No such thing as wrong opinions

GES-Politics

Film poster for The Santa Clause - Copyright 1...

Just other peoples

My first admission is that I am a Brit, but I have an American wife so by association American friends on Facebook. Then these friends have further American friends. So for the last few weeks I have been able to have a front row social seat for Hurricane Sandy (as they are New Yorkers) and the US election. From what I can surmise from these two events is this:

  1. Hurricanes and natural disasters bring out the best in people, neighbours taking care of each other. People being helped to get back on their feet when they have nothing and what would be labelled here in the UK as the ‘Blitz Spirit’.
  2. Elections bring out the worst in people.

Somewhere along the way the idea that another person could have a differing opinion to yours has morphed from being acceptable to “WTF are you a moron, you are everything that is wrong with the world you dumb bag of horse manure”. Sensible political recourse has degenerated into the school yard cacophony of “He said, she said” with grown ups sulking in the corner because Johnny down the street said something nasty about the tax code situation.

This is not just an American phenomenon, the idea that others have differing opinions and therefore do not deserve to be listened to is spreading across the world. Right hates left and both want to be in the centre because that’s where the votes are. Yet in the name calling they don’t realise the harm they are doing. People who need help from the Government are not lazy, lazy people are lazy. I had to rely on state handouts after my private sector employer decided that they couldn’t, or more likely wouldn’t, deal with a bout of depression. Do you know who picked me up and helped me?

  • The doctor of the ‘socialist’ NHS who took the time to listen to me for no charge.
  • The government who paid me benefits while I looked to get back into work.
  • The employers who offered me a job.

Not the 1%

Yet by some people’s definition I am waiting for a handout from “Santa Clause [sic]“. (This is from a Facebook comment where the poster kept spelling it this way. I can only assume they were equating Barack Obama with either Tim Allen or the character from the seminal 1994 movie).

This idea of the lazy benefit scrounger is as prevalent in the UK as it is elsewhere. What it always seems to boil down to is the people who have stuff are happy they have stuff, but it’s not fair for others to have stuff given to them. Yet how many would refuse the benefits if they found themselves in the same situation. Whilst on benefits I saw nobody in the Job Centre go before the counter and go “Although entitled to this benefit I feel a moral compulsion to refuse it on the grounds it could make me a lay about and a strain on the stretched middle classes.”

Sometimes things go bad for people and they need help. You won’t provide it to them so the Government has to step in. I felt awful enough having to claim my benefits and the majority do, and I don’t need anyone telling me I am the scum of the Earth as I claim a pittance to be able to live. I would happily swapped someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, the amount of money I was received barely covered me to the H.

In reality most elections are won by a few percent, that means there are almost as many people who agree with you as disagree with you. Nobody is asking for you to change your world point of view but just to accept that there are those out there who see life a bit differently.

I am an atheist who is slightly fiscally conservative (sorry Dad!) but has very strong socially liberal values. Mrs Geek Ergo Sum is a Lutheran Democrat. We have different views on a number of things, but we still love each other because she makes me a cup of tea in the morning, and I drink it. It’s a perfect match. When we talk about things like religion we sit and listen to each other and acknowledge areas we agree on (like being nice to those less fortunate) and agree to disagree on other areas (like whether God exists or not). We also admit the failings of our own beliefs (like the Laws of Leviticus for her, or the explanation of what came before the Big Bang).

Listening to all the nonsense about states seceding because the will of the people happened to choose someone you don’t like is repulsive. What about the people who did vote for Obama? Should those counties who vote democrat in Texas be also allowed to secede from the Lone Star state? Then what about Hank on the corner of Main St? He voted Republican in a Democrat street and he would like to form the State on Hanksylvania. No matter, in four years time you get to choose again, and if your chosen guy wins you know what…the other side will all be up in arms and complaining about whether the country is becoming more socialist or a dictatorship. Que Sera Sera.

The only thing you should do is debate politely in public, don’t accuse the other side of being evil or godless communists. They’re not. They’re just ordinary folk who have a different opinion to yours.

 

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