Yes, it's Partyism--the bias against those of differing political leanings than you. Blog, I'm sure our U.S readers agree that the liberal vs. conservative, Republican vs Democrat battle been ugly for a long time now. Few of us enjoy it. But how many of us recognize this conflict has actually resulted in bigotry? How many of us won't tolerate bias based on gender, religion, or sexual orientation, but have no trouble indulging in bad behavior if the issue is party affiliation or ideology?
Before we go any further, Blog, I want to clear up two things:
Thing 1--Of course it's okay to disagree, aka believe you're correct and the other side is incorrect. That's what it means to have a different opinion, and there's no law or moral code against that. In fact, each of us ought to have convictions and be willing to express them and act upon them.
Thing 2--You run into trouble, however, if you go too far using those opinions as a measure of judgment. In other words, if you are too quick to decide someone else is "evil," or "morally abhorrent," or "opposing God's will," or "as bad as Hitler," you are venturing onto a slippery slope. I'm not being a moral relativist here, Blog--I believe there is objective right and wrong. However, as mere humans, we do better to look at the world in shades of gray, and oppose wrong ideas and behavior rather than condemning "wrong people," except in the most extreme, truly criminal cases.
Now, if you're unwilling to look at political opinions as beliefs people hold in good conscience, arrived at by their own particular lights, then read no further. This post won't be of use to you, so carry on. The rest of you, thanks for sticking around.
Now let's begin and make our case of how bad Partyism can be. We'll achieve this by looking at nine elements of bigotry, comparing classic examples of racism, sexism, etc. with similar behaviors of Partyism.
Racism: "Blacks are lazy." I remember this from my childhood. Who can get away with such a statement now? And we shouldn't be able to! We should bridle at portrayals in old movies of African-Americans as slow and shiftless--we should feel shame at such hurtful stereotypes.
Partyism: "Republicans want to take away women's rights." "Democrats don't love America." Have you ever had someone from across the aisle assume something about you based on how you vote? Maybe they say because you're Republican you don't care about the poor (even though you give more to charity than that person does)? Or maybe, because you're a Democrat they think you want to kill babies (even though you think of abortion as a last resort and only want to protect mothers)?
We have to stop creating caricatures of the folks on the other side, straw men and women that embody everything we hate, and projecting those images on our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Even when there's a reason for a stereotype, and it truly is something of a norm, nothing is universal. Before you assume you know how the other person thinks and feels, how about asking him or her? People are not political cartoons, they're people.
Sexual orientation bias: "All gay men just want to sleep around--why should they care about getting married?" Alarm bells go off when we hear "all" or "every single" or "always." Haven't we learned you shouldn't generalize about any particular group? People who share the same religion, ethnic heritage, gender, etc. are all individuals. No duh, hey Blog?
Partyism: "All Republicans are heartless and greedy." "All Democrats are bleeding hearts who never use their heads." These are the sorts of statements and implications you read every day in comments, on blogs, on Facebook. If you're talking about political persuasion, apparently it's okay to make sweeping generalizations and ignore all the complexities and subtleties that make up political opinions.
Just like each gay person is a unique individual, so is each liberal, each conservative, each independent. The labels can be useful, but as often as not they will give you the a wrong or incomplete impression. Best to keep that in mind before you really misjudge or insult a friend.
3. GUILT BY ASSOCIATION
Racism: "I don't trust black people. They're criminals." One of my former in-laws would simply not let go of her bias against African-Americans because a neighbor was once robbed by a black person. Well, obviously that didn't say anything about the entire race, but it was reason enough to her to make the dislike universal. She ignored the Jackson Brothers' great lyric, "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl."
Partyism: "Conservatives think rape is okay." "Liberals don't care if their protests destroy private property." Blog, one thing that really frosts my cookies is when someone takes an example of really bad behavior by a member of a group and then throws it in the faces of the entire group. Did Senator So-and-So just say something ridiculous / do something horrible? Well, maybe he's in my party but guess what, I'm not so stupid to think he's right. You'd never yell "Shame on you!" at all gays because one football coach abused a bunch of young males, would you? Yet it's okay for you to lay a guilt trip on me because of one kook--and feel self-righteously smug about it? Seriously, Blog! It's ridiculous!
4. ASSUMING INFERIORITY
Racism: "Whites are more intelligent than blacks." As hard as it may be to believe, when I was a kid this was a commonly held opinion in my community. It's appalling--as such attitudes should be.
