Wednesday, October 23, 2019

On being friends with Democrats

Dear H,

I complain a lot about Seattle, but the truth is I've enjoyed my time here immensely, and now that it's time to go I'll confess I'm going to miss it.  Not all of it, but lots of it.  Some of even the worst parts of it.  It's a terrible place to raise kids, but if you've got the spark of life in you it's a great place to turn into a man.  I was an effeminate self-proclaimed socialist when I arrived here, and I'm a die-hard right-winger now that I'm leaving.

In all truth the place is a train wreck; and it was the policy towards bums that made me rethink the concept of empathy; the insanity about gays that made me fall in love with gender roles; the disrespect for whites that made me celebrate my whiteness; and the praise of outright defects which made me rethink the limits of kindness.  There were so many shitty ideas I was forced to rediscover great ideas; and maybe I could have learned these things in a red state, but I doubt I'd have learned to value them so dearly.  It was the sheer insanity of this place that made me wake up.


This being said, one thing I've learned here is that people who agree with you about politics aren't necessarily the people you want to spend time with.  They can be your people at the ballot box but not your people in the living room; and the truth is that the majority of Democrats, even in this sanitarium, are kind and reasonable people.  The average Democrat agrees with Republicans on all kinds of issues, and generally just wants a clean environment, a reassessment of our scandalous medical pricing, for lunatics to not get good weaponry, for good minorities to not be treated like garbage, and for our corporate executives to not trample us like carpets.  I might not agree with their methods, but I agree about the gist of it; and while fighting over particulars is important, we agree about too many things beyond this to really consider them enemies.  Most Democrats, I've found, hate political correctness, and consider the term social justice warrior an insult.  They believe their party is being hijacked by the looney bin, and it is.  I believe many of them, in the coming years, will become Republicans.

But this leads us to a serious question.  How is it that so many kind, mostly reasonable, well-adjusted people end up fighting one another when it comes to politics?  Simply put, the ethics we practice in daily, face-to-face business life, are almost the complete opposite of the ethics we need to survive on a political scale.  Business life, for one, is mostly grovelling; and I think we can find the most perfect representation of Christian values not at church, but at the store.   Here you'll find mostly carpet-mat self-esteem: a willingness to go the extra mile for strangers, an extraordinary cheerfulness in the face of back-handed insults, and an inability, in general, for an employee to assert his self-worth, or to correct an erring idiot, or even to state his true values*.  For the amount of time a man deals with a customer he's usually in denial of himself, and he does it so he can be himself at home**.  I thus nominate all good cashiers for sainthood, supposing God actually appreciates this sort of debasement.  If they're looking for a miracle to confirm this election, I propose it's that they haven't punched any women in the face.

The at-home version of you isn't quite so godly.  It's generally less put-together, sentences half-garbled and on-the-fly, a tendency to snap at old people and children, an honesty unbefitting a man of business, a sense of humor which pokes fun at the high and low alike -- a king in his castle, doing largely what he wants, barking orders instead of taking commands, cursing both appropriately and inappropriately, showing open offense at insults and people who lack gratitude, and making passes at the chef.  All wonderful things, but largely unChristian.  Fathers are much "better people" on the clock.  Still, whether at business or home the ground-rules apply.  Be honest.  Be grateful.  Be kind.  Don't hit.  Keep your word.  Respect the property of others.  Don't be nosy, or too gossipy.  No murdering, etc.

Political man is an about-face to many aspects of this.  First off, political man thinks of himself, largely at least, not as a single man dealing with individuals, but as part of a vast and ultimately unseeable organism.  This means, since the organism he picks exists for his own good, that he's forced to think of other groups not as they are, but as largely negative abstractionsHe's not with them because he doesn't think they're with him.  Thus he knows them more for differences than similarities; and since the citizen's personal safety and property, alongside the safety of his friends and family, is wound up in the well-being of the state, any disagreeable suggestions about it fire his emotions and get his blood boiling.  This being said, we come to icing on the cake.  In addition to dehumanizing other groups and the the fact that these dehumanized groups are personal threats, the survival of the state requires doing things that in private life or business are considered downright immoral.

