I’ve been trying so hard to avoid alienating people I love and care about by ranting and raving in a partisan way about the presidential election. I definitely have my opinions, and I realize that my history growing up among the fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Church causes certain things to push my buttons more than others and gives me certain blind spots. I think the biggest problem we have as a nation is the blind trust in money-changers that both political parties share. I don’t think anything short of a complete economic meltdown will break us of that, and of course I don’t want that to happen. What I really want is for all the poison that precludes the possibility of rational dialogue to be sucked out of the air. So whether Obama or Romney wins, there are ten types of people who I want to lose (well, not lose exactly, but be humbled and repent and receive a new identity).
1) The pundits
These are the dimwits who replaced Walter Cronkite as our society’s basic source of information. They don’t deal with truth, because they have turned life, and especially politics, into one big sporting event in which the assumption is that everyone is lying and the challenge is to lie in the most quotable, meme-worthy way. The pundits have been an important catalyst for the post-truth world in which we live. Fact-checking is what boring nerds do; and each side has an equal number of fact-checkers so it’s to be expected that they’re biased too. It’s more entertaining and exciting to analyze the facial expressions of political candidates and compare possession time in their debates just like a football game than to have any kind of conversation about the veracity of the claims they’re making.
2) The pornographers of outrage
Many of my fellow evangelical Christians are addicted to pornography: not pictures of naked people, but forwarded emails with delicious conspiracy theories exposing “the truth” about slick-tongued politicians who are really the anti-Christ in disguise. What’s even better is if you can find some reference from the book of Revelation to support your theory. For example, the breastplates of the warriors called by the sixth trumpet in Revelation 9 are red, yellow, and blue (phew! not red, white, and blue!), so whichever politician has the gall to wear a yellow shirt instead of a white one is clearly one of the warriors of the sixth trumpet. Imagine how much more Christians would shine with the light of Christ if they were outrage-porn-free. They should start outrage addiction support groups. I’m not joking.
3) The identity politics police
This might be the bitterness of an ex-radical talking. I get that white, male, rich, straight people like me have privilege and presumptuousness that we don’t recognize. I try very hard to eradicate myself of that pompous demeanor that has come to be popularly known as “dooshiness.” However, as a Christian, I see the goal in any struggle for social justice to always be reconciliation and dignity for both the privileged and the oppressed. White rich straight guys have worthwhile values and idiosyncratic beauties about them that are not cancelled out by the social categories into which you classify them. It does nothing to create honest, vulnerable dialogue about each others’ blind spots when the identity politics police are standing in the wings with bullhorns waiting for the opportunity to cry out RACIST! SEXIST! HOMOPHOBE!
4) The sanctimonious moderates
I’m somewhat of a moderate, but not really; it’s mostly that my strong conservative and progressive opinions make me unsuitable for either political party. Of course what we call “progressive” and “conservative” today is a joke because it’s derived in the ideological incoherence of cynical electoral coalition-building. Anyhow, I can’t stand what I would call sanctimonious moderates. Those are the people who are counting to make sure that I have an exactly equal number of things to say about the people on the left and the people on the right. False moral equivalency is as much of a threat to integrity as ideological rigidity. So I don’t apologize for not making sure that every time I criticize a “conservative” for doing something, I devote exactly the same word-count to criticizing a “liberal” for the sake of “balance.”
5) The party-liners
These are the people who have swallowed up about five sentences worth of ideology and are more and more convinced of their truth the more they recite them. They teach their homeschooled kids from textbooks with chapters that explain why it’s un-Biblical to be opposed to pollution or the right to shoot AK-47’s in public places (as long as you’re not shooting at another person! I mean come on!).
6) The worldview litmus-testers
Similar to the party-liners but with a slightly higher IQ and sense of curiosity, worldview litmus-testers parse through the words of their political opponents to find evidence that their thinking has been completely corrupted by either Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, or Karl Marx. It’s kind of like the way that a mixed-race person is black if one drop of their blood is black. If you can find one thing that somebody says that sounds Marxist, then everything else they have to say is completely discredited as a result.
7) The pseudo-journalists
These are the people in the grassroots of cyberspace who have tag-teamed with the celebrity pundits in establishing a fact-free, post-truth public discourse. They do so by manipulating statistics and taking words out of context in order to create a more sensationalized story sometimes for the sake of partisan digs and sometimes for the sake of getting hits on their blog (I’ve tried to avoid this for the most part but fallen prey a few times). One example of this has occurred recently when a pro-life politician says something like “Every life is a gift from God” without saying “except in cases of rape or incest” immediately afterwards, so that the headline says, “Pro-life politician says that rape is a gift from God.” Yeah, uh, that’s really dirty.
8) The cynics
These are the people who enjoy talking about how ridiculous and ironic everything is. They don’t actually have constructive opinions that they’re willing to put forward. They stay above the fray by mocking everybody.
9) The trolls
It really makes me sad when I look at the comments section of articles on CNN.com and see the same cyber-nicknames over and over again. It’s an incredibly pathetic 21st century version of heroism to spend hours of your cubicle time STANDING UP FOR YOUR SIDE IN ALL CAPS.
10) The sheep
These are the masses of people who make what the pundits say about “bounces” into self-fulfilling prophecies. They are the reason that attack ads work. I just can’t put myself in the mindset of people who don’t find the pundits and attack ad voice-overs to be completely insulting to their intelligence. If I watched enough TV, I would tally the number of attack ads and vote against whoever put out the most. What’s frustrating about the sheep is that they’re both the most innocent and the most culpable. Without sheep to back them, all the other people who have poisoned our social discourse would lose their power.