Tag Archives: Election Day

It’s Election Day, America. Now Vote!

My fellow Americans, it’s finally here.

I’m as sick of all the campaign ads as you are, but it’s here.

Election Day 2022 is upon us.

Now, I know I’ve been very pessimistic and cynical lately. And I stand by all of that. I still believe that today will mark the last true democratic election the United States will ever have. After today, it’s just a slow and steady descent into Christian Nationalism. Given some of the things I’ve said about organized religion in the past, I fully expect to “suffer a tragic accident” at some point later in my life.

We’re all screwed is what I’m saying.

But that’s all the more reason to cherish this last Election Day. This will be the last time I’ll be able to vote in something meaningful for the country I love. I’m really not looking forward to a bunch of right-wing reactionaries turning this Country into a Fox New fever dream until the world ends. But, as a country and an idea, I think America has had a good run.

Historically, most democracies don’t last for very long. And America has lasted a lot longer than most. I think that still counts as a win in the grand scheme of things. This country succeeded on a level I think few ever expected. There’s a lot to be proud of in that regard. But all good things must come to an end. And today is the beginning of that end.

So please take the time to enjoy it.

Get out there and vote.

Thank you, America. I’ll miss you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events

My (Genuine) Worries About Election Day 2022

It’s almost here, my fellow Americans.

Election Day is almost upon us.

As per the constitution, Election Day occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. That means November 8, 2022, is a day every American should have marked on their calendar. Whatever you’re doing that day, please plan on voting, if you haven’t already. Make whatever accommodations you need, be it time off work or finding transportation. It’s not just an important responsibility, as an American. It may very well be necessary for the continued survival for this country, as we know it.

I know that sounds a little dire and hyperbolic. I also doubt I’m the first one you’ve seen make such a claim. Doom and gloom tends to come with every election. Every year, it seems, the election is framed as the most important election of our collective lifetime. I think I’ve heard that message in some form or another since I became old enough to vote. As a result, it’s hard to take seriously.

That being said, this year is different.

Yes, I know every year is different, by definition. But 2022 brings us a unique set of circumstances the likes of which this country has not encountered before.

This year, we’re not just voting for new candidates to represent us at multiple levels of government. We’re voting on the continued existence of real democracy, itself.

This time, it’s not hyperbole or a marketing gimmick. This a real, tangible issue that we can’t avoid.

That’s because this year, a sizable chunk of the American electorate will have to vote on a ballot in which at least one candidate still denies the validity of the 2020 election. That is not a trivial issue to overlook.

We’re not talking about radically different opinions on tax policy, budget allocations, or welfare programs.

We’re talking about people who believe an election is not valid if their side loses. That’s not a simple difference in opinion or political ideology. That’s an unequivocal denial of both democracy itself, as well as reality.

Now, I don’t want to get too heavy into the objectively absurd claims that a bunch of right-wing whiners have been making about the 2020 election. There’s are plenty of legitimate news outlets that counter those claims and provide clear evidence that the results of the 2020 election reflected the will of the American people. If you are someone who refuses to accept that for whatever reason, then I’m sorry. You’re no better than a creationist and a flat-Earther at this point.

But regardless of how provably wrong such claims are, plenty of candidates, mostly within the republican party, cling to this absurdity. What makes it even worse is that a non-insignificant part of the electorate believes it too. And they will vote for candidates who share those beliefs, no matter how wrong they are or how stupid, corrupt, or cruel the candidate is as an individual.

I’m convinced these people would vote for Satan, Lex Luthor, and the corpse of Ted Bundy if it simply told them they would vote in line with their regressive Christian Nationalist platform. And make no mistake, that platform is completely un-American with respect to democracy, human rights, freedom, liberty, and overall decency to your fellow human being.

These individuals, as well as the people who vote for them, may sincerely believe they’re right. They may truly believe that anyone less conservative than Pat Robertson eats babies, worships the devil, and wants to utterly destroy America. But those individuals cannot and should not be taken seriously in any society that seeks a healthy democracy. These people are in a dangerous death cult.

The cult leaders are exploiting them for money, power, and exploitation.

The cult followers are enabling them by actually voting for these sociopaths.

