If you were fortunate to have a good father you likely have warm memories of him at a young age (you being the young one, not him. That would be weird, right? Like somehow you broke the time continuum and met him while you were both five and…, well anyway). Like most people, I looked up to my Dad for just about anything he did, and I was ready to rally behind any cause he aligned himself with.
One of the fondest memories I have with him ended up being the origin of a deep seated love and hatred that eventually become engrained as part of my identity. I speak of course of a lifeblood of our civilization, a necessity as essential as food and water. I speak of football.
It was Thanksgiving; I was probably five or six years old. My Dad owned a small business and like many small business owners, he incurred the responsibility of working on less desirable days (aka holidays). He brought with him two items to the shop that day. Me and a 13 inch fuzzy TV. The University of Texas Longhorns, of which he was an alum, were playing the much hated Texas A&M Aggies, and he was going to damned if he missed that game, and even damndeder if I wasn’t going to apprentice under his mentoring tutelage.
From that day forward I swore my allegiance to UT and vowed to fight the war against its enemies (by way of cursing at them through the TV). Emotion flowed through me all those years that served as the conduit to this allegiance. I didn’t root for UT because they were nobler than other teams. I didn’t hate their rivals because they were less honorable. I rooted because of emotion and nothing more. As I grew up, attended a different college than my father (gasp), I started to distance myself from this blind loyalty and turned my emotions toward a similar ‘Us vs. Them’ sport.
With the election not far off, it’s impossible to plug in to the world, or at least, this country, and not be bombarded with the opinions, stories and facts about the politicians and their corresponding parties. From garbage man to CEO, everyone has an opinion on politics, and everyone seems to believe their opinion is the right one. If your view is different, well, then, you’re stupid.
Dissimilar to sports, politics are (in theory anyway) supposed to carry a higher meaning, as well they should. The underlying positions that the two major parties represent are at their core, the pillars of issues that each believes are paramount to the well-being and advancement of our society. Again, in theory, anyway. But just how objective and truly concerned with the fundamental principles behind the issues are we?
Chances are that you live somewhere. Crazy, I know. And chances are that wherever you live has a newspaper. There’s a good chance that newspaper has an online version of itself, and chances still that a comment section follows most of its articles. If you’ve ever read the comments made on a political article, you probably perused thoughtful, provocative discourse. Just kidding. You likely saw copious amounts of flame-throwing, name calling, and attack dog rhetoric. Do you think anyone has ever changed their mind because someone they don’t know makes a compelling argument by acting like a bully on a school playground? Didn’t think so.
Moving on up the ladder of political dialogue, it’s roughly more of the same. Smug writers at prestigious newspapers or magazines marginalizing a politician in an effort to dress them down in front of the masses. Rarely does it seem the actual issues are of any importance. In this increasing self-gratifying and short-term gain world of social media, we don’t seem to care much about the issues, but rather what superficial attributes our politicians have, and we often go by our ‘gut’ in choosing who we vote for. Someone sells a vague message of prosperity and we buy.
Even worse is swearing an allegiance to a party and not considering that just maybe you don’t have to pledge your fidelity to either side. We’ve been indoctrinated into this concept that it’s either one or the other. If you like Coke you’re not allowed to like Pepsi. If you like Apple computer you have to hate PCs. Pigeon holed to a political party is a fast track to closing yourself off from other possibilities, other ideas. The irony is for those of us who all too eagerly wear the label of a party, we are nothing of the sort- it is an illusion. We are teachers, business folk, lawyers, doctors, civil servants, parents, brothers, sisters, mothers, sons, daughters….you get the idea.
It should be noted that the negative aspects are abundant between both major parties. Our politicians are largely influenced, if not ruled by lobbyists. A lobbyist’s job, by definition, is to represent the special interest of the group that pays them, and in turn he or she exercises their influence by way of donations and or other curried favors to get a politician to do their bidding. This is a rampant occurrence in Washington but we’re too busy living our lives, trying to deal with the things that matter to us on a personal level that we decide it’s not important to ourselves to do anything about. We have mortgages to pay for, jobs to work and kids to raise. Until recently, Congressmen and woman could freely trade securities on clandestine information the public wasn’t privy to. The vast majority of people in Congress are multi-millionaires. Many of them did not enter Congress their freshmen year affluent, yet they somehow managed to acquire vast sums of wealth on civil, albeit generous, salaries. These are the people that are supposed to be looking after us?
But of course this is how our country is structured in terms of politics and politicians are all too happy in keeping with the ‘Us vs. Them’ theme. We are breeding a culture of hate that is puppeteered by those we elect to serve us. We act as if our party is our team, and dammit we’re going to root for that team no matter what. Inversely, we have to hate our team’s opponent and everyone who supports them. In sports, someone wins and someone loses. The gross misconception in politics is that the people win when their party’s representative wins an election, but the ‘vs.’ part of ‘Us vs. Them’ refers to the competition amongst the politicians. There are no winners in ‘Us vs. Them’ when it comes to the people.
The Super Bowl of politics is coming up. I don’t who’s going to win, but I know it won’t be ‘us’.