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Political hypocrisy

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Recently, when I visited my grandma, she started talking politics—asking me if I’d been watching the conventions. Inwardly, I groaned. I did not want to have a political conversation with my grandma. I kept my comments general. When she said she thought it was going to be a dirty fight, I said it would be a close race and promptly tried to change the subject. I didn’t care to hear an explanation of what she meant by “dirty,” or who in particular that comment was aimed at.

Political conversation is dicey and dangerous. Defending one’s own party or dishing on the opponents of that party can bring out the worst in people. When it comes to politics, everybody wants his or her side to be right, and many will defend that side—even if it means creating excuses or making an issue out of something that would normally not matter. While I myself fall somewhere in the middle, I have friends who are very conservative and friends who are very liberal. Perhaps it’s because I respect and agree with each of them on different issues that I find political discussion to be rather awkward.

I’m skeptical of political rhetoric, and aware that what we see in the media is tainted—it’s only half the story, if that. Consequently, when someone starts bashing a candidate, I am most likely to look for the other side of the argument, or find a way to defend that candidate. This is particularly true when the attacks have nothing to do with beliefs or policy. I’m sorry, but word plays on Obama’s name, comparisons between Palin and Clinton’s looks, or jokes about McCain’s age are simply below the belt.

When it comes to true issues, I think it is important to remember that no source is truly unbiased. The lens through which we are invited to view a candidate, election, or issue will color the way we see that issue, and it is important to recognize that lens and do our best to see beyond it—to understand that there is another perspective, or way of seeing.

Politicians, and those well-versed in political discussion, are masters at angling the lens through which we view the issue. It is for this reason that I am wary of political rhetoric, and suspicious of what happens when we get too caught up either in the media, or in the desire to prove that our own party is right. Often, what happens is that we forget about the issues, we cling only to the facts that are convenient, and we begin attacking individuals.

A recent example of this arose in the days following McCain’s announcement that Sarah Palin would be his running mate. Listening to the media, it seemed as if Palin’s personