It is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
The North Carolina Republican Party headquarters in Orange County was firebombed Saturday night. There was a swastika painted nearby along with the words, “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.” No one was injured, for which I’m grateful. I have my doubts as to the belief that a Democrat did the bombing, but that’s not the point of this post.
Last night when it became known that this had happened, I saw Democrats saying they were going to donate to help rebuild the headquarters. I thought that was pretty cool and an example of taking the high road. I didn’t think much about it, but then I saw other Dems express their disbelief that any Dem would help the NC Republicans. NC Republicans are particularly heinous in their attempts to oppress minorities, trans folk, and anyone who isn’t them. They passed a terrible anti-trans bathroom law that has cost them dearly and has caused a public outcry. In short, they’re terrible, and I could understand why some Dems wouldn’t want to give them money. I know it sounds like I’m saying, “Both sides,” which in this case, I actually am. Some people want to give, others don’t. That seemed to be the end of that.
I started to see tweets from the anti-giving folks that went beyond just stating that they weren’t giving money. They were pissed at the people giving and were very rude about it. I saw one person say that he had nothing in common with someone who would donate to the NC GOP. Other people were saying shit like, “You give to the NC GOP, but did you give to _____?” With the blank being filled with Haiti, bombed abortion clinics, bombed black churches. I hate that line of thought in the best of times, which this isn’t. It’s not anyone else’s business to dictate to whom I or anyone else gives money, and it’s spurious reasoning, anyway. There’s always a more noble cause than the one you champion, or rather, there are several noble causes to which you can give your money. It’s not possible to give to them all, so what’s the sense in shaming someone for giving to any decent cause?
Yes, you can argue that this isn’t a decent cause, but why the vitriol? I know that the building is insured and that they won’t need money to rebuild. I know that Art Pope owns the NC GOP and can build them a new building if he wants to. I know $10,000 (the GoFundMe goal) is a pittance in the bigger picture (and, conversely, way too much for some people), but I also know that you can’t change someone’s mind by screaming at them. This has been one of my biggest gripes about social media in general. I’ve written about it before, but I’ll briefly summarize. Many of us who have been silenced because we’re not in the mainstream were exhilarated to find Twitter and Facebook because they are more egalitarian than the real world. A lot of minorities are early adapters of social media, and we have a tangible presence there, especially on liberal Twitters. The common reaction to being repressed is to express yourself all the time. An over-correction, if you will. I understand that because I’ve gone off on a rant or a thousand in my time, and it feels damn good. However, it’s limiting because after you vent, the problem isn’t better. Yes, you get the dopamine hit of people agreeing with you, and that’s a powerful drug. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t mean jack or shit if you’re actually trying to change people’s minds.
I saw people on the anti side calling people who donated stupid or aiding the opposition, likening it to giving money to Leatherface. I did see a few on the pro side asserting their moral superiority for being the bigger person, but by far, most of the meanness came from the anti side. This went on for hours, and it was still happening today when I checked my TL/Facebook feed. I tapped out after an hour last night, and I was hoping it was going to be done by today. Usually, the cycle of outrage lasts 24 hours, and we’re coming up on it as I’m typing this post. I’m hoping that the next time I peek my head in, the vitriol will have dissipated.
Back to noble causes. If you want to go down the road of, “If you give to this cause, you’re dissing this cause,” then you need to set down your iPhone and think hard about what you just said. That iPhone you love so much is made in a Chinese factory where people are literally killing themselves because the work conditions are so bad. One of Louis CK’s best bits is called, “Of course, but maybe”. In it, he talks about competing thoughts in his brains. One thought is a noble one, and it’s followed by a not-so-noble thought. The whole thing is a great riff on the conflicting ideas we all harbor, and it ends with Louis CK’s commentary on how we have to accept the darkness along with the light:
You really have a choice. You can have candles and horses and be a little kinder to each other or let someone suffer immeasurably, far away just so you can leave a mean comment on YouTube while you’re taking a a shit.
He’s referring to the same situation I mentioned (Chinese workers throwing themselves off roofs), and it’s a trenchant commentary on the dichotomy we as a first-world society have to hold in our brains. All the technology and things that make our lives easier are made possible by the brutal labor of people around the world. I’m not bringing this up to make people feel bad about their choices, but just to make the point that we all are benefit from the miseries of other people. In other words, when you start getting on your high horse about people donating money to the NC GOP, think about where your money is going as well.
