I really get it. I do.
Is there a human being on the planet who doesn’t want everything in life to be purely black or white? We want everything to be easy, not hard. everything in life should be either good or evil, love or hate, beautiful or ugly. Wouldn’t that make everything in our lives much more amenable? Isn’t that the dream?
Well, unicorn lovers, if you look at life that way, my overarching advice to you is to grow the hell up. There isn’t a person who is either perfectly good or perfectly evil and there is no issue that is either all good or all evil, short of rape, genocide or mass murder, none of which are political issues, so much as crimes.
This election season has reminded me that far too many people seem to think they live in a world with no shades of grey, which makes me wonder how anyone can live like that. How is it possible to live your entire life being outraged by everything you don’t like? Just as importantly, what does it do to a person’s psyche to praise someone and treat them like a demigod when they say or do something they like and then to lurch into hatred of that same person when they say or do something disagreeable? For that matter, how does a rational person support one politician without question at the same time they constantly denigrate another politician who agrees with the one you support more than 90% of the time? As long as both politicians are a major improvement over everything current Republicans, how can anyone be so passionately against any Democrat?
And before you call me a “Hilbot,” let me assure you, my allegiance in this primary was with Martin O’Malley. When he lost, I didn’t attack either of the other Democrats and call them names. I recognized that everyone on the Democratic side was much better than anything the Republicans were offering. And frankly, I have seen the same thing from some Hillary people towards Bernie, although I have to admit, I see it less often.
This binary, everything’s-either-black-or-white type of thinking has progressives doing many stupid things. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are on the same side. If you choose a plumber to fix your toilet, is it necessary to trash every other plumber in your community? What would be the point to that? Why is politics different? We’re hiring people to run the country, that’s all. Supporting one passionately does not require that you trash the other one; that’s just childish. It is possible to like Hillary without trashing Bernie and it’s possible to like Bernie without trashing Hillary. I know, because I liked Martin O’Malley and have never trashed either Hillary or Bernie. Neither one of them is all good or all bad. No, Hillary is nothing like any Republican that’s existed in the last 20 years and, no, Bernie is not anti-Democratic Party. Both of them would make a far better president than anything on the Republican side, by far and that’s all that should matter in the end.
Like all other people, no politician can be all good or all bad. It’s telling that many of the same people who labeled President Obama a “disappointment” for many years are now taking to task anyone who doesn’t praise everything he does. As this blog points out, Obama has done a lot, but he’s not perfect. Only a child demands perfection in anything. And let’s be clear’ Hillary is nothing like any Republican that’s existed in the last 20 years and, no, Bernie is not anti-Democratic Party. Though he’s never registered as a Democrat before, we welcome everyone. Also, nearly half the states don’t register voters by party, anyway. And either Hillary or Bernie would make a far better president than anything on the Republican side, by far, and that’s all that should matter in the end.
The same is true when it comes to what you have decided are “issues.” The wholesale trashing of “corporations,” “big business” and “Wall Street,” as if every one of them is the same and all of them are “evil,” gets really old and it just makes us look stupid. There are bad companies out there, but there are also good, responsible ones, too. I have worked for companies that were enormously generous and who treated everyone like they mattered, and I have also worked for a couple who treated their employees like shit and took as much as they could from the communities in which they operate.
There are a lot of “issues” like that. Take the rhetoric about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The opposition to it is warranted in many cases, but many treat it as if engaging in it will blow up the planet. The problem is, there is a difference between fracking in the middle of Siberia, where there are no people, and doing so in upstate New York, where there is a pretty significant population. And while drilling for oil is seen as bad, we’re only at the beginning of a transition away from oil that will take 30-40 years, at least.
Speaking of which, there’s the “evil” Keystone XL. it’s kind of funny, really. I remember advocating against the pipeline before it was built, back in 2004-2005, and I couldn’t get a single significant progressive to pay attention. Then, suddenly, in 2009, it blew up as a major issue, after more than three-quarters of the pipeline had been built. Yes, that’s right. by the time they started noticing that this pipeline was a bad idea, it was too late. Yet, it became a quest, and Keystone became “evil incarnate.” The problem was, most of the pipeline had been built out to Oklahoma, and they were already building out the final stretch of pipeline to Gulf refineries. In other words, the pipeline already existed; they were arguing over a buildout of a second one. Most of the people complaining didn’t even realize it.
Again, shades of grey. Keystone should never have been built. If the Canadians want to ship their oil, let them ship it themselves; they have coasts they can use to send ships full of oil and they can build refineries. However, once they built two lines through our plains to Oklahoma, it was too late to take the moral high ground on this “issue.” The final leg of the pipeline made more sense than the thousands of trucks and train cars filled with crude oil or gasoline that were traversing the same areas and risking the lives of people along their routes. Not that it mattered, because the “XL” portion was actually mostly repetitive.
No politician, no organization and no issue is either absolutely god-like or completely evil. Hell; even Dick Cheney produced one daughter who is very cool, and even George W. Bush did some great things when it came to AIDS relief in Africa. And while Goldman Sachs is often portrayed as the epitome of corporate “evil,” the fact of the matter is, even they have provided hundreds of millions funds to thousands of charitable organizations around the world. H
Seriously, progressives, this Eeyore shit has to stop. We are PROgressives, whereas the current GOP is REgressive. If you want to talk about “corporate greed,” then talk about specific corporate greed. Don’t just write off every corporation as “greedy” and don’t just assume that everything they do is evil. When a corporation does something wrong, talk about it, but also talk about what they do right. And for chrissakes, people, get a grip; we have an existential threat in our politics, in the form of the current Republican Party. Attacking Democrats because they’re not as perfect you does nothing more than feed your ego, making you more like a right winger than you should be comfortable with. Here’s an idea; when a large company does something right, how about giving them credit and encouraging them to keep doing things like that. Walmart doesn’t pay their people enough; no one would argue with that, but what’s wrong with sending them praise when they announced a plan to increase wages? When Exxon denies global warming, we should mention that, but we should also note when the ExxonMobil Foundation helps charities fight the spread of malaria around the world.
If you truly believe that calling out a company when they do something bad is a great way to get them to stop, which is a strategy I agree with, then you also have to believe that praising them when they do something right encourages more of the same. That’s a rational approach.
Nuance is our friend. The world is not made up of only dark black and bright white. Almost everything in life exists in shades of grey. Enjoy it.