It's been almost a month since Biden was confirmed as the new President of the United States and even now it feels as though the roller coaster ride is still going. We should have seen this coming early on, when in yet another moment of jaw dropping insanity, Katy Perry wrote this tweet:
“The first thing I did when the presidency was called is text and call my family members who do not agree and tell them I love them and am here for them. #FamilyFirst. Call your family today. Happy Sunday.”
Living in a country like Australia, this is a completely sane and expected viewpoint. While there are always those on the fringes of both the left and the right that come across as rabid and single minded, the vast majority in the centre are sensible enough to not see each other as enemies, but people with different ideas on what makes an ideal society.
Whenever we have an election, regardless of who wins, we get back to work the next day and forget about it. That’s because most sensible people know that building a better life, whether you support blue or red, comes from what you do every day, not the person sitting in the big office.
That’s why the reactions to this tweet completely blew my mind. Not only were they vicious and uncharitable, in many cases they were utterly deranged. Take a look at this person below. They’re so angry at the world they are literally inventing their own version of reality. Thankfully every single response this person got pointed that fact out. This was just one in a slew of deranged responses calling Perry’s family white supremacists (not to mention transphobes and bigots), talking about her privilege and essentially telling her to shut the hell up.
To these people on the fringe, apparently a vote tells you literally everything you need to know about a person.
I’m going to go out on a huge limb here and say that Trump isn’t the biggest problem in the US right now. The problem are these people on the fringes of both the left and the right, polluting the water for everyone. Criticise Trump all you want, but close enough to half the country sees enough in there to vote for him. Only someone with a low IQ or completely wrapped up in their own ideology discounts every single person who votes for him as a racist, bigot, misogynist homophobe.
He increased his percentages with minorities this election. So what, they’re all racists too? According to all the nutjobs on Twitter, the answer is a yes. The amount of rants in my feed of people who are never talking to their families again after the election could really learn something from Perry, but they’re too busy assuming the worst of the people that love them.
Now, this wouldn’t be an issue if it was just people wailing into the wind, but the reaction to this tweet and several others shows that things have taken a more sinister turn.
Do you notice how violent and vicious the conversation has gotten from the fringes lately? It’s not enough to dislike the other side anymore, they are now mortal enemies given no quarter. Biden and Perry, you know, the people on the winning side, say “let’s come together” and the loudest voices reply with “screw you and your privilege.” We even have calls to make McCarthy and Salem Witch Trial type lists of anyone who has supported Trump for future blacklisting (or worse) — backed by no less than Congresswoman AOC.
That should terrify any normal, reasonable person.
This is the problem when you see politics in everything. If the other party is in office you see yourself as a victim — whether you are or not. Victims have oppressors, and oppressors deserve righteous vengeance. And there are real world consequences of people acting out their deranged fantasies of vengeance.
We need the left and the right
Something that many have forgotten, or are completely ignorant of, is that conservatives and progressives are both important forces that keep society stable. We aren’t enemies, and you can’t run a functional society without both of them. We need conservatives because they are wary of change and respect that the traditions of the past have brought us to where we are. We need progressives because without them, things become stagnant, injustices can reign and we don’t move forward as a society.
What can upset this balance are the fringes on either side. They are always the loudest voices in the room, and platforms like Twitter only amplify them.
Thanks to Nazi Germany, Western countries generally keep a very strong eye on those tendencies surfacing at the fringes of conservatism. We’re so overzealous about preventing a resurgence that putting up a few “it’s ok to be white” signs draws condemnation and investigations.
Unfortunately what we’re seeing even after an election win is a current trend of extremism on the progressive side. We’re talking incredibly absolutist stances such as blacklists, violence and defunding of police. For all the rhetoric of Trump being a fascist, this behaviour is reminiscent of how all the worst regimes of the 20th century began.
Here’s the thing: revolutions, no matter how angry you might be at the status quo and how much you think they might be justified, are really bad for society.
The Russians still haven’t really recovered from their revolution an entire century ago. I bet they would’ve happily kept the Romanovs if they knew how it all turned out.
The revolution in Cambodia killed a quarter of the population.
I could go on, but there isn’t a revolution in history that didn’t take decades to recover from and cost millions of lives.
We need the sensible people in the centre to take charge
Whether you sit on the left or right of politics, you have more in common with your counterparts close to the line on the other side than you do with those on the fringe of your side. The people that congregate in the centre can see that others want mostly the same things they do. They can see how they might come to their beliefs. They don’t just write them off because they’re on the other side of the imaginary line. It’s in that centre were we need to come together.
A conservative at the fringe wants abortion banned, whereas a conservative closer to the centre can see that while they don’t like abortion, banning it is a horrible idea for society at large. They can see that for the greater good it needs to be safe, legal and easy to access. A progressive at the fringe wants abortion available at any time, for any reason, funded by the state. A progressive closer to the centre can see that there needs to be a cut off point, because abortions of a fully formed child shouldn’t be happening unless there is a medical emergency of some kind.
Both of those in the centre can give some ground to find a reasonable solution.
You can see this played out across partisan issues such as immigration, healthcare, the environment, education and so on. It’s always in the sensible centre where a deal that is acceptable to the majority of people gets hammered out. Sure, not everyone is pleased all the time, but that’s life.
The fringes on either side are dangerous to everyone and should be universally disavowed. We can’t allow any country to be run by the extreme voices who are devoid of logic and act with a rabid fervour against anyone on the other side.
Bill Maher is the perfect example of what we need more of. Someone who is close enough to the centre that he can see the problem elements of his side, and realise that they aren’t good for anyone at all. Conservatives need to be calling out the bullshit from the extreme right, just as progressives need to be calling out the bullshit from the extreme left.
I don’t want the eternal conflict that the extremes bring, I want dialogue. I want people to tell me and show me why they disagree. I’d rather the crazy people who just want to yell at everyone and be angry get shut out of the room, because we’ve had enough examples in history of where it leads when the inmates take over the asylum.
Here’s another great recent clip from Bill Maher:
It rings true for me because my wife and I are probably on different sides of the political line, but close to the center. Rather than seeing each other as irredeemable, it’s clear to both of us that we agree on 80% of things, and the 20% that we don’t agree on we can at least move closer to a place of agreement. It’s called compromise.
The problem is, we’ve seen politics as this for too long:
Two opposing sides, where you support everyone on your side regardless of how good or ridiculous their views are. The reality is that if you sit down and compare notes, you’ll have far more in common with the person just over the line in the middle than with the person at the fringe of your side.
So let’s do that. Let’s start looking at everyone near the centre as having slightly different values than us, because that’s something we can all work with. Leave the labelling and othering for those on the fringes, who can hopefully be made irrelevant because the larger swath in the middle will see them for what they are: dangerous to a healthy society.