As I was watching the Republican debate this week, I learned a few things. Or rather I should say I was reminded of a few things. They are things that I already know but often forget in the heat of the moment when my blood is boiling because some “Conservative” said something that pissed me off.
First let me start by telling you that I am not now and never have been well-versed in politics. I believe what I believe, I know what I think is right and that’s that. In spite of the atmosphere I was raised in, I’ve always been very liberal. And although I am not a Democrat—in fact my political and world views align much more closely with Libertarianism or Anarchism, even though I realize that neither would work in our present-day society without first having to nearly obliterate the human race from the planet and start over—but I digress; that’s another story for another day. Even though I’m not a Democrat, I have always voted for Democrats. It just always seemed to make far more sense to me than the alternative. I also don’t think I’ve ever watched a Republican debate before, but with the world in such a volatile state nowadays, I figured that it’s probably in my best interest to at least be somewhat aware of what’s going on and who might be our next “leader.”
Now, like I said, I am mostly ignorant when it comes to politics. I had heard of most of the Republican candidates before, but to be honest, most of what I thought I knew came from angry Facebook posts. I knew who Jeb Bush and Chris Christie were and Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul are all names I’ve heard before and I’ve heard some of what they have to say and know what they generally believe, but I honestly couldn’t tell you a lot about them.
While I was watching the debate (and actually for the past several months), I had a bit of a different view than I’ve had in the past. Well, maybe not totally different, but definitely more open-minded. Whenever I would see Conservatives speak in the past (usually catching a glimpse unintentionally while my husband was watching the news; I never watch it), I was mad before they even opened their mouths. I just knew that they were going to spew some ridiculous rhetoric that I didn’t agree with and I would want to throw something at my TV.
Last month, I finished a run of Bare Naked Angels. For those of you not familiar with BNA, it is a class that I teach where I take actors through a four-month process and guide them in writing their own autobiographical one-person show. I then break the pieces apart and glue them back together, creating an ensemble piece. One of my actors, a very bright and politically savvy guy started writing about politics. But not really in a way that I’ve ever heard before. Maybe it was because I was never listening, but who knows? Joe talked a lot about the horrible things going on in the world and urged his audiences to think about why things are the way they are. He was not shy about displaying his disgust with many of our current systems. But what he did for me was to make me really take a hard look at why I feel the way I do about certain things. I realized that I didn’t even really need to know somebody to dislike them. All I needed to know was what my liberal friends thought. Because hey, we’re all liberals right? So we must all think the same and support the same things and hate the same people, right? Of course to an extent, that is true. But it should not be absolute.
I know most of my liberal friends will probably cringe reading this, but at the beginning of the debate—much to my dismay, by the way—I actually liked and agreed with quite a few of the things that these Republicans had to say. And dare I say it—even Donald Trump. I know, I know. Absurd, right? Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying I would ever trust—or god forbid, vote for—Donald Trump, because I think the vast majority of things I have heard come out of his mouth are idiotic, but I think there’s something to be said for having an open mind when people speak. Even if they are your sworn enemy. I’m just saying that it would behoove us to at least listen to what the other guy has to say before automatically disregarding him because he belongs to a different party.
One of the other things that Joe talked about in his BNA piece was the influence that comes from the media, politicians, our family and friends and what an impact that has on our decisions. To quote a line from his script, “When did we start making decisions based on what side someone is on instead of how we interact as individuals?” Good question. He goes on to say “It wasn’t always like this. It doesn’t HAVE to be like this.” He’s right. Granted, group mentality is a hard thing to break away from, especially when you’re so immersed in it that you don’t even realize the effect it’s having on you. It’s funny, but a lot of the people that are in favor of teaching our kids to be “independent thinkers” are the same people who are the first to dismiss someone because they don’t belong to the “right” group. We need to stop being sheep. We need to learn to think and make decisions based on our own research and beliefs rather than just follow the herd.
