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Meatless Monday Heresy and Why Hyperbolic Partisanship Must End

We can’t have any political conversations anymore without them immediately devolving into hyperbolic, apocalyptic catchphrases that instantly render the person on the other side of the discussion defensive.

Just pick your talking point:

  • War on __________
  • Worse than (insert traumatic event here)
  • _______ is the end of freedom as we know it
  • … the destruction of (insert traditional institution here)
  • He’s a (insert absurd -ism here)
  • ______ media bias
  • ______ is un-American

We literally cannot debate how to fix our serious problems that are currently plaguing us because we’re too busy arguing about shit that doesn’t even exist. We can’t even agree on the terms and facts of the debate to even bring it to a debate. And even then, instead of tackling more of these issues with real-world solutions, our politicians spend more time voting to not bring legislation to a vote than actually doing something about the myriad problems we face today.

And since the parties are so polarized, the electorate is equally as polarized, meaning everyday people like you and me find ourselves defending some team as a knee-jerk reaction because neither side seems to respect the other (although it sure does come from one side much worse than the other, and no matter what your political view, you’ll agree with this, won’t you?) — making it impossible to agree on anything without feeling like you’ve just lost some cosmic battle between good and evil, where if you concede one point you’ve given in to every single thing on the other party’s platform. How is that at all helpful? How can one side truly be completely wrong and the other side always completely right?

There’s simply no rational, logic-based factual discussion anymore. It’s all just regurgitated talking points. And for those who don’t simply glaze their eyes over when hearing the other side refusing to acknowledge a single point, and then simply repeat the rote words heard over and over again on one’s chosen news or “news” outlet, it’s futile because if you’re talking to someone who is like that, you’re wasting your breath. For them, politics is a religion and they’re true believers. For them, Fox News, The Blaze, and the GOP are scripture and Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and the Democrats are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. For them, our political parties are engaged in a good versus evil battle where not only our economic future rests in the balance, but also our existential direction — which could lead us straight to political hell if we go the wrong way.

What makes this all even more maddening is that things are bad enough that we could have fairly grim conversations about how things are going in this country without all the hyperbole. Does Obama seriously need to be a radical, socialist dictator in order to prove that we should elect someone else? Why can’t the actual data be enough? I mean, it’s not like there aren’t enough sane reasons out there to argue for a different direction — unemployment is over 8 percent, the housing market is still in the dumps across most of the country, the middle class is disappearing at a dangerous rate, health care costs a fortune, drone attacks are morally questionable, the indefinite detaining of American citizens is extremely disturbing… The list could go on and on, surely. These realities are scary and horrible enough for a lot of people that we don’t need to resort to truly insane rhetoric about how Obama is a Muslim or that he’s the most radical president in history or that he’s raised taxes on everyone or that he’s ballooning the debt more than anyone in the history of the world or that he’s going to take away all of our guns or, the real kicker, that he’s un-American and wants to destroy the republic to unleash a global Islamic caliphate.

Seriously?

This isn’t some 1970s Alan J. Pakula film, you guys.

Our problems are big enough if we just look at them on their face and then talk about ways to fix them without declaring that a birth control mandate to private insurers is the end of religious freedom as we know it or that it’s akin to 9/11. Just look at the latest government “heresy” where the USDA has simply suggested that Americans refrain from eating meat one day a week on Mondays in order to marginally assist in what is the worst US drought in over 60 years. Honestly, this is merely a symbolic gesture because even though “a pound of animal protein requires, on average, about 100 times more water than producing a pound of vegetable protein,” it’s not going to cure the truly disastrous problem plaguing the midwest right now — and will affect all of us when food prices skyrocket because of it. And what’s the Republican response? Some are pledging to eat more meat on Mondays to compensate. Why? Why? And with this their hyperbolic response to a simple suggestion, what are the odds that Congress can actually muster the votes to pass any drought assistance with some real teeth?

When I asked someone why it “irks” them that the USDA suggested it, they said that it was because government makes too many suggestions — even though they agreed that we should be eating less meat. So it’s not about the validity or worth or general cost/benefit evaluation of the suggestion/law/bill/recommendation/idea/talking point; it’s simply that government is suggesting we do too much; that it’s irksome when the government even makes a recommendation on how to solve a national crisis, not that the recommendation itself was wrong, misguided, or straight up bad. This isn’t rampant government control of our freedom; this is a pragmatic response to a real problem. If anything, this is a rather conservative response since the USDA isn’t requiring everyone to stop using water on Mondays or suggesting raising taxes to fund some water relief program or something, you know, real. But if we’re not even going to look at each case individually and judge them by their own standalone merits, then what are we even doing here?

The most frustrating part of it all? Those brainwashed people – the ones who religiously believe what they’ve decided (or been told by the right people) is the truth in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary – think you’re the one who is deluded if you attempt to look at things outside of the designated partisan prism.

Yet, I still think there’s hope. It comes down to choosing to look at specific issues for what they are and accepting that perhaps your side doesn’t always have the best answer. Or at least, to acknowledge that the other side’s idea might have some merit if you could get rid of the ugly sheen of the other side’s packaging of said idea. This is for everyone, regardless of which party you’re affiliated with. But, let’s not kid ourselves: one party is far more egregious and unreasonable in perpetuating this stalemate than the other. Now, that doesn’t mean that the Republican Party is always wrong on everything; it doesn’t mean that the Democrats are always right. It just means that when the House GOP votes 33 times to repeal the ACA, continuing to vote against it even after it passed through every single branch of federal government, instead of even bringing forth a jobs bill or even writing an ACA replacement plan, it’s evident that the only goal is to take back the presidency by any means necessary — and that our politics in general is simply about obtaining power in order to adjust the rules to better suit those who helped fund them (but that’s the topic for another blog post.)

The truth is that we have problems that need answers and the only way we’re going to actually be able to deal with them is to focus on the actual issues rather than these paranoid delusional fantasies that simply aren’t based in reality. There’s no shame in accepting that Obama and the Democrats aren’t evil incarnate. It’s not traitorous to acknowledge that Obama and the Democrats’ ideas aren’t instituting anti-American socialism. You’re not a liberal just because you understand that to tackle the debt we may need to raise taxes an iota. The sooner we can move past the sensationalist hyperbole, move away from buying into everything our selected parties’ leaders say without even a modicum of questioning, the sooner we can deal with our national issues.

Because, trust me: they’re scary enough on their own.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Janislist

    Very well said, Ryan. It’s exactly what I’ve been wrestling with when I try to talk politics to others. It’s all black and white! No one wants to admit there could be some common ground worth discussing.

  • Jordan

    I agree. Life is definitely not black & white, so why should our politics be? Good vs Evil, Right vs Wrong, Fair vs Unfair, True vs Untrue. You’re either with us or you are against us. Our politics are the biggest example of the either/or fallacy. I’m still a whole year from being able to vote and have much to learn about politics. I just dont understand how I am supposed to identify with a party when both sides are so extreme and there is no middle ground.

    • http://agreetodisagree.me Ryan Mason

      I think you have to pick the party with whom you mostly identify with on the issues that are most important to you. And then continue to think for yourself on every issue that comes down the pike. I’m a Democrat but not because they’re the best party; it’s just that they’re better than the Republicans and I agree with their current stance on many big-issue topics. Could that change in 20 years as the parties continue their evolution? Of course. But then again I’m pragmatic, not dogmatic.