Now, here in 2022, they’ve so weakened democracy and so polarized the country that they’re within a handful of votes from holding real positions of power. And once sociopaths have power, they never give it up willingly. If enough of them do get elected, they won’t just further the agendas of election deniers and Christian Nationalists. They will make it so that it’s much harder to vote them out of office and it’s much easier for them to hold onto power, even when the vast majority of the American people don’t share their positions.

It’s already been happening due to voter suppression and gerrymandering. It’s no longer enough for the will of the people to be against them. The people actually have to vote in overwhelming numbers to at least hinder or slow these sociopath’s pursuit of power. But if that doesn’t happen this year, then expect it to get much worse in the years to come.

Power seeks more power.

The powerful will always pursue greater power.

It has played out in history many times within many societies. America is not immune to it. All it takes for democracy as we know it to end is for people to willingly elect those who undermine it. At that point, your vote truly doesn’t matter. And America, as we know it, changes into whatever these sociopaths desire, be it a Christian theocracy or a corporate-owned oligarchy.

I don’t want that for the country I love.

Most Americans don’t want that.

But the only way to stop it is to vote in such overwhelming numbers that these right-wing sociopaths never gain the power they seek. That’s not to say those on the other side of the spectrum are angels. They’re not. I’m not too fond of the democratic party in America, but at least the candidates on that side actually believe in empowering people to vote, rather than subverting it. And for America to continue, as a functioning free society, we need to retain that, as well as improvement. We certainly can’t expect those who deny the 2020 election and objective reality to do the same.

So please, my fellow Americans, do what you can to vote this year.

Do whatever it takes.

Because this year, it’s not just a choice between a republican or a democrat.

It’s a choice between someone who believes in democracy and someone who seeks to destroy it for their own selfish benefit.

If you need resources, please use the following link:

https://www.usa.gov/voting

3 Comments

Filed under Current Events, politics

It’s Election Day 2021 America: Go Vote!

Voter's Guide 2021: Candidates, endorsements, polling places - Riverhead  News Review

Halloween is over.

We had a good time. We ate a lot of candy. We watched way too many horror movies and CreepyPastas. It was fun for many. I hope everyone enjoyed it.

Now, we need to get serious again. For my fellow Americans, today is one of the most serious days we’ll experience.

It’s Election Day.

It may not be a Presidential Election like last year, which tend to get glossed over if voter turnout is any indication. That doesn’t make it any less important. If anything, years like this are becoming more important because the assholes who tend to stay in power do so because the people don’t care enough to vote them out. The only way to keep these assholes from undermining America is to vote them out or keep them from getting in.

Unfortunately, doing so means keeping up with local politics. I know that tends to be a test in pain tolerance these days. Talking about politics is akin to throwing undercooked steak at a hungry grizzly. It’s bound to get messy and dangerous. We already saw just how dangerous it could get earlier this year with the Capitol Riot.

We cannot and should not let that danger dissuade us from doing our American duty and voting.

So, I implore all my fellow Americans to do whatever they have to do today in order to vote. Check with your local government. Look up sites like this one. Find out where you have to go, what you have to do, and who’s on the ballot. Then, get out there and vote!

It’s not just a right.

It’s a responsibility.

Happy Election Day, America. Let’s make democracy work.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, politics

A Brief Message To Those Who Threaten Election Workers And Officials

Ballot box fabricator navigates unprecedented demand for early voting

Fuck you.

Seriously, fuck you and fuck your bullshit excuses for doing something so stupid, cruel, and outright un-American.

Fuck you and your ass-backwards definition of patriotism.

I apologize for the harsh language, but sometimes some extra profanity is both justified and necessary to get the point across. In general, I try to be fair and understanding, especially for touchy issues that include hot-button political topics. I always make it a point to offer respect to those who might not agree with me on certain topics, be they abortion or religion.

I just can’t do that here.

I just can’t muster a shred of sympathy or understanding to people who go out of their way to harass, threaten, and denigrate the people who volunteer their time and energy to ensure American democracy functions.

In case you’re not aware of this deplorable trend, this has actually been an ongoing issue since the 2020 election. A sizable segment of the American population did not like how that election turned out and, like whiny children who didn’t get their way, those same people have been lashing out ever since. Then again, most children don’t make death threats to public officials, so I’m hesitant to call them childish.

