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The Hamburger Problem: Revisited

Or, it’s time for some of my political ramblings

Courtesy of The New York Times

No, I’m not going to write another piece about my thoughts on the various types of veggie burgers. The “Hamburger Problem” I’m referring to this time comes from a 2017 article by Josh Barro, the thesis of which is summed up pretty well by these sentences: “As I see it, Democrats’ problem isn’t that they’re on the wrong side of policy issues. It’s that they’re too ready to bother too many ordinary people about too many of their personal choices, all the way down to the hamburgers they eat.” What I’m about to say isn’t exactly the same as what Barro discussed in that article, but it’s definitely in a similar vein. NOTE: These are my opinions, and are not necessarily the opinions of everyone else at ATF.

Recently, Mike put on a silly movie called The Hunt. I happened to be in the room working, but I quickly got super sucked into the movie (in spite of myself). The basic premise is that a group of wealthy liberals have kidnapped and released a group of uneducated conservatives in order to hunt them for sport. In the end (spoilers!), the person who comes out on top is someone kind of in the middle: she’s educated, she has served in the military, she’s from the South, but she seems a bit more politically moderate than everyone else. Honestly, the movie was pretty dumb, but it did get me thinking about the behaviors and attitudes of people on both sides of our political spectrum.

It’s no secret that our country is extremely divided, and that it’s been this way for quite some time (at least since 2016, but probably even earlier). Like Josh Barro, I feel that a major contributing factor to this division is that many liberals/progressives/whatever you want to call them are often too condescending about everything. They believe themselves to be better than conservatives in the South and Midwest, and they act and talk like they’re better. They scold people for believing certain things, saying certain things, using certain products, etc. Instead of productively and compassionately focusing on tackling one issue at a time, they make it about every issue all at once, which in turn just confuses and annoys those on the other end. As a born and raised Texan with family in Louisiana and Alabama, I know Southern people…and I know they NEVER want to get talked down to, especially by “Yankees”/the “coastal elite.”

Let me give you an example. If an old Southern white man posted on Facebook: “You know what, I’ve been wrong. We need to tear down the Confederate statues and support our fellow colored brethren,” the stereotypical liberal would pipe in and say, “’Colored’ is an outdated and offensive term. Please check yourself.” This is an exaggerated hypothetical situation, but you get the idea. Actually, the reason this example is purely hypothetical is because there’s such a small chance of those two kinds of people even seeing each other’s Facebook posts, in part due to algorithms but also due to the fact that we all seem to surround ourselves with like-minded people these days. In my case, I’m blessed to be able to mainly surround my social media feeds with posts from intelligent educators and others who take a bit more of a nuanced approach to the discussion of political and social issues, but many other people really do take it too far one way or the other.

Going back to the “Hamburger Problem,” it’s as if it’s never ENOUGH — whatever “it” may be in a given situation. I get it; there is always progress to be made in order to change and improve some of the horrific social structures and belief systems in our country. However, when it comes to individual minds, isn’t some progress better than none at all? If you continually undermine a person’s efforts to grow and change, that just pushes them even further in the opposite direction. Just because you’re super far along in your “wokeness” journey doesn’t mean everyone else needs to join you there ASAP. People will be like, “It’s 2020, do better” (which admittedly I have said/thought before), but we have to realize that these social issues (namely racism) run DEEP. It’s not easy to change/open a mind, and we should be happy with even the slightest bit of progress, particularly when pertaining to individuals. We need to be more patient with conservatives, Boomers, and anyone else who holds “backwards” beliefs. When you’re saying that everything someone grew up learning is now horribly wrong, it can be very off-putting and confusing. The approach you take is EVERYTHING in determining whether that person will get defensive or will allow themselves to be vulnerable and to actually listen.

Those who attack brands like Aunt Jemima and Land o’ Lakes or attractions like Splash Mountain are the ones who piss off conservatives. Because the reality is that those things — problematic as they may be — are incredibly trivial in the grand scheme of things. Black Americans are being murdered by the police, who are then NOT held accountable…and you want to focus on rebranding your syrup?! Conservatives know it’s stupid, and honestly, a lot of liberals and moderates do as well. Again — I know TONS and tons of liberals/progressives who are brilliant and actually focus on the bigger problems. But that doesn’t mean they (and even I) don’t play into the “Hamburger Problem.”

The word “racist” is being thrown around a lot these days (and again, I’m guilty of probably overusing it, too). The thing is, you can’t just write an ordinary person off as a racist or a bigot because they haven’t fully realized what the harsh realities of systemic racism are in our country, or they can’t quite wrap their mind around it all yet. Again, it’s really hard to go against everything you’ve been taught and everyone you know. Trust me — I had to move all the way to New York to figure out what I really believed in and to become the person I am today.

One thing I know is that we’re all flawed and we all have biases. We need to recognize that we’re all more similar than we are different. Well, this is starting to sound pretty “kumbaya,” so I’ll cut myself off. If you’d like to discuss this with me further, though, hit me up on Instagram!

Originally published on July 8, 2020




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