disagreement is an all-out war against the enemy, who believe those who disagree with them are evil, and believe that their agenda should be advanced by all means necessary.
Which brings me to my incessant rant.
Tuesday afternoon. I’m checking my replies column on Tweetdeck when I happen upon this retweet:
Thinking I must have misunderstood what the meaning of the tweet was, I tweeted back:
Rather than respond to me directly (or several others who took issue with that statement), @ActivismTips tweeted the following:
Despite my vehement disagreement with “our goals and aspirations that define us” (because I can have goals and aspirations to win a triatholon, but if all I ever do is sit on my fat butt aspiring to be a triathlete and never actually train, I wouldn’t say that defines me as a triathlete) I’ll give him/her credit for attempting to clarify the previous tweet. If we’re all human and are all hypocrites, then I suppose I took the “it’s okay to be a hypocrite” tweet too literally. Unfortunately, since whoever tweets for this account (which has over 15,000 followers and follows no one) does not engage in conversations on twitter as best I can tell, I was unable to clarify the meaning of either tweet. Which begs the question, does this activist want to engage in conversation which might offer some real change and movement towards a said “goal and aspiration” or do they just want to spur others to protest for the sake of protesting?
Since their twitter bio is rather vague: “This is how you find your inner activist, this is how you fight for freedom, this is how you dance the dance of resistance.” (Freedom from what? Resistance against what or whom?), I decided to visit their website, which provided The Activist’s Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life.
Again, no chance to engage in conversation. Just sound bytes. To be fair, I didn’t read all 1000 points, but here are the first 10, just so you can get a feel for their message:
These are 1000 ways in which you can politically and socially activate your life:
- The next time you’re with family or friends, discuss a particular cause, instead of letting the conversation drift to celebrity gossip.
- Be mindful of the fact that the news channels synthesize events in ways which make the individual feel as if activism is hopeless.
- Try to make friends that are politically involved, instead of maintaining the same old school friends.
- Stay focused on one particular cause, it’s fine to take up many causes, but always recognize your main cause.
- Call a big bank that was bailed out in 2008 by the people and ask them if they would be willing to bail out poor families.
- Go to a protest, do not let the stigma propagated by the mass media keep you away from protests.
- When your friends talk to you about new consumer products, change the topic to political causes instead.
- If you’re going to a protest, try to bring as many of your friends as you can.
- When friends say that protestors are ‘crazy’, explain to them exhilarating feeling of being part of a large politically conscious group.
- Being an activist requires sacrifice, you will lose many brainwashed friends along the way, but who needs them anyway!
My biggest problem with this exhaustive list is that I still don’t understand what the author of this list is for, only what he or she is against. Nothing will ever change if all anyone ever wants to do is to vilify some abstract vision of “the man”. To be fair, no progress will be made on the other side of the argument if they employ the same defamatory rhetoric from their own perspective.
I can accept that MY Truth may not be the same as yours, and I respect your right to live your life in such a way that it least compromises your values. Just don’t demand that anyone take you seriously when you encourage others to be
“Living a double life does not make you a hypocrite, we all have to feed ourselves, it is living a passive life that ruins your heart.”
“Take donations from the rich, but do not ever credit them, do not ever do the whole ‘sponsored by Goldman Sachs’ nonsense.”
“Write anonymously, it is an empowering act, forget the capitalist notions of copyrights and intellectual property.”
“Fight against the notion of intellectual property, the idea that our thoughts and minds can be owned and distributed.”
“If you have to lie to people by telling them there’s free coffee and donuts to at a political protest, then lie away!”
You know, all those things you accuse the greedy capitalists of being…