And social media has made everything so much worse. People see things posted on Facebook and take them for truth. One good example of this is when Jeb Bush said he’d put Margaret Thatcher on the ten-dollar bill. This has spiraled so far out of control, it makes my head spin. All you need to do is go on Facebook or Google it and you’ll see all kinds of headlines telling you who’s pissed off at Jeb Bush and who’s insulted by Jeb Bush and blah, blah, blah because he “wants to put Margaret Thatcher on the $10 note.” No. No, no, NO! That’s NOT what he said and that’s not AT ALL what the context of the situation was. Now, far be it for me to defend anyone in the Bush clan (yeah, NOT a fan,) but for anyone who watched the debate, you know that is not what happened. When Jake Tapper posed the question, he prefaced it by saying that it was a “lighthearted” one. It was meant to bring the room up a little; to break up what had been nearly 3 hours of heated debates. I thought it was brilliant to end on a note like that. It’s a good way to remind us all of our humanity. So first of all, it wasn’t a serious question. And Mr. Bush treated it as such. In his answer, which he delivered in a “lighthearted” way, he said “probably illegal, but what the heck, it’s not gonna happen.” And the damn media took it and ran with it. Not outright lying, but skewing the facts to put a spin on it that was never meant to be there. And that’s the kind of social climate we live in. Sorry, but that’s fucked up. So my point here is this: even though I may not like Jeb Bush, if I take what I see in the media as truth, nothing changes. But if I know the actual truth, maybe I realize that good ol’ Jeb isn’t as evil as I might have once thought he was. Evil nonetheless, but not AS evil. Does that make a difference? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Now again, that doesn’t mean I would ever vote for him, but it gives me a little more clarity and understanding and brings what might be two adversaries just an inch closer, and that’s progress.
One of the sweetest, most loving people I have ever known in my life is a Republican. My Uncle Bruce. We’re not related by blood, but he’s been my Dad’s best friend since before I was born and I grew up calling him Uncle. He is one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. And he always made me feel protected. When I was with him and my Dad, I was invincible! I remember one time when I was a kid, long before I knew the words Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal…we were up at his house in the sticks of New Hampshire and some kids from down the street were yelling at my brother, my cousins and I. One of them threw a bottle and it hit me in the head. That was the only time I’d ever seen my Uncle Bruce mad. I thought he was gonna rip that kid’s head off. He was clearly concerned for my well-being and would have done anything to protect me. He was someone I grew up looking up to, respecting, loving. Today, I see things that he posts on Facebook that I absolutely, 100% disagree with. How do I reconcile the fact that he’s “one of the bad guys?” I can’t, because he’s not. Why is he different from any other? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but it’s definitely something to ponder.
I remember when I was younger and I would debate with my Dad over liberal vs. conservative (he is a steadfast Republican.) He would always tell me “you vote for the man, not for the party.” Let’s ignore the fact that women are left out of this equation all together (again, another story for another time) and really think about that. At the time, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me because if he was a Republican, then obviously his views were going to align more closely with a Republican candidate than a Democratic one. But it kinda makes sense. It’s kinda the same thing Joe was saying in his piece. You listen to all the candidates and you make a decision based on what you believe is right, based on whose ideas most closely match your own. Makes sense, right?
Now, please don’t misunderstand; I am not at all saying that you should stifle or censor yourself in any way or stop fighting for what you believe in. I still think Mike Huckabee is a douche. “[If I were president] Abortion would be no more; it would be as much a scourge in our past as slavery is.” Whatever dude, bite me. I can’t even have this abortion debate anymore, it’s just so ridiculous. And Carly Fiorina. Really? She actually had the cojones to talk about Planned Parenthood like they are some sort of baby-organ harvesting factory, when in fact the video she was referring to is clearly nothing but propaganda. Yeah, I watched it. I had to see what all the hoopla was about. Granted, it’s not for the faint of heart and you should definitely not watch it if you’re sensitive to things like that, but to be completely honest, I was a thousand times more disgusted at the fact that this crazy bitch is using footage like this to skew the facts in favor of her agenda than I was at the actual footage in the video. What. A. Crackpot. That lady’s got some screws loose. I for one am thankful for Planned Parenthood. When I didn’t have health insurance, PP is where I went for my checkups. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had access to any kind of health care. It sickens me that a woman doesn’t get that.
So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s still okay to be passionate about the things you believe in. It’s more than okay. It’s your right and your duty as an American. And it’s okay to vehemently disagree with someone who doesn’t see things your way. It’s not okay, however to name-call and belittle. It does not solve anything. Even if it does make the Bloodthirsty part of me feel better.