I’m gonna start with a joke, or half a joke, the one joke that used to land in my stand up comedy routine that I did for….bout five minutes.
See, me I’m a strange guy, full of contradictions and such, for example, I grew up in Wyoming, the reddest of the red states but I went to and was indoctrinated in [as my red meat eating, flag waving western brethren would say] a liberal university in Portland, Oregon, where I still live and the bluest of the blue.
On top of that I did my four years in the US Army back in the day and was an infantryman. For the last ten years, I’ve been an international humanitarian aid worker. So you go from shooting at people to givin em food [course to be honest you can do that just in the Army…but hey, I’m trying to make a point :)
Anyway, joke goes, when I go home to Wyoming and tell people I was in the Army, they’re like, hell yeah, that’s great man, you went out there and fought for freedom..America…f@!* yeah!
Then I tell em I was an aid worker…and they’re like……….what’s that? To which I explain: you know, its the people they go around to other countries and help folks out.
And they’re like…ah..man…….f@*! them foreigners! You know how much money we spend every year on other countries and we could be spending that money here and blah, blah, blah [we spend far, far more on military bases in other countries and bombs and such then we do on foreign aid…so I always want to tell them to shove it].
But then, I’d be in Portland and tell someone I was/am an aid worker and they’ll be like: ah…man….that’s so cool, you go over to other countries and help people out…good for you.
Then I tell them I was in the Army and they get real quiet for a minute. Then they look at me and in a hushed tone of voice they’ll ask…so……how many people did you kill?
That’s my joke. I tell it, not necessarily because the stereotypes are true, most people from either place don’t react that way, though some do, but those stereotypes do represent a part of how we view each other. In America, like many other places, we’re just sides and teams.
I’m not sure how we get over that. Or does it just get worse over the years until one day it comes to a head? Hell, I’ve heard people talk about another Civil War, now while I still think that’s a ways off…thoughts lead to emotions and lead to words and words lead to actions. So how do we change this whole us v them thinking?
One idea is to do away with the two party system [and while we’re at it, get money out of politics in order to do away with the big influence of corporations and lobbyists, etc.]. Now, I know, in other countries, they have multiple parties and that’s still not a fix-all. However, we have become so entrenched into teams here in America, Democrat and Republican, that its hard to see ideas outside that box.
For example, I breathe the word “guns” and knowing that I’m an avowed lefty, some of my furthest friends on the right, freak out. Oh, guns aren’t a problem and everything’s fine and you know we’re 30th in the world in gun violence and that isn’t so bad and the majority of those deaths are suicide and you can’t regulate suicide right? I mean, aren’t you people for suicide? Sigh…..and on it goes.
Of course the point I was really trying to make when I uttered that word guns is probably something like, hey we should have universal background checks [that has an 82% favorability rating among Republicans according to Pew Research Center]. I would bet money that a Republican Administration would have a hell of a lot easier time getting that and similar laws passed [if they decided to ignore the influence of the NRA, a reason to get money out of politics] then a Democratic one would. With the Democrats there will be screaming about the slippery slope and this is the beginning of the end, first they take away our guns and then we end up in FEMA camps! [I never got that one].
This is probably the part where I’m supposed to say that Democrats do it too. Uhhhh…sure. Truth is anything that comes out of the current administration I probably wouldn’t trust at face value. You’d have to put in a lot of convincing me that there isn’t some selfish get rich in the swamp interest behind it that doesn’t care about how many people they hurt or what kind of damage they do in the process [course, to be fair to myself, I feel that way about a lot of the Democrats too, I just think the Republicans are far worse…I imagine there’s people on the other side that feel the same but in reverse].
As long as we have the labels of Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, as long as we’re divided into these teams and these stereotypes[and money has a huge influence in politics]…it seems like things that we can all pretty much agree on, such as Universal Background Checks…simply aren’t going to become a reality.
I don’t know that having multiple political parties is the way around that but I do know if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re just going to become more entrenched into the sides that we’re in. We can’t talk about a problem and a solution, we can only talk about what side my team is on. I suppose that talk makes me a bit naive, actually wanting to solve problems, but until we get over my team, your team and talk about problems without talking about or being in the current, entrenched political identity [or any political identity really], we’re not going to advance.
By the way, that’s not an argument for bipartisanship, because the way that plays out right now doesn’t address problems, it addresses [usually] special or political interests. Its an argument for actually identifying problems as a nation and talking about solutions but not talking about these things solely through the lens of our individual political identity, but talking about them in terms of what is best for our country as a whole.
I feel like until that happens, we’ll just be a bunch of gun toting, flag waving rednecks from Wyoming or a bunch of sissy, latte swilling, poetry reading libtards from Portland or [insert your stereotype here].