For one there's taking money from people, forcefully, to fund things they outright oppose.  Second there's the willingness, on some level, to kill people who may or may not want to fight you -- simply because they're from another country.  Tossing aside the age-old maxim, sons shall not be punished for the sins of their fathers, it involves pronouncing people guilty for the actions of their groups -- without which no political thought would be possible.  It means giving some people more rights than others, effectively, not because they're good or bad people, but simply because they belong to your country.  If you end up in a war, or a political scuffle, deception of the enemy becomes a point of paramount importance.  Spying, the breaking and entering into places and things others don't want you to see, becomes necessary to your survival.  Propaganda, the spreading of one-sided information to manipulate your country's idiots -- who are not and never will be capable of serious thought -- becomes necessary to the function of a democratic government.  You put these things together and you've flipped morality on its head.  You stand against these things and you've put your family into foreign subjection, or a state of dog-eat-dog anarchy (The idealist who's against all political "immorality" is rare and generally loathed, by both sides, as a traitor -- as he should be).

What this adds up to is that the people you share your day with are very likely, on a political level, to be your enemies.  It isn't that one of you supports these evils and the other one doesn't.  It's that each of you wants to employ these evils to oftentimes completely different ends, or degrees.  Most people agree that a lesser evil for the sake of a greater good is a good trade.  But a disagreement in politics means someone wants to use the lesser evil for the sake of a greater evil -- something which in many cases is intolerable.  (Almost all of us want to tax people forcefully. But the Dems think we stole it to kill Middle Easterners for oil, and we think they stole it to kill babies for convenience. Herein lies good matter for a fist-fight.)

Yet we still love many who disagree with us politically, oftentimes because we have to***.  The chance you'll agree with anyone on everything is zero.  These aren't just the people we vote next to, but smiles and little acts of kindness, friends in the eternal fight to feed our families; joke-tellers, high-fivers, and back-slappers; neighbors who watch our places while we're away; people who tell you there's spinach in your teeth; the ones who comfort you when somebody dies; the ones who defend you when your reputation's in question -- partners in life, allies in fun, the people we many times spend more time with than our families.  Many times they are our families.  We play too many roles to let one of them ruin all the others.  We have too much gusto to spend our lives in an echo chamber.  So I have loved many Democrats and fought many Democrats.  But Seattle has shown me that I loved more than I fought, and for that I am grateful to Seattle.     

Your father,
-J

*What Americans in the 21st century forget is that our forefathers were mostly business-owners and small farmers.  They equated the difficulty of self-ownership with liberty itself; and when capitalism went full-swing and businesses got large and factories opened up and crushed out the mom-and-pop store, the pay-check was a sign, to many of our ancestors, of slavery.  "Wage slaves" is what they actually called us.  They believed we were unambitious, easily trodden, and subject to the opinions of our bosses -- and they were right.  The modern worker, like the average corporate leader, is a skeleton of a man; trained, by nature, to dodge controversy, to not speak of serious things other than money, and to abandon his free citizenry for the sake of a new yacht, or the next meal.  I am speaking of myself here.  I have kept my pearls from swine.  Out of the fear of swine I've also kept them from saints.  Our laws put the fear of thought into the average businessman, and when he makes it big he puts it into us.

**One sad thing about people is that you rarely know how much they love you until you're leaving, or dying, or in trouble.  When I was a young and isolated homeschooler, I always dreamed of how nice it would be to leave a hole in someone's heart.  These are the things you think about when you're not sure if anyone beyond your family loves you.  But now that I've gotten here I've found that when you leave a hole in someone's heart it's because they'll miss the love you'd given them.  And it turns out that being missed, in large part, isn't usually a one-way deal.  I have spent years here, growing, feeling, fighting, learning, working, cheering, and crying alongside too many good people to just pack up and move on happily; and this motley crew of old flames and almost-lovers, of friends gone stale and enemies who became friends; of people who stood me up and people who refused to leave; of people who got better and others who self-destructed -- this band of unexpected heroes; the disappointing show-offs; the people who weren't my children who called me Daddy; the Ethiopians who called me brother and the white men who called me a Nazi; the Mormons who did more for me than Evangelicals; the innumerable faces I thought about at night and smiled just for knowing -- this band of saints and weirdos and champions and failures is more than just my life here.  They are a part of me, highs and lows, left behind, which I can never get back, and which I'll carry with me until I die.  I have never felt so loved in my life -- and that is why it hurts so much to leave.

***The term for someone who doesn't tolerate any different opinions is bigot.  A bigot isn't someone who doesn't like your race, or the fact that you're a man and you say you're a woman, or who doesn't like abortion, or tells Somalians to go back to Somalia.  The person most likely to use the term today is one.  A bigot pays for his sensitivity with a stunted mind and a lack of true friends.  He overlooks no differences of opinion -- and spends the rest of his life being overlooked.

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