Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”. Bigotry may be based on real or perceived characteristics, including age, disability, dissension from popular opinions, economic status, ethnicity, gender identity,language, nationality, political alignment, race, region, religious or spiritual belief, sex, or sexual orientation. Bigotry is sometimes developed into an ideology or world view.
So as I sit here, skimming Twitter and the news (thereby avoiding the task of writing a research paper), I sigh and sigh. As the presidential election creeps closer, it seems the attacks grow more vicious, the rhetoric more misleading and childish, the desperation for campaign contributions more feverish. The heated vitriol among the most loyal supporters has always been there, but now it spreads through everything like a virus, infecting even those who had been more moderate and tolerant in their opinions and commentary.
I know this seems like a pretty harsh observation, but understand that I am not singling out one campaign or another, one group or another. I am pointing to both. Those of us who are in between become swept up and overwashed by the tide of vicious attacks and false accusations. Some who do not wish to receive figurative black eyes from the fervent remain silent. Some dare to express their thoughts but do so in fear of being misjudged or misunderstood. Some just do not care, seeing the entire process as futile as in their eyes nothing will ever change. Those who attempt to educate themselves about issues become exhausted after sifting through a barrage of bias. One side calls Romney a liar saying that he flip-flops, will present whatever works to get elected, and only cares about the rich. The other side says that Obama is the liar, distorting and cherry-picking facts that only support him, placing the blame on others, and keeping his real agenda hidden. If one votes for Romney, he or she must be a racist, an elitist who doesn’t care about those less-fortunate. If one votes for Obama, he or she must be a radical feminist/environmentalist, poor and uneducated, or a socialist (socialism is NOT communism by the way). No matter how a person feels, no matter which issues are important to that person, no matter what beliefs are best supported, the other campaign and its lackeys seek to break that person down (or lift them up) to earn another vote for their candidate.
So here is how it is for me…An American citizen with very real concerns and beliefs that are shaped by my personal experiences…a person who has worked hard to educate myself about my opinions and the issues that are important to me so that I can reach an informed decision: I have spent many hours researching and reading articles, blogs, documents, and information. Some of it is biased, although I try to find both sides. Some of it is boring, tedious, “want to shoot myself in the head” rhetoric in the form of laws, bills, and statistics. The point is that I have not allowed ANYONE else to do my thinking for me. I have questioned everything, and I have made up my mind. I know who I will be voting for come the time. I know why I am making the choice- why I believe and feel what I do. My choice is popular with some and unpopular with others (about 50% either way according to polls).
Now, even though I have made up my mind and am not afraid to express myself, I do not wish to persuade anyone else to feel the same way. I will argue proudly for my own beliefs, but I will not dismiss someone else’s simply because they are different. I do not view someone else’s opinion as inferior to my own. I might wonder to myself what motivates them, but that is because I recognize and understand that we are all very different individuals with different situations, experiences, and needs. I want to understand not change them. We are all at different places in life. Even if I might disagree with another person’s choices, I do not question the integrity or ability of others to make their own decisions. I fully embrace the right that each individual has to choose to vote or not. I embrace the right that each has to choose a candidate. AND I am sick and tired of listening to those who put down, attack, and vilify others because they think differently. I am sick of hearing about “libtards” and “republictards”, “Socialists” and “Facists.” I am sick of the finger-pointing, name-calling, and nastiness that oozes from political commentators, media outlets, and Americans. This is not high school. We are supposed to be rational, educated adults. So the likes of Rush Limbaugh resorting to calling Sandra Fluke a slut and Lawrence O’donnell challenging Mitt Romney’s son to a fistfight are infantile and unacceptable. Sadly enough, I could go on and on about this, but my entire point is that the behavior turns my stomach and serves nobody well.
In turn, I wish to be respected for my choices. I would like to be able to say something in a conversation without someone calling me “Darwinian” or “provincial.” I would like to be able to read and listen to civil, rational conversations. I would like to be able to read something that isn’t so heavily biased it makes my head spin. I would like people to quit implying that because I feel the way I do or believe what I believe there is something wrong with me.
When the election is over and done, when a president is sworn into office, life will continue regardless of who it is. My life will go on as it always has, and I will adapt accordingly as I always have. Some things will be harder; some things will be easier. I will do whatever I must to protect myself, my family, and my beliefs with integrity because in the end that is what really matters to me. Whether we have to change our lives completely will depend on how the tide flows. As always, I will find a way; my family will find a way; we will survive a President Obama or a President Romney.
I am tired of people who wish to argue or debate but cannot make the effort to support their viewpoints with unbiased evidence. They simply regurgitate information that they hear on radio and television or read on the internet and in newspapers without looking for bias and bothering to educate themselves or understand the issues further. The irony is that as we grow up, we make every effort to provide strong, well-substantiated arguments to our parents and others as to why we should be able to do certain things like drive the car. We struggle against their viewpoints so that we may develop our own. But as adults, many of us are simply willing to adopt someone else’s argument as our own rather than expend the energy- either because we don’t have it or we choose not to use it.
If you want to present a valid argument, you should be able to do two things:
1. Prove that you understand the issue AND
2. Be able to use or apply supporting points/ evidence in ways that go beyond what you read or hear.
Politicians and campaigns are very good at suppressing and manipulating information to serve their purposes. That is where the individual must be responsible for sorting through evidence to come to a fair and objective conclusion. Unfortunately, it is time-consuming and tiring to do so. Sometimes it is downright confusing. Nevertheless, the individual who does not truly understand the issues (beyond reciting information from the media) easily falls victim to logical fallacies and misdirection- a tactic widely used in campaigns. To complicate matters, individuals have a tendency to identify with a person or “team” (ie. democrat, republican), and they then take cues on their positions from someone influential in that team. Some become extremely loyal and refuse to entertain anything outside of that circle. This leads the individual to accept arguments and evidence consistent with the position without being critical and to reject opposing arguments and evidence without understanding them. Even the wisest individuals are susceptible to this.
The key is to THINK for yourself. Resist the urge to side with the “team.” Be aware of tricks. Understand and consider the evidence. Come to your own conclusion. In order to do all of this, educate yourself about the claims that anyone makes, no matter what side of the issue. Ask yourself: How much of it is biased? Is there any missing or misdirected information? Question everything and learn as much as possible before coming to a conclusion.
I don’t care which side of the issue you take as long as you can have an educated and passionate discussion that is devoid of insults and epithets. Be reasonable and civil. Prove to me that you can think beyond what others say. Show me that you care enough to understand and know the issues, making the argument your own rather than a recitation of someone else’s talking points. If you can do those things, you may very well bring something new to light that I hadn’t known. You may even succeed in convincing me to consider more or think differently.