You’re bound to disagree with someone on something
I wish to address a growing trend in social and political discourse that’s troubling, if not disturbing. I should begin by noting that the internet’s good for a great number of things: news, research, sports scores, cute animal photos, discrete hook-ups, and humourous videos of people getting injured attempting something stupid. Unfortunately, it has also given millions of people a way to get away with doing or saying awful things behind a mask of relative anonymity. As a result, a great many people have become increasingly prone to expressing some controversial and unpopular opinions because the consequences of doing so are generally quite minor. Bluntly, I won’t discourage anyone from cutting off communication with anyone who says something openly hateful or solely meant to be inflammatory. Such people deserve no validation. However, disconnecting yourself from someone for simply disagreeing with you on a political point or issue is something I wish to discourage.
Politics has become so divisive in recent years that there’s an near reflexive tendency to dismiss a person based solely on their beliefs. If a person disagrees with you, they’re not simply wrong: they’re basically evil. It’s not even a “left versus right” thing. People are going for the jugular over issues and persons within their own political ranks. I’ve seen at least one friendship ruined over a Bernie Sanders vs. Hilary Clinton debate. This was after Clinton won the nomination, so it wasn’t even a particularly important issue at the time, and two people who had been friends for years cut each other off. It’s sad.
The sadder part is that these divisions are more imagined than real. Personal example: I play pickup hockey run by a fellow whom we will call “Gord.” Gord is about fifty-five, quite blue-collar, and has been running this pickup group for decades. He has actively welcomed women and LGBTQ individuals into his group, and has readily kicked out people for opposing their inclusion. He did this long before such inclusion was remotely commonplace. For those of you familiar with the home-stay program—where foreign students are boarded in Canadian households for an often substantial fee)—Gord went above and beyond in taking care of his boarders. He often invited other boarders into his house for proper dinners because some of the people involved in the program assume foreign students should subsist on hot dogs and white bread (it’s hard to describe such people without prodigious use of profanity, so I’ll just call them jerks). He allows people to play for free if they’re going through financial difficulties, is generally the first person to offer aid to a friend, and accepts damned near anyone who isn’t a vocal bigot or violent lunatic. Gord is a good, generous, tolerant, friendly man who deserves a great deal of respect.
He’s also a big fan of Donald Trump, and absolutely loved Rob Ford.
His political views are hard to reconcile with his personality and actions, but I can understand why he supports these people. Gord has a high school education, works about 50-60 hours a week, has a number of hobbies, an old house that needs constant renovations, and three children with whom he spends a good deal of time. He is a smart man, but he gets his political information from talk radio, locker rooms, and his blue-collar coworkers. He’s too busy to pore over the Globe and Mail or spend time on Politifact to determine that Trump is a pathological liar and sociopath who is exploiting the basest sentiments of his supporters. Being as naturally charitable as he is, it makes sense that he doesn’t see the need for a hypothetical big government nanny state. He pays attention to politics, but he seems drawn towards candidates who stand out and promise something different, and actually seems to derive some of his contempt for Clinton and the Democrats from their dismissal of Sanders’ remarkable impact. It would be easy to dismiss him as ignorant, selfish, or mean, but it would be very, very wrong. Gord’s a good person, and a far truer representative of conservative Canadians than that vitriol spewing bigot on Facebook.
And in the spirit of full disclosure, I have my own set of controversial opinions, as does practically everyone. My opinion of the Abrahamic religions is almost entirely negative. Without going into too much detail, I regard Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as regressive forces that project the worst aspects of Bronze, Iron, and Dark Age tyrants onto a deity. That said, I prefer not to associate their followers with what I perceive to be the innate problems of their religions. People are—for the most part—innately good. In a twisted way, I actually think religions stand as a testament to human decency. I can find little good in the Bible or Quran, but most of their adherents manage to do so, and that is inspiring. People can easily use these works to defend or promote hatred and violence (as any student of history can tell you), but instead use them to inspire charity, tolerance, and basic good conduct. My disdain for certain belief systems does not trump my confidence in humanity, just as my controversial beliefs do not make me a bad person (at least not compared to some of my other traits).
My overarching point is that we need to be more cautious about letting politics (or religion, or race) divide us. Friendships shouldn’t end because someone decided he liked Trump’s unabashed narcissistic criminality over Clinton’s subdued elitism and embodiment of an unproductive status quo. I shouldn’t stop playing hockey with Gord because he doesn’t get why a straight pride parade would be redundant, and that his “people would throw a fit if we threw a parade with a lot of semi-naked women” refrain is effectively countered by the simple existence of Caribana. No one is ever going to agree with everyone on every issue, and as long as someone isn’t promoting violence or legitimate hatred, we should be more tolerant of those who don’t share our beliefs. How can we emphasize the values of tolerance when we won’t tolerate a modest political disagreement?
Well, that’s all for now. If the Jays are still in the playoffs when this hits the shelves, GO JAYS! If not, GO LEAFS!