Now, I’ve actively avoided this topic since the end of 2020. I’ve seen time and again how it brings out the worst people and the ugliest kind of politics. There’s really no convincing anyone something other than what they’ve come to dogmatically believe. They only ever consume news that tells them what they want to hear and assume every fact to the contrary is a lie.

Usually, I’m perfectly fine with someone living inside their own bubble, provided that they don’t harm anyone else. This is America. We can believe whatever we’d like. However, I draw a hard line when those beliefs become an excuse for making threats to election workers and people who volunteer in the name of democracy.

Some of these threats aren’t vague, either. Here is one story from Reuters that offers some rather graphic examples.

Here’s another video from CNBC. Again, the examples they give are pretty damn graphic.

There are plenty more I could give, but this news is upsetting enough. I don’t care what your political affiliation is or how you voted in the last election or several. This is not how civilized people in a functioning democracy conduct themselves. This isn’t even how children conduct themselves at a little league baseball game.

This is fucking outrageous.

If you are a proud American and actually value the principles of democracy, then I hope this upsets you. These aren’t people with a political agenda being threatened. These are just ordinary Americans doing their jobs. Threatening them because you don’t like how the numbers are panning out doesn’t make you a patriot. It makes you an asshole.

Again, fuck those people.

Fuck them and all their un-American values.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, outrage culture, politics, rants, real stories

Honest Question: Do Political Ads Convince Anyone Of Anything?

Political ads have little persuasive power | YaleNews

It’s that time of year again for my fellow Americans. It’s election season. Now granted, it’s not a Presidential election, which have a tendency to get messy, ugly, heated, and hostile. The last two Presidential elections have sadly demonstrated that. However, democracy is still an important part of the American tradition. That means we have elections every year.

Years like this are what we call “off-year elections.” We don’t elect a President, but we do elect senators, representatives, governors, and various other officials. It may not be as glamorous or high-stakes as a Presidential election, but it’s something I encourage every American to take seriously.

Even if you hate politics and politicians, you should still vote.

If you’re not sure how, depending on where you live, check out this website and follow the steps. It’s not just a civic duty. It’s the lifeblood of democracy.

That being said, I do have one major bone to pick with election season. It has to do with the political ads that seem to run every five minutes on every channel I watch, as well as every video I stream online. Chances are, my fellow Americans are seeing plenty of those ads too. I have a feeling they’re as sick of them as I am.

With that in mind, I have a simple question to those who make these ads, as well as those who can’t avoid seeing them.

Do these ads actually convince anyone of anything?

I promise I’m not being facetious. I’m asking an honest, sincere question.

Has anyone actually been swayed by these ads? Have they ever affected your voting habits in any meaningful way?

I know people tend to be exceedingly partisan about everything these days. There are people who will vote for alleged sexual predators over someone of the opposing party. I know people who are registered republicans or democrats. Their candidate could run over puppies in the street and they would still vote for them.

It’s sad, frustrating, and antithetical to core American principles, but that’s the current situation we live in. It also makes these political ads all the more irrelevant. Seriously, if people are this partisan and dogmatic about their political affiliations, is an ad going to change that? If not, why spend money on them in the first place?

It’s not an insignificant sum of money, either. Running ads on TV and online make up a sizable chunk of campaign costs for aspiring politicians and that cost is only increasing. If they don’t work, then why spend all that money in the first place? What’s the point if it doesn’t change a single voter’s mind?

I suspect that’s not entirely the point of these ads. It might just be the case that these ads are just reminders for people who planned to vote a certain way to get out there and vote. After all, voter turnout has been historically low in the Untied States. While I agree that’s an issue, are these ads really the best way to address it?

Again, it’s an honest question. I’m not trying to come off as jaded or cynical, although I don’t blame anyone for feeling this way after the past five years of American politics. If these ads aren’t helping, though, then I think these questions are still worth asking.

Jaded or not, I still fully intend to vote and I already know who I’m voting for. I encourage every registered voter in America to do the same. Try not to vote blindly, either. Look into each candidate. Get a feel for who they are and decide for yourself whether you want them representing you. It can be tedious, I know, but that’s how you do democracy. That’s how you preserve the core values that make the Untied State of America what it is. Put in that effort, even if you find these ads insufferably annoying.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, politics

A Post-Inauguration Letter To America

I’m a proud American. I celebrate, value, and promote the ideals that America stands far. I don’t ignore its flaws, nor do I overlook the egregious mistakes that it and its people have made in the past. That still doesn’t stop me from appreciating all that America strives to be.