It’s always easier to point fingers at other people. Look, I’m doing it myself right now.It’s harder to say, “What is my part in this? What can I do to change?” It’s also hard to take a step back and say, “Am I really right about this? Is there anything in what my opponent is saying that makes sense to me?” I feel as if we’ve lost the ability to find common ground in social media. It’s, “I’m right; you’re wrong, so shut the fuck up!” repeated ad nauseam. It’s disheartening to see liberals constantly trying to take each other down, even though I’m used to it by now. We are really good at infighting, which is something I’ve admired about the Republicans up until this election. Come hell or high water, they stuck together. They voted for their candidate, even if they didn’t agree with him 100%. That’s how they’re able to get shit done–by looking at the bigger picture. It’s different this year, but given that their candidate is Donald Trump, I can’t blame them.
Side note to Republicans: If you don’t want to vote for Trump but can’t imagine voting for Clinton, go ahead and sit out or vote for Gary Johnson. I will admit to a frisson of schadenfreude at the Republicans in such disarray. It’s usually the Democrats who threaten to sit out or vote third party*, so to watch it happen to the Republicans is delicious. I want the Republicans to be a viable party, but that isn’t going to happen for some time to come, so might as well enjoy watching them burn in flames in the meantime.
Anyway, it’s mind-boggling to me that liberals are tearing each other’s throats out over what is, pardon me, a relatively minor difference. Seriously. In the grand scheme of things, give or don’t give, but it’s not that big a fucking deal. Full admission: I’m more on the pro-give side than on the anti, even though I’m not going to donate. I think showing a little kindness is not a bad thing, and maybe it’ll have a small effect on the NC GOP. In other words, maybe it’ll make them realize what dumbasses they’ve been and help them at least think a bit outside their narrow mindsets. Is it likely to happen? No. They truly are a terrible bunch, and they’re pretty wedded to their discriminatory ideas. However, if we don’t do anything positive, they’re not going to move in a positive direction at all. The way I see it is that there’s very little to lose by making the gesture.
I know some Dems think it makes for good optics, but I’m not as concerned about that. First of all, I don’t think the media would really care about this other than to report it in a very basic manner. Which is exactly what they did. In addition, there’s something unsavory about giving just because it looks good and because it’s good pub. Honestly, I would have felt better if people just quietly donated and not made a big deal of it, but in the end, I think it’s more positive than negative. Giving money to the NC GOP is not a tacit or explicit endorsement of their horrid ideology–speaking of ideology, I have a problem with it in general. Ideologues tend to be rigid in their thinking, and unforgiving as a well. Anyone who strays from their beliefs in the tiniest way is cast out of the group. I hate ideological purity in that I believe there are several ways to reach a common goal, and it’s better to work together when possible than to shun possible allies because they aren’t perfectly aligned with your ideals.
It’s the reason I don’t believe in heroes, but that’s a post for another time. Ideologies don’t line up nicely with the real world. The world is a messy place, and you have to make compromises. There is no one who will agree with you 100% of the time, and it’s better to have someone who is 75% on your side than to fight alone. I’m old, and I’m tired of the infighting. I’ve long said that one of my biggest frustrations with the Democratic Party is our ability to wrest a loss from a win. This didn’t have to be such a big thing, but that’s the only reaction that seems to be allowed these days–at least online. You have to be completely for something or else you are completely against it. It’s an anathema to me because I can usually see many sides to any given issue, even if I don’t agree with some or any of them.
Again, I’m not frowning on anyone who didn’t give. I can understand the repugnance in giving money to a group who is so hateful. It’s partially the reason I haven’t given and won’t. I just wish, naively, I know, that the anti-donating people could dial it down a notch or ten in their vehemence. I’m just shouting in the wind at this point, but it’s so frustrating to watch time and time again. I’m not asking that we all get along, despite the click-baity title I gave this post. What I am asking is that perhaps we don’t treat everything as a do-or-die issue and that we don’t circle our wagons tighter and tighter until there’s no more us–only them. We really are on the same side; let’s try to act like it once in a while.
*Some still are, but that’s Dems for you.