Monday, November 22, 2004

The Joy of Losing

this is SO the wrong way to go

Bob Somerby at Daily Howler has a great piece today on the contempt some people have been showing toward those who objected to the NFL's new locker-room-seduction promo. You don't have to agree that the ad was offensive, or that Janet Jackson's breast-baring was vulgar, etc. etc., to respect other people's feelings on the subject, yet many of us don't. Hel-lo .... Instead, some of us adopt an attitude of moral superiority toward anyone who's offended or repelled by sexual content. Good way to perpetuate the Blue/Red culture gap. Remember, "offended" or "repelled" reactions are emotions, not political positions. I thought we believed in respecting the feelings of others.

Why do so many people want to mock or demean those with whom they disagree? Bob says it's tribal, and I think he's right. The "IDIOT" image and label shown above is from one of those places that sells clothing to "progressives," if that's the right word. There was a time when to be "progressive" meant to have respect for all, even those who disagreed with you. It meant working to create a better country in partnership with many diverse groups. That's the point of community organizing - the community only agrees with you after you organize it, not before. Should Saul Alinsky have stayed home with his friends, talking about how inferior other people and their leaders are?

This t-shirt represents, to me, much of what's wrong with the new 'progressive' movement's thinking and behavior. Don't we want to win people over to our side? Those who voted for Bush won't be persuaded by political apparel like this. If you're NOT wearing it to win people over, then I think Bob's right and it's about some kind of social bonding with those who already agree with you. That may make you feel better, but shouldn't we draw the line when our 'feel-good' activities start harming the cause we want to feel good about?

Here's another question (the obvious one): If Bush is such an idiot, why do the people buying these t-shirts keep losing to him? Clearly what he does resonates with a lot of voters. That something is worthy of study, so we can learn and improve. He's doing something right, even if its only picking the right people to lead his campaign. Face it: he picked Rove, and Kerry picked Shrum. Who was smarter there?

On the same note, this morning I saw a bumper sticker that said "Yee-ha is not a foreign policy." Well, "yee-ha" isn't Bush's foreign policy, either, so this is a stupid sticker that oozes misguided contempt. Like it or not, our government's actions are driven by a calculated strategy, not a goofy rebel yell. Granted, the execution has been terrible, but our government's actions reflect both strategy and ideology. Belittling them doesn't win any voters over, and it blinds us with such a brilliant ray of self-satisfaction that we don't analyze what that strategy might be and how to combat it. That's playing right into the hands of the "idiot."

I don't think the people who voted for Bush are bad people. I think they're human. I think they're preoccupied with their very human lives, and I think they believed what they were told over and over in the 'liberal media.' Insulting Bush means insulting them, too. It lets them know that WE'RE WRITING THEM OFF. And it doesn't accomplish anything positive.

Which leads me to a question that's often asked in Twelve Step circles: Would you rather be "right" or happy? Meaning, would you rather have the satisfaction that comes from knowing you're on the "correct" side of a nasty fight, or would you rather avoid the fight if possible and work together to solve your relationship problems? Because what we have, when all is said and done, is a bad relationship with our Red-voting neighbors. Do we want to "work things out" or get one of those "secede from the South" divorces so many people are fantasizing about? I'd rather see a few more Bush voters become comfortable with the Democratic Party and its values - values that are often consistent with "Red State" sociology, anyway, no matter what hokum David Brooks is peddling this week. Honey, can we talk?

Caring,respect, love of children, kindness -- these things are as important to the average evangelical as they are to the most ethical liberal. (I exclude their leaders, the cynical ministers and politicians, from this assessment.) I know, because I've lived among of them. Yes, progressives, like Margaret Mead or Levi-Strauss I've lived among the natives and come back to tell the tale.

The new progressive mantra: People are the same everywhere - except in Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma ...

The good news about the values we all share is getting scrambled in transmission, and lost in the noise of our disagreements over gay marriage, sexual content in the media, and abortion. We don't have to back away from our beliefs. But do we want to be right, or happy? The happiness of winning will be ours when we learn to stress consensus as well as conflict, agreement as well as antagonism. Unless, that is, we've decided we'll never win an election again, in which case we're free to trash anybody who doesn't think like we do.

Once you've lost hope, the natural reaction is to lash out. But how much satisfaction will that really give you? And wouldn't you rather find reasons to be hopeful? I would - and so would most Bush voters. After all, it's only human.