Saying all that the day after Inauguration Day shouldn’t feel so dramatic. It really shouldn’t. However, the past year has really shaken up the political and social landscape, albeit in a very distressing manner.

I don’t want to get into the details of why, how, and who’s responsible for all these distressing disruptions. I know that, by doing so, I’ll only invite the wrath and whining of people intent proving their particular ideology or politician is right. I’d rather not do that. I feel like there’s been enough of that in recent years.

Instead, I want to send my own personal letter to America and its new President. Think of it as an addendum of the letter I sent the day after the attack on the Capitol. That was the low point of low points. Today, I’d like to start raising the bar for this great country once more.

It all comes back to one simple notion that I still believe, even after everything that has happened this past year.

We can do better than this.

We can be better than this.

We can and should start working towards a better future rather than trying to realize an idealized past.

I know that all sounds like simple platitudes. Some may even find it corny and empty. I don’t care. I still think they’re worth putting out there to my fellow Americans, including the ones who vehemently disagree with me and did not vote for the new President.

I believe those people can be better too. I don’t think they’re terrible people for voting as they did or for believing what they believe. I do think some are misguided, some more so than others. There are times they say and do things that I find to be genuinely hurtful, hateful, and divisive. It goes beyond disagreeing with them and towards feeling genuinely threatened.

That’s painful because I’m related to some of these people. I have close friends and relatives who avidly and proudly espouse political views that I find repugnant. I do what I can to separate the views from the actual people, but that’s not always easy, especially after what happened at the Capitol.

I genuinely worry about some of them. They have great passion for their positions, but when they argue from a misguided standpoint, it gets disconcerting to say the least. However, I cannot forget that they are still Americans. They still live in this country and want to see it thrive, albeit in their own misguided away.

We may never fully agree on all the issues.

We may never genuinely like one another on every level.

At the very least, I still believe we can all find a way to live together in a way that brings peace and prosperity to both of us.

That’s the message I want to send to my fellow Americans as a new President and a new administration begins. We have many challenges ahead of us, the least of which involves a once-in-a-century pandemic that has killed thousands. We’re not going to overcome these challenges by endlessly insulting one another for our politics.

At some point, we do have to tolerate one another to maintain a civilized society. We have to live together, work together, and even learn from one another as we move forward.

Like it or not, another day will come. The sun will set on one Presidential administration and rise on another. In 2024, we’ll go through the process again. We don’t know what state the world will be in by then, but we can all assume we’ll still have many challenges before us.

That’s something to remember for the future.

For now, let’s focus on the present.

Let today be the first day when we close our eyes, grit our teeth, and try to look forward. I know it’s tempting to look back on all the frustration, derision, mistakes, and injustices of the past. We shouldn’t forget them, but we also shouldn’t be defined by them. We cannot change the past. We can only effect the future before us.

Let’s begin that process today.

On this day, let’s remember that we’re all still Americans.

We still love, value, and celebrate this wonderful country. Whoever you are and however you voted, never forget what that means. Let’s not just focus on making it great. Let’s work to make it better than it has ever been.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, politics

Post-Election Day PSA: Do NOT Trust Or Expect Politicians To Solve Your Problems

It’s over, my fellow Americans.

It’s finally over.

Election Day has come and gone. I won’t get into the drama leading up to it or the drama that’s still unfolding, as I write this. I just want to take a step back, catch my breath, and offer some perspective to those who will hear it.

I agree this was rough. I think most others will agree with me when I say this was the most chaotic, divisive, and downright stressful election in recent memory. I’ve spoken to relatives who voted for Kennedy in 1960. They agree that this year was, by far, the worst in terms of stakes, rhetoric, and tone.

That’s saying a lot, by the way.

However you feel about the candidates or who you voted for, I genuinely hope this election has been revealing, to a certain extent. It’s tempting to be cynical about it. I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling that way. At the same time, we should also take stock as to why this election was so harrowing, for lack of a better word.

