And the Winner Is...
So, who do you think won last night’s debate?
Wait… don’t tell me. Let me guess. Hold please, while I put my guessing hat on…
I think… you think the person who you were already aligned with ideologically, won. Hands down. Not only that, but I think you also think the other candidate behaved like an abject moron, and is categorically unfit for office. In fact, as far as you’re concerned, that moron is the embodiment of all that is putrescent in America, and you are embarrassed by their very presence in this race.
And how about the moderator? How’d he do? OK, I’m on a role now… hold on… closing my eyes… wait, it’s coming to me… Ah yes, your opinion of the moderator hinges on how much or little he let your guy/gal off the hook while grilling the other, all while maintaining the appearance of journalistic objectivity.
How’d I do? Just guessing here. But I think I’m right on.
If you disagree with me… so glad you’re still here. I hope you stick around.
Perhaps there’s never been a more polarizing election, or for that matter, polarizing time in our lives, period (the fact that people have been repeatedly saying that over the past several election cycles apparently only underscores the severity of the situation). The contrasts have never been starker. The line in the sand has never been sharper. A vast, echoing chasm that is growing ever, well, vaster and more echo-y by the day, separates us as a people, dividing two opposing forces:
Those who have all the “right” answers, from… Those who have all the “right” answers.
Just look at us, all empowered as we defiantly stand, on our respective ends of this chasm, shouting the other side down, and hurling all kinds of insults, convinced of our “rightness” and their “wrongness”. If we must shout, it’s only because of how impassioned we are. If we must insult, it’s only because the other side DESERVES it. After all, look how WRONG they are. And how RIGHT we are. It’s obvious to the whole world, and I can prove it to you by the simple fact that ALL of my friends agree with me! Not only that, but all of my handpicked and algorithmically chosen news sources (based on preferences determined by my Google searches) agree with ME. Even my favorite celebrities agree with ME. There’s nothing to debate here. It’s official. THEY ARE WRONG. I AM RIGHT (That is, my candidate). If you were reasonable, like I AM, you’d understand this, but as it is, let me deign myself to the level of THEIR side and explain. You see, even if I AM that is, my candidate is (in part) wrong (which, of course, I am not, nor is my candidate) our wrongness can’t begin to be equated with their wrongness, because our wrongness pales by comparison. Besides, if you look at it from a certain angle, when the moon and stars are aligned in just the right way, my “wrongness” isn’t really wrong at all, but a testimony to the fact that he/she/we are misunderstood because of our side’s great passion to be on the RIGHT side of THE ISSUES that are important to ME… I mean, us.
Ah yes, THE ISSUES! Now we’re talking. Shouldn’t we care about THE ISSUES? Don’t you care about THE ISSUES? Are you just going to bury your head in the sand and ignore THE ISSUES?
Yep, there are certainly issues. They are near and they are dear. Yes, I get it. But I am here to contend that, for all of our conviction, the issues don’t really matter to us as much as we say they do. Case in point: We say integrity matters, but what if your candidate was caught in an absolute, fully documented, undeniable lie that would have a detrimental impact on Americans’ ability to trust him/her as their president? Is this not an important issue? How far would you go to ignore and/or justify it? How much honesty/treachery are you in fact willing to put up with to keep “that other one” out of the White House? What scales are you using to weigh one lie over another? In the end, agenda beats issues. End justifies means. We don’t like it, but that’s the way the game goes. And most of us play right along.
Surely I am not describing you. Or me. We are clearly not the problem… that is, as long “we” means you agree with me. It’s them. The ignoramuses. The uneducated, ones. The unenlightened ones. The out of touch ones from that other demographic that I don’t relate to but have plenty ofvalid opinions about, based on very reliable memes to which I have been repeatedly exposed. Those people believe things that are harmful to society, the way I see it, anyway. They want to bring our country down. I can’t… that is, WE can’t let that happen, by golly! If it means turning my head when my candidate acts shamefully, or having to resort to assassinating the character of millions of people I don’t know (except through those all informative memes), so be it. There are greater things than civility/ character/ basic decency/ honor/ treachery/ criminal/ behavior at stake!
It’s amazing, isn’t it, how we can become so entrenched on our high ground, we not only dismiss, but completely vilify anyone and everyone who does not see the world in the EXACT SAME WAY as we do. This should scare you. It scares me. We have lost all objectivity. What’s more, it seems as if we don’t really care.
In the end, we see what we want to see. My candidate wins, not because of their innate brilliance, but because they had already won in my mind before the debate even started. That is our default setting. We can’t escape it. But what can we do about it?
Well, for starters… what if we stopped feigning outrage and excoriating the other side for the very same things we ignore, or even DEFEND when it comes to “our side”?
What if we admitted our own tendency toward bias?
What if we became as tolerant as we like to THINK we are, and put our broad paint brush down when it comes to vilifying people with whom we disagree?
What if we became less interested in advancing our agenda than in doing the hard work of listening and thinking critically and embracing intellectual honesty, and maybe learning something about the other side?
Is it even possible? Are we that far gone?
Your guess is as good as mine.