Partyism: "Liberals are crazy." "Conservatives have no souls." Seriously, Blog...how much of an effort does each of us make to keep in mind "All men were created equal." It's perfectly possible for a person to have liberal sensibilities and be utterly sane, now isn't it? And it's perfectly possible a conservative thinker might not be morally bankrupt, isn't it? Just because a person disagrees with you doesn't mean they are less smart, thoughtful, well-informed, sane, etc. They simply have arrived at different conclusions than you. Feel free to think them mistaken, but leave your arrogant sense of superiority behind, if you please.
Sexism: "Well, of course she shouldn't head the company, she's a woman and the job needs someone strong and steady." We can laugh at this attitude while watching "Mad Men," but it's just not cool in real life.
Partyism: "He actually believes in creationism--don't bother to talk to such an idiot." "My wife's a liberal--you know how emotional they are." Paternalism is treating the person like a child--it's treating a group like children who can't be reasoned with and must be coddled, manipulated, or ignored. Blog and I hate to break it to you, but intelligent adults can have an infinite number of different political opinions. Just because they don't think exactly as you do doesn't mean they're immature, silly, and hopeless. Until you can treat the other side like adults, you won't get anywhere.
6. IRRATIONAL FEAR
Religious/cutural bias: "The Jews are out to get us, so we have to get them first." Yup, this kind of thinking was one of the forces that fueled Nazi Germany. Repulsive, isn't it? In every way.
Partyism: "The liberals are going to destroy every last one of our traditional values." "The conservatives are going to set back women's rights 50 years." All right, everyone just step back from the panic button. While it's fine to be vigilant and discourage political trends you see as harmful--in fact, that's the job of all citizens--don't let it turn to panic and unreasonable fear. Ease up on the hyperbole. Take a calm look. Ponder rationally for a moment. Do you really think every single liberal in America wants to overturn every moral principle you were taught as a kid? Do you really think every single conservative disrespects women's rights (including the females)? And do you really think you can get anywhere by assuming the very worst possible motives for those with whom you disagree?
Racism: "Hey, n***er, this drinking fountain is not for your kind." Wow. It's unbelievable the cruelties people have inflicted on others without compunction, just because their race or religion or ethnicity or orientation is different.
Partyism: "You voted for So-and-so? Well, you're a Nazi." Blog, we manage to eradicate the old N-word from our national vocabulary, but now we have a new N-word. Do I seem like a Nazi to you? Well, I've been called one. I've been called plenty of other things too, not necessary directly every time, but by association. The same people who claim to detest bigotry employ its cruelties all the time without batting an eye, because the difference is political. Blog and I say--it's just as bad! We're sick of the name calling and disrespect already!
Religious bias: "I can't believe my daughter wants to marry a Catholic--I'll disown her." It used to be commonly acceptable to have an attitude like this. Different kinds were expected to segregate themselves. Intermarriage was taboo, people didn't want to adopt children of other races, communities shut each other out. Nowadays the vast majority of Americans recognize this as wrong thinking.
Partyism: "I'm unfriending all my [Republican/Democrat] friends." Because heaven forfend you should tolerate those evil people in your circle! Of course it's better if you don't have to deal with the fact that people you like think differently than you! Of course you don't want to have to consider that there are people on the other side that you share things with, enjoy the company of, and actually like! Yes, Blog, sarcasm. Instead, how about we ponder the fascinating fact that people we like and respect have arrived at different opinions than we have. How about we face the awful truth that both sides have a point, both have something to contribute, both can benefit from hearing out the other? At the end of the day, maybe no one budges an inch, but we can still care for each other.
9. MORAL JUDGMENT
Sexual orientation bias: "Those faggots are going to hell." Yikes, Blog. There's nothing like the pronouncement that because people are different than you, they are evil. That's the ultimate in bigotry, isn't it?
Partyism: "How can you be a [Republican/Democrat]? You might as well be [Stalin/Hitler]!" Blog, have you ever had someone say to you something like "I can't believe I married a [this]?" "I can't believe I raised a [that]?" "You people are so [destructive/hideous/evil]?" Well, seeing as you, Blog, are an anthropomorphized non-corporeal being, I suppose not. Well, it hurts.
So here's a news flash, all: None of us is in a position to declare others to be "evil." That politician you so loathe isn't evil, s/he just disagrees with you. Voting for him/her is not a sinful act, it's exercising a right that belongs to each of us, an exercise based upon opinion to which we are entitled without being judged.
No one should have the right to ridicule or insult you or abuse you for your political opinion, no more than for your race, religion or ethnicity. They have the right to question you respectfully, disagree with you, ask you politely to change the subject. They even have the right to tease you or poke fun at your opinion, if it's done respectfully and with good humor. But the name-calling, the guilt by association, the bigoted assumptions, the personal judgments need to be recognized for what they are: something just as bad as racism: Partyism.
Blog and I are here today to cast our votes against Partyism, and for mutual respect and understanding. Who's with us?
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