The world is such a messed-up place right now. We’ve got wars, economic collapse, and a once-in-a-century pandemic has that killed over a million people in the span of nine months. Things are bad right now, more so than they’ve been at any point in my lifetime.

Most don’t question that, unless they’re rich and well-connected.

What I do question, however, is why people trust or even expect politicians to help solve these problems.

That’s a notion that, in my opinion, fuels stressful elections like this. An election is supposed to be a job interview for a position for a public-serving official. It’s not supposed to be some expensive spectacle in which we all get behind the candidate who says the right things to just enough people in a handful of swing states.

That’s not democracy.

That’s a bad reality TV show.

Now, it’s tempting to just blame the politicians and that’s understandable. Politicians are easy targets for mockery and they’ve no one to blame but themselves for that. We should criticize them. They are, after all, in positions of power and public trust. They should be held to a higher standard.

That standard, however, should not involve trusting them to fix everything that ails us, from the economy to who pays a fine for when a female nipple is shown during a halftime show. That’s not just asking too much of one person. It’s asinine.

It’s also self-defeating. Politicians make lots of promises and break plenty of them, but let’s not lay the blame entirely on their honesty or lack thereof. They’re only human. Even the most selfless, hard-working politician can only do so much to deliver on every promise. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough personnel to get it done.

That’s not even accounting for the times when politicians make objectively impossible promises. Certain policy pitches may sound like great slogans or taglines, but logistically speaking, they just cannot be done in the real world. It’s not that the sincerity isn’t there. There just isn’t enough people or resources.

Therein lies the source of the great cycle of toxic politics. It goes something like this.

Politician A makes a bold promise. People rally behind them. Politician A get elected.

Politician A cannot deliver on those promises. People turn against them.

Politician B comes along, offering new or better promises. People rally behind them. Politician B get elected.

Again, Politician B can’t deliver on all those promises. People turn against them.

Politician C comes along to make another set of promises and the cycle continues.

It goes beyond party affiliation, political systems, or shifts in power. It’s an unavoidable flaw in a democratic system. An election, by default, isn’t going to elect someone with the greatest governing skill. It can only elect someone with the skills to convince enough people that they can govern.

I won’t say it’s a terrible system. Compared to the alternatives, it’s probably the best we can manage right now in our current environment. However, it is not a system in which any politician, no matter how successful, can solve the problems we want them to solve. Even when the system is working at its best, it’s still limited.

That’s not to say politicians can’t be part of a solution. They definitely can be. A politician can be a facilitator of sorts, either by leadership or by policy. The specifics, though, are best left to people with the right drive, incentives, and know-how.

Whether it involves combating climate change, reducing poverty, or promoting public health, the bulk of the responsibility will still fall on the general public. We, as a people, have to collectively work on these issues together. That’s how any social species within a functional society adapts, grows, and prospers.

The role of government and politicians is always changing. The extent or details of that role depends heavily on the issue at hand. The Presidents we elect, as well as the various legislators and judges at all levels, will always have some impact on how we further our interests. The key is balancing that impact with actual, tangible efforts on our part.

The next four years are sure to be eventful. Hopefully, they’re eventful for all the right reasons. Whatever happens, use this past election as a teachable moment.

Politicians come and go.

Ambitious people will keep making bold promises and breaking them, either on purpose or through no fault of their own. At the end of the day, it all comes back to us. We have a part to play in making our world and our lives better. Let’s focus on doing ours before we trust anyone else to do it for us.

1 Comment

Filed under Current Events, human nature, media issues, political correctness, politics

A Message To America After Election 2020

It’s over, America. We did it. The election of 2020 has concluded. We now have a winner and, come January 20, 2021, there will be a new occupant of the White House. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate this. It is, after all, a cornerstone of American democracy.

We, the people, elect our leaders. We don’t always like who wins, but it’s still on us, as a people, to make that decision. I know that sounds cheesy, given these cynical times, but it’s still worth saying.

With those platitudes out of the way, I have another important message I’d like to share with my fellow Americans. It’s simple, succinct, and apolitical. It’s simply this.

Regardless of how you voted, let’s all make an effort to be kinder to one another.

It’s not a tall request. It’s not something that requires great sacrifice or rigor. It’s just a simple act that anyone can do, regardless of their affiliations or ideology.

