I expect one of you smart people to find some essay out there the properly explains to me the true motivation of the people who showed up to support Glenn Beck. Not a snarky one line dismissal. Thousands of people? Why? What is it, truly and fundamentally, that makes them so mad that they want to…
If you do find someone who has this figured out, please let me know.
Instead of an essay how about I think out loud in comment form?
Will, you once Twittered something like, “Most people are unintelligent jerks.” I’m not sure what the percentage of seriousness was on the backend there, but I sure do find it hard not to feel that way sometimes. That feeling comes to mind.
Someone else in the comments shared the Anne Frank “most people are still good at heart” quotation. The MLK “the arc of human history is long but it bends towards justice” quote also comes to mind. I’d like to believe that both of those things are true, but can we say that there is anything inherently true in either of those statements? I’m not sure.
The commonly held illusion that evolution is progress and improvement comes to mind, too. We’re not necessarily progressing towards a perfect society. I’d like to think that racism and homophobia are on the way out, but honestly, it doesn’t make sense to me rationally that they’re still around at all. Right? Looking at where I’d expect us to be as a society at this point, it is sort of a terrible surprise that we still haven’t moved past that. Chris Kelly’s great post about being “bored” that homophobia is still an issue comes to mind.
Hmm, do you think the explanation is as simple as fear? When humans feel fear, they’re far more willing/likely to forego the better parts of their nature (empathy, cooperation, kindness, generosity) in order to defend themselves against the perceived threat? So someone gets the impression that there is a legitimate threat (even if to some this threat is anything but legitimate) against their way of life and that life as they know it is at risk, so that person is then looking for a way to defend themselves against that threat? So when someone says they have an answer, that is reason enough to flock to them, even if the Palins and the Becks can only provide vague assertions and platitudes?
Democrats and Republicans use fear to get people to support their side. I feel like Republicans are better at, but I’m biased. I might not see all the ways that the Dems do it. I see some of the ways, but maybe I’m blind to all of them.
I don’t know. I’m envious of you if Palin and Beck don’t bother you. Even if you do have them figured out (your power maggot sucking on attention analogy seems plausible to me) they still get me so mad. Palpably, heart beating faster, I get so agitated I can’t focus on my work for a few minutes, mad. I guess other people might feel that way about the people I think are doing the right thing? I don’t know. Maybe those Tea Partiers are feeling the same anger I feel? I feel like I’m right, though, and they’re wrong. Back to square one. Damn.
Hal’s comment about how people come to politics with their preconceptions and then filter everything through that seems correct to me. I have this liberal worldview so when people espouse what appears to me to be hatred, my default is to think that they’re evil, bad people. It is harder for me to get to the place where I pause to consider that they consider themselves good people and are doing what they think is right for themselves and their family. David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon commencement speech comes to mind as something relevant to the discussion at hand. Read the whole thing here. Talks about how real education is the power to choose how you are going to respond to what you see in the world, not just let your default setting control your reactions.
When we boil it down, and forget about all the political terminology, is what I want incompatible with that people on “the other side” want? Don’t we all just want to live in a world where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all is a reality? I can’t speak for the other guys, but trying to put it as simply as possible: I want to live in a world where everyone gets a fair shake, a world where if you are willing to work then you should be able to live in relative comfort, where nobody should be automatically and irrevocably disadvantaged because of the low-income school district or underdeveloped nation they happened to be born into, a world free of prejudice against religion, sexual orientation or race. If you can agree to those things, then cool, let’s talk about our differences in opinion as to how to make that world a reality. But if you disagree with even these basic things, then it is pretty darn hard for me to say, “Well, you still think what you’re doing is right, so hey, more power to you.”
Once again, please let me know if you come across something that explains it all.