A Think Piece - Morality & Making Sense of the Current Political Atmosphere

Saturday, July 1, 2017
Morality and Making Sense of Today's Politics

The confetti, that endless blue, red, and white that came raining down when we learned that Obama had won, listening to a brief NPR report about Romney with my family, somewhere in downtown San Antonio, those are my two strongest memories of the elections I witnessed as a child, and even then, they’re pretty faint. I watched the 2008 and 2012 elections from the proverbial sidelines, too young and too uninterested to really care.

Elections, they were just something that happened every four years, a very important something I was often told, but still, I couldn’t be bothered to pay them much attention, that was, until last year.

2016 was the Year of the Monkey, 2016 was the year I enter high school, 2016 was the year I finally memorized my phone number and promptly forgot it. 2016 was a lot of things, small things, large things, life changing things. So many terrible, forgettable, wondrous things happened in 2016, but above all, 2016 will always be the year that I discovered politics.

It wasn't the headline generating primaries, it wasn't the brilliance of the late night comedians (ok, maybe it was, but just a bit), it was Hillary.

Something about watching her walk across those endless stages made something click. From that moment on, I needed to know everything about the election, from that moment on, I had an intense passion for understanding our nation's cogs and gears. I may not have liked her entirely as a candidate, but she showed me that women have a place in politics.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Hillary giving a speech to her supporters

Before I go on, I’d like to disclose a few things. As many of you may already know, I’m a Democrat through and through, and accordingly, the majority of my opinions can be categorized as liberal. These beliefs, these convictions, they’re a cumulation of my race, my gender, my experiences, and my childhood. I take pride in them, and they’re a large part of who I am as a person, but that’s beside the point.

I am not seeking to change anyone’s mind with this piece, nor am I looking to convert anyone to “my side”.

Today I am interested in your thoughts, interested in understanding your perspectives, even if they are from “the other side of the aisle”. Today I want to unpack my own messy thoughts, today I want to try to make sense of what’s going on.

"This is unprecedented. This is unheard of. This is unbelievable. This is not normal."

Those words, they’ve been in abundance lately, filling my ears, littering news articles, screaming at me from social media, spilling over into real life.

Gray scale picture of the US White House

"This is unprecedented. This is unheard of. This is unbelievable. This is not normal." Those words, they only compare, they only juxtapose, and for someone like me, someone who has no point of reference, nothing to compare this past election with, nothing to hold this administration to, they’re useless.

What is abnormal if you have no definition of normal?

This election, these past 162 days, they’ve been confusing enough with their sharpening divides, looming scandals, and bewildering tweets, but my lack of experience, that one takes the cake. The Russian investigation, Comey’s firing, Spicer’s claims, everyone keep saying these things are unprecedented, others keep defending them, but are they really so unusual, are they really so justifiable? I really can’t say.

I’ve looked to the past for answers, tried to find parallels between then and now, but in the end, facts just can’t replace experience.

In this time of growing division and partisanship, I don’t know where to turn, who to trust.

American politics is increasingly filled with anger, burgeoning distrust, and fierce polarization. Everyone’s so angry, we’re all at each other's throats. This mess of emotions, this era of volatile facts, only births aggressive disagreement and closed minds.

Multiple folded American flags

I, with my quick temper, am definitely not innocent of such things.

I've gotten into my fair share of heated debates during and after the most recent election cycle.

The topics of these bitter arguments ranged from the Obama Birther Scandal to Trump's Access Hollywood tape. While these arguments were in fact quite bitter, and while I did say countless regrettable things, I consider them priceless experiences. I'm still on speaking terms with all of those I argued with, maybe even friendly terms with some, and well, that's taught me that, yes, you can be friends with those on the "other side".

It's easy to just block out people who don't agree with you, it can even seem right sometimes, but doing so limits your worldview.

Associating with the "other side" feels like taboo these days, especially with them often being portrayed as morally corrupt, so exceedingly wrong, but if you think that of them, what do they think of you?

Contemplation of Justice statue

If you are willing to ignore someone, block them out simply because you are convinced that you are right and they are not, then I ask, how do you know that you are, without a single doubt, the right one?

Right and wrong are peculiar things, intriguing concepts.

Is there truly a sense of rightness guiding the world on some laid out path? Who is right, who is wrong? Everyone believes they’re the correct one, after all, that's the nature of opinion, but everyone can't be right.

Out of all of the opinions I hold today, there will be many that are viewed unfavorably by tomorrow.

I’ve acknowledged that my strongest beliefs might be defined as incorrect or even socially unacceptable in the future, but then, how can I truly believe in my opinions if I also believe that they won’t all “turn out to be right”, that the passing of time will judge them incorrect? Do opinions not require conviction, do opinions not require faith? How am I to believe in what I don't fully trust? How do you know if you're truly right? What even is right?

Some might point to history to prove the concept of rightness and wrongness, but is that really a true determination of morality, is that a true determination of rightness, or does it only reflect the mindset of today's opinions? Does the "right side" truly always win in the end?

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

How many of my opinions are simply shaped by the time period in which I grew up, the very time period I breathe in at this very moment? The truths I believe in so strongly, would I still recognize them in a whole different world? Would the convictions, so black and white now, turn muddled and gray?

Would I see the past injustices we clearly see today, or would I become one among many of those on the "wrong side of history”?

Many of the questions raised here currently have no definitive answers, and they likely never will. We can only wonder at the what ifs and endlessly weigh the balance of nature and nurture, but all the same, these are questions that should be pondered, questions that should be asked, even if we’ll never truly solve them.

It is dangerous to seal your mind off, to believe, without a hint of doubt, that you are always correct, to refuse to listen to anyone beside your own.

Opinions should not be stagnant creatures, they should be constantly evolving, forever reaching new heights. Question your opinions daily, do not let them off the hook simply because they are yours, after all, you could very well be "wrong".

Wrongness and rightness are defined by the individual, no one, nothing, has the final say, not even history.

Do not fall victim to a black and white world, most everything is gray.

I want to give a big thanks to Wren and Megan for beta-ing, this post would've be such a huge mess if it wasn't for them. Also Megan's responsible for that awesome title up above, haha the one I came up with was overly long and way too clunky.... Anyways, thank you all for sitting through my messy and drawn-out thoughts *hugs*.

I'm gonna be doing a Q&A post really soon and am looking for some questions, so if you have one, pretty please leave it here:

If the embed's acting weird, here's a direct link to the form.

What's your take on right vs. wrong? Was the 2016 election your first, or have you followed prior elections? (feel free to let loose in the comments, I eagerly await your thoughts)