So, I'm sure you've heard it before. Libtard, teabagger - those and other hateful words get flung around with alarming regularity in what passes for political discourse today. I find it really fascinating, as I have friends on both sides of the aisle, at various points in the aisle. None of them are stupid or irrational.
So, I've talked about narratives before. I'm going to talk about them a lot in this blog, because its a useful tool into understanding how this sort of thing happens and perpetuates. We have a tendency to only listen and befriend people who agree with us, and it creates an echo-chamber of reinforcement for our opinions. It also allows for another neat little trick that we play on ourselves that's given rise to terms like teabaggers and libtards.
So, the stories that attract our attention are often the most egregious examples of wrongheaded thinking on "the other side." Conversely, when "our side" (whichever side we've taken, with whatever reservations we have on taking that side) does something wrong, we tend to groan, roll our eyes and perhaps have a discussion about how dumb this or that was. We have interesting, lively discussions about improvement. We do not (or at least most do not) attack with the same passion as we do people on the opposing team.
So, combine the two above facts and we have an interesting phenomenon. Our side looks to be a flawed but improvable and perfectible band of people fighting for fundamentally good values - for people broadly liberal, those values tend to be a more open society, equality and opportunity. For people broadly on the right, the values can be economic freedom, individual liberty and...wait a minute, those sound a lot alike don't they?
(I'm leaving out socialcons and democrat sycophants in this equation because they're obnoxious, ruin everything and everyone hates them. Hannity and Shultz basically make everything awful. Sorry guys.)
There's an interesting point. The values both sides say they are pursuing have a lot in common. We can argue outcomes all day - and we ought - but it should be of interest that the general values people claim to be advancing tend to be similar if not identical.
Anyway, while your side looks like a flawed one struggling towards the proper ideals, the other side, because you have no friends who believe in it and you are provided with (frequent, and blatant, no matter which side you're on) examples of just how awful some people on the other side are, and you don't see people on the other side getting too loud about how awful the people on their own side are, you assume that they're a monolithic, evil entity.
So, here we go. Monolithic evil vs nuanced, flawed and improvable leads to another interesting factoid: reasonable people on both sides stop talking to each other and start talking to each other. Which is to say, they treat each individual like the monolithic evil entity they've made up in their heads. Every right-leaning person becomes that irritating idiot who claims that women's vaginas exude some anti-rape phermone that prevents them from getting pregnant. Every left-leaning person becomes that guy who claims no government program can do any wrong or that thinks anyone who works in a private business is immediately an evil villain.
So that's all easy, so its easy to understand why it's done, and the mechanics of how it's done. The problem is that it's just not factually accurate.
Let me take a break and assure you: tea party folk, there are liberals out there interested in reforming broken things, discarding things that just plain don't work and think for themselves rather than just go lockstep with whatever democrat party pundits tell them to. And liberals: there are tea party folk who don't want to inspect your vagina and don't think that teh homoz are the gravest threat to this country.
It won't bring everyone together on everything, but the actual amount of movement in the right direction that can be done virtually off the bat would probably surprise people.
The thing I find interesting, though, is how both political parties benefit immensely from this state of affairs. I think there's a large swath of people on both sides who are not particularly attached to huge government programs on the left, and on the right who aren't particularly attached to having federal vagina inspectors and killing all illegal immigrants and placing their heads at the border to serve as a warning on the right. They never talk to each other though because they are talking to the devils they have invented in their heads, and fit anyone they run into, into these narratives.