It shouldn’t seem so daunting, but these past few years have made it difficult to grasp. I’m on the internet every day. I see plenty of instances of horrendous, unbridled hatred. It’s on social media, message boards, Reddit, and even text messages. I won’t offer examples because it’s just that disgusting.

It’s not always political, but for these past few years, politics has been a catalyst for such hatred. It’s no longer enough to simply disagree with someone on a particular issue. The default has become utter and complete hatred of anyone who disagrees with you.

Whether it’s on abortion, LGBTQ rights, party affiliation, or sexy characters in video games, there’s no room for understanding and nuance anymore. Either someone agrees with you or you hate them in the utmost.

That is not healthy.

That is not conducive to a functional society.

Moreover, that is not in keeping with the American spirit.

America was not founded on hatred. No society founded on hatred could ever become so strong and dominant. It takes people living, loving, and cooperating with one another, regardless of differences, to build what America has built.

Have we made mistakes? Absolutely, we have. Every country has, some more so than others.

We’re human. We have flaws. Hatred is one of our most egregious flaws, but it need not be our most defining.

So, with that made, I sincerely hope that my fellow Americans will use this recent election as a turning point. We don’t need to “own” our opponents to vindicate ourselves. We don’t need to hate each other to prove ourselves right. We just need to be kind and make the most of the lives we live, as Americans and as fellow humans.

To that end, I’ll end this message with one of my favorite quotes by John F. Kennedy.

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or make it the last.”

1 Comment

Filed under Current Events, politics

Happy Election Day! Now Vote!

It’s Election Day here in the United States of America. I don’t know how many people have been following the news for the past four years, but even if you’ve somehow avoided it, I hope one thing is still abundantly clear.

This election is a big fucking deal.

Regardless of which party you’re affiliated with or which candidate you support, this is the day where the rubber meets the road for democracy. This is where citizens exercise the power granted to them by the constitution.

As such, I encourage everyone to use it.

I’ve got no larger point to make today. I’ve got no sexy twist to put on it or larger narrative to explore. I’m just going to say what so many others have been saying for months now.

Go out and vote!

Get out there early. Bring water, snacks, and a lawn chair if you must. Stand in line as long as necessary. Just make sure you vote.

This is America. We value democratic principles. Those principles don’t work if people don’t vote. So please, my fellow Americans. I’ll say it again.

Go out and vote!

America will be better because of it. Thank you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, politics

Shaming Vs. Criticism: Why The Difference Matters

Let’s be honest. It’s very difficult to have honest, civil discourse with anyone these days. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it sure feels that way sometimes. Try expressing any opinion about any issue that’s even mildly controversial. Chances are you won’t spark a civil discussion. You’ll likely trigger a flame war, especially once Godwin’s Law comes into play.

Now, I’m not going to blame all of this on the internet and social media. I don’t deny that it plays a role, but let’s not miss the forest from the trees here. We, the users of these tools, are the ones driving the content. We’re the ones who guide these discussions towards angry, hate-filled outrage. The medium is only secondary.

There are a lot of reasons why civil discourse is so difficult, but I want to highlight just one that has become far more prominent in recent years. It’s an objectively bad trend and one I genuinely believe we need to reverse. It involves this inability to distinguish shaming someone from criticizing them.

It goes like this. Two people connect, either in person or via the internet. They have a disagreement. When there’s criticism, it tends to go like this.

Person A: I hold Opinion X.

Person B: I hold Opinion Y.

Person A: Why do you hold that opinion? I don’t understand how you could.

Person B: Well, it’s because of X, Y, and Z.

Person A: I don’t disagree with Y and Z, but I take issue with X.

Person B: Why is that?

Person A: Well, it goes like this…

Ideally, both people in this exchange get something out of this discourse. Person A offers Person B another point of view. Person B has their opinion challenged and they’re now in a position to defend it. In doing so, they may reaffirm or question their position. They may even convince Person A of the merit of their position.

That’s a healthy level of discourse, guided by fair and civil criticism. There’s certainly a place for that. I even see it on social media from time to time. However, that’s not what makes the headlines. It’s the shaming that usually generates the most noise. Shaming is very different from criticism, both by definition and by practice. At its worst, it goes like this.

