Excusing v/s Understanding
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we approach disagreements in the political arena, as I often do living as a very liberal member of a very red state. I try to understand someone’s viewpoints as it helps me not become too depressed and it helps me decide how to spend my energy. I sometimes get pushback when I try to “explain” why a lot of conservatives vote the way they do on Twitter, and I admit this makes me feel like sometimes I’m being too nice when I’m trying to understand people. Maybe I’m part of the problem.
But – as I listened to an old episode of the Dear Hank & John podcast where they discussed a similar thing – I realized that understanding is NOT the same thing as excusing the behavior.
Let’s bring up Roy Moore as the perfect example. First off – I would like to point out that my entry begging people not to vote for him was written BEFORE all of the stories came out about his affinity for underage teen girls.
Anyway – this week I tried to explain to Twitter why people will still vote for him.
See – for the Pro-Life Evangelical/Christian South – Democrats are baby killers because they support choice. Their goal is not to “create less abortions” like we pro-choicers like to say when we’re trying to get them to support progressive agendas. We like to find common ground and say things like, “But sex education has been proven to prevent abortions!” That only works if the goal is to prevent abortions. No. The goal of these Pro-Lifers is ONLY to MAKE ABORTION ILLEGAL. Since life begins at conception, it is an abomination in their eyes that we have a society that has legalized baby murder. Their sole focus is to overturn Roe v Wade and they can’t do that with Democrats who will not support that. So, basically, all pro-choice Democrats (they don’t really trust “pro-life” Democrats) are baby killers and that is WAY WORSE than trying to instigate a sexual relationship with a 14-year old when you are 30.
This is me trying to understand these voters, not excuse them.
Another thing I’m not sure people realize is how warped your sense of reality is if all you listen to is Fox News. Sometime in the middle of Obama’s second term, there was some sort of Anti-Obama/Anti-Clinton conspiracy theory making it’s way through the FB feeds of my Conservative friends and family. (This was before I “unfollowed” them all to save my mental health.) It really confused me and I started thinking about their media exposure. So, I challenged myself for a few nights to just watch some Fox News stuff. I tried to eliminate any “normal” media (I don’t listen to or watch things like MSNBC, but I regularly read NYT, Washington Post, and listen to NPR) from my periphery for a few days and ONLY listen to Fox News. And y’all? You should try it. It really does shift your perspective. I found myself COMPLETELY understanding why they hate Obama. I wish I could remember exactly what was going on at the time but after a few days when I checked back in with NPR there was a legislative story they were following I didn’t even know about. If you only watch Fox News your worldview is very different from mine.
Again – this is me understanding but not excusing.
Because make no mistake – I do NOT excuse living in a political media bubble and I do NOT excuse Fox New fro anything. I am constantly harping on the importance of having several sources of news. Now – I don’t think everyone needs a “Conservative Leaning” and a “Liberal Leaning” source because in our current present climate, even those that try to stay unbiased seem like they lean Liberal because our POTUS is so crazy sometimes and it sounds like they’re always reporting against him.
But NPR has a slew of Republican Legislators they bring on for input, sometimes it irritates me because I feel like they’re too easy on them. WaPo does conservative Op-Eds. I know this because it also irritates me. The NYT did this overly glamorizing piece on Breitbart which irritated the hell out of me.
My point is – I listen to and watch enough different news sources that they all irritate me at some point. AND THAT’S IMPORTANT. You have to sometimes hear reporting you don’t agree with, or stories that make you question your worldview. Right Now my favorite podcast – THE DAILY – is doing a story about how our government has used drone attacks and act like they’re great when WE NEED SO MUCH MORE INFO and it reminds how unhappy I was (am?) still with Obama’s reliance on drone attacks.
My point? You need VARIETY. You need to be exposed to enough of a variety that sometimes you question your heroes and your politics. So – I do NOT excuse these Fox News Only people for not having a variety. But by understanding them it allows me to still donate to their community fundraiser or wish them happy birthday.
If we don’t try to understand people who think differently from us, we separate from them entirely and they become ONLY their politics. And as someone for whom politics is a HUGE PART OF HER LIFE, I still think people are much more than their politics. Some people could not tell you who our secretary of state is, or who our attorney general is. And I’m not sure I could have either 15+ years ago.
I just resist the idea that we 100% remove ourselves from any sort of personal contact with people who are on the other side of the aisle. Are these people possibly racists and homophobic and transphobic and misogynist?
Maybe. Probably. if I’m be honest.
But if I 100% draw a line between ME and THEM then there’s never a chance I can be part of the change in their lives. I have to try to understand them so if their worldview falters a little bit, they’ll have my voice in their ear giving them alternatives.
I am not excusing them, but I need to understand them in order to survive in this Red state and in my conservative-leaning family.