August 10, 2010

Our divided country

I recently had a very painful exchange with a distant relative. Actually not a blood relative of mine, but family. Or so I thought. I had a lot of respect for him--even as I disagreed on many, many, many issues. He served in the military and with distinction, and that always earned him some respect on my part. Hell, I thought I treated him with respect the entire time. Even when he espoused ideas I found problematic.

During the Bush years, we were able to talk. He grudgingly acknowledged some issues with Bush, and graciously acknowledged that I had been closer to the truth on Colin Powell's fractured relationship with the Bush/Cheney people.

But then the 2008 election and President Obama, and the relationship dried up. At first, I just thought it was a job and location change for him. But after some prodding, he emailed me the other day to tell me that he hadn't maintained the email discussions because, well, read it:
have not continued our dialog because I know I would feel discouraged if, after what has been happening to our country for the past year+, you are still endorsing Obama's policies and our steady march toward socialism, corruption and the rending of our Constitution. If I am wrong about that, please let me know.

I loved the baited and leading questions, and the way that he took cheap shots at anyone who supported Obama.

(Side note, can anyone explain where the "corruption" meme comes from? I understand the charge of socialism, even though I think it is completely wrong. But where do they get the idea that Obama is corrupt? Or that he is "rending the Constitution?" I guess that last part may come from the Republican suggestion to have an insurance mandate, but where is the corruption? Not saying that there isn't some in the administration. Every administration has some bad apples, and that will come out. But this guy was a big Bush supporter and you would have to agree that there was a tremendous amount of corruption in that admin, most notably in the regulatory agency overseeing mines and drilling.)

Anyway, his response was obviously disheartening. I had tried to maintain a civil discourse only to be told that if I supported Obama I was against the constitution. Someone else in his family had said that of course the President deserved respect, but not Socialists, so Obama was beneath respect. And the upshot was that a relationship that I thought had some measure of mutual respect was only a one-way street. I wasn't family (distant or not), but merely a liberal--and now that Obama was president, I deserved the same response: derision and disrespect.

I disliked former President Bush as much as anyone around me. I thought (and think) that he was in over his head and hopelessly incompetent for this high of a job. I think he allowed truly sociopathic people to get us into two wars and to undermine much of our social safety net and regulatory system. But I tried, really, really hard, to engage with Bush supporters in person and through email with a modicum of respect. I will concede that I sometimes lost my temper, and often used my blog to vent, but I tried. I don't even see those on the far right as trying. And that makes me sad.

7 comments:

steves said...

I don't know where the corruption thing is coming from. I think there is plenty of legitimate complaints against Obama, but I wouldn't include corruption at this point. Maybe there is something going on that I don't know about.

As for the Constitution, I am probably going to come off as some kind of snob, but I think that 90% of the people that say stuff is unconstitutional or complain about judicial activism have never even read the entire Constitution or any of the important historical cases. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of room for intelligent debate as to what the Constitution means, but anyone that believes the mandate is clearly unconstitutional needs to read up on their caselaw.

leighton said...

If it makes you feel any better, I found out today that some of my family members are getting crap from other family members for not voting for Prop 8, despite the fact that the non-voters are not California residents.

Monk-in-Training said...

Sadly, what goes for modern conservatism knows no family, no love, and brooks no questioning.

I am sorry, Streak.

Streak said...

Steve, I think you are correct about the constitutional issue. It is like the charge of socialism, actually, in that it doesn't really mean that the person is an advocate for socialism, but that one is trying to call them a dirty name. Unfortunately, as we saw under Bush, there are genuine attempts to subvert the constitution.

leighton, that does make me feel better. Kind of. In a a sad way. I know you feel my pain. :)

Sadly, what goes for modern conservatism knows no family, no love, and brooks no questioning.

Monk, unfortunately, I think you are right on.

Smitty said...

Sorry Streak.

Steve: You hit on the head what bothers me a ton about this tea party "movement". Every single one of them sees themselves as a constitutional scholar, having read it once.

It's the confluence we discussed on this blog several posts ago of fundamental religion and the law. A fundy reads the bible literally, and then reads the constitution and BOR with equal literalism. What it says is what it says, regardless of 250 years of court interpretations defining each and every word of that document. Makes me nuts.

Bob said...

"As for the Constitution, I am probably going to come off as some kind of snob, but I think that 90% of the people that say stuff is unconstitutional or complain about judicial activism have never even read the entire Constitution or any of the important historical cases."

You can't really come off as a snob when you state the truth. I don't know if I would disagree with your reading of the constitution or not. I just know not to fuck with you in those debates.

steves said...

While I agree that there has to be some malleability to the Constitution, there is a such a thing as going too far. I remember reading opinions written by Thurgood Marshall and having a hard time appreciating his logic. It was almost as if he decided on the conclusion he wanted and crafted his opinion in any way he needed to get there. I think there are times where it is beneficial that the Court do this, but it should be rare and they should be restrained, as they have a great deal of power that is unchecked to some degree.

Ultimately, I think it is beneficial to have a balanced Court with some conservatives and some liberals. I would honestly prefer a group of smart, intellectually honest lefties and righties, as opposed to mostly centrists who are all over the place.