Person A: I hold Opinion X.

Person B: I hold Opinion Y.

Person A: What? You’re a horrible human being for holding an opinion like that! You must be a fucking asshole fascist Nazi prick!

Person B: Fuck you! Your opinion is a goddamn atrocity! Only a true fucking asshole fascist Nazi prick would even entertain it! You should be fucking ashamed!

Person A: No, you should be ashamed! You should lose your job, your money, and all manner of sympathy for the rest of your fucking life!

Person B: No, you should be ashamed! You should cry like a baby, get on your knees, and beg everyone like me to forgive you! And you should also lose your job, money, and any semblance of sympathy until the end of time!

I don’t deny that’s an extreme example. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’ve seen stuff like this play out. I’ve seen it in comments section, message boards, Twitter threads, and Facebook posts. It’s not enough to just criticize someone for holding a different opinion. People have to outright shame them to the point where they’re mentally and physically broken.

In some cases, people look for that kind of rhetoric. Some people just love trolling others by posting opinions they know will piss people off and start a flame war. They don’t care about civil discourse. They just care about riling people up. It’s what gives them a cheap thrill.

Those people are trolls. The best thing anyone can do is ignore them.

They’re also in the minority. They may be a vocal minority, but they are the minority. Most people, in my experience, are inclined to be civil. They’ll give people a chance, even if they don’t agree with them. Things just go off the rails when they interpret criticism as shaming. It’s not always intentional, either. Some people just frame their criticism poorly, which sends all the wrong messages.

Whereas criticism is impersonal, shaming evokes some very basic emotions. There’s a tangible, neurobiological process behind it. It’s linked heavily to guilt, an objectively terrible feeling that most people try to avoid at all costs. Shame attempts to impose guilt. While there are some things we should definitely feel guilty about, holding certain opinions is rarely one of them.

Does someone deserve to be shamed for how they voted in the last presidential election?

Does someone deserve to be shamed for believing “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was a terrible movie?

Does someone deserve to be shamed for thinking certain female characters in media are too sexualized?

Does someone deserve to be shamed for thinking they shouldn’t believe every claim a woman makes about being sexually harassed?

These are difficult, emotionally charged issues. With that kind of complexity, there’s going to be many points of criticism. Some have real merit and they should be discussed. That’s how we learn and make sense of our world and the people in it. Once shame enters the picture, though, the merit tends to vanish.

The problem is that once the shaming starts, it escalates quickly. It doesn’t even need to escalate that much before a person stops listening and gets defensive. At that point, there’s basically no going back. It’s less about understanding someone else’s perspective and all about defending yourself.

That’s not a metaphor, either. Like it or not, people take their opinions seriously. Attacking them with words, even if it’s through a computer screen, still feels like a physical attack on some levels. You’re not just attacking an opinion, anymore. You’re attacking a person. You’re throwing metaphorical punches that have non-metaphorical meanings to those you’re attacking.

With that in mind, look at it from a purely instinctual level. When someone is physically assaulting you, is your first inclination to engage in a reasoned, civil discussion? For most people, it’s not. You go into survival mode and that often involves attacking the attacker.

You throw your punches.

They throw theirs.

They call you a fascist, Nazi-loving bully.

You call them a worse fascist, Nazi-loving bully.

There’s no logic or reason to it. Once emotions override everything, criticism becomes a moot point. It’s all about hitting back to defend yourself. It’s not about being right. It’s about survival, at least from your brain’s perspective.

If there’s one silver lining, it’s that people get burned out quickly on this kind of discourse. You can only hear two sides call each other fascist for so long before the rhetoric loses its impact. It also gets boring. It takes too much energy to sustain that kind of hatred towards someone you don’t know. Most people who aren’t trolls have better things to do with their time.

As I write this, I understand that we live in contentious times. I see the same heated debates online and in person as everyone else. I know that civil discourse is a scant and precious commodity at the moment. That’s exactly why we should make the effort, regardless of what opinions we hold.

Once we stop shaming each other for daring to think differently, we’ll realize just how much we have in common. We don’t have to agree with one another. We don’t even have to like one another. We can and should still be civil with one another. That’s the only way we’ll make any real progress.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, human nature, outrage culture, philosophy, political correctness, politics, psychology