One of the most irritating things about blogging, news, and internet is the sneering, near slanderous trashing of political figures, particularly conservative ones. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had a beef with George Bush and I kind of admire Sarah Palin. Those words I just uttered will surely bring my credibility down in some circles. But my reasons are simple; I do not believe everything written about them because I know all news is slanted to further a particular agenda. I admire those in the public spotlight who, while being verbally attacked again and again, keep their cool and are confident in themselves. I believe Bush and Palin have done both quite admirably. I believe the rhetoric of hate directed at them has only been rivaled by the hate Bill Clinton inspired among conservatives. I didn’t dislike him either. Again, I refused to listen to the slander.
But I digress. Back to what I find most annoying. What’s most annoying is this idea that conservatives are somehow less intelligent than liberals; that conservative knuckles barely get off the ground when walking and that their ideas should automatically be dismissed. Having been a conservative (which does not imply that I am now a liberal) I know what I’m talking about. Perhaps the reason most liberals and conservatives hate each other is because each side knows so very little about the other and each side refuses to find out. They take news and sound bytes at face value when 85% are probably taken out of context in order to make news and to make people angry.
Today I came across this article. Jason Richwine takes on the notion that so many seem to believe: that liberals are indeed smarter than conservatives. But he also tempers it with reality. This bit in particular encapsulates why I think neither side will listen to the other:
To reiterate, people who subscribe to non-traditional ideas probably have above-average intellects, but that does not mean other smart people will like those ideas. This is a point often lost on liberals who work in universities or in the news media. They observe, usually correctly, that friends and acquaintances in their social circle are smarter than the average (and likely more conservative) people they encounter on the street. But too many elites see this correlation between smartness and liberalism as somehow a validation of their political views. They seem unaware that the wider world features plenty of intelligent people who are not professors or movie critics or government bureaucrats. Even among the nation’s smartest people, liberal elites could easily be in the minority politically, but different social circles keep them insulated from finding that out. The result is a convenient but damaging political meme that circulates among some people on the Left—the belief that their opponents simply can’t understand what makes for good policy.
Both sides of the political debate surround themselves with “yes men” and rarely venture out of their comfort zones. Academic liberals especially do this (at least the ones I’ve seen at my university). When they want to do a story on conservatives in their “natural habitat” you’d think they were John Cameron Swayze checking his Timex in the wilds of Africa! Armed with their research, they gleefully run back to their liberal bastions and write about what they discovered and comfort themselves that they are not like those other people. They automatically equate Conservative with Republican without any discrimination. I know plenty of conservative Democrats who would take issue with this idea.
Conservatives also have this bunker mentality. Some of them, armed with frightening religious ideas, seem to get the most press precisely because they will stir up the most controversy and “scare” the public into voting for certain ideas. Both sides use the most egregious examples to fan the hate flames. Left and right wings aside, there are vast swaths of politically middle of the road folks — those derided by Rush Limbaugh as too timid to take a stand– who take issue with both sides of the fence. Choosing to stand aloof, however, these moderates can’t seem to enter the debate at all. We are accused of not being Patriotic enough on the right, and being too stupid to have an opinion on the left. What else to do but keep silent?
Personally I’m tired of both camps. The idea that one can’t be discerning enough to like parts of one philosophy and ideology and not like other parts is a harmful idea. Politicians have their creeds just like religions do. Ideologies do as well. Despite saying otherwise, ideologists hate to be disagreed with on one or two issues. Your loyalty is therefore questioned. Think of the myriads of assumptions out there: You can’t possibly be a liberal if you like George Bush or Sarah Palin. You can’t possibly be a conservative and wish countries would give up their xenophobic immigration laws. You can’t possibly be a feminist if you think kids are better cared for at home with two parents. You can’t possibly be an American and believe that Health Care Reform, like the Welfare system and Medicare, could be just what this country needs. You can’t possibly be a Christian and believe that gays should have the right to be married like other couples. You can’t possibly be a Socialist if you believe in corporate competition. You can’t possibly be a liberal if you believe in the use of military force in certain circumstances. You can’t possibly be a liberal and dislike Obama. What? Are you stupid?
I say you can’t possibly be pigeon-holed for your beliefs if you think for yourself rather than believe what everyone tells you. More education doesn’t equal a sound mind and ignorance of some things doesn’t equal misinformed opinions. I think we’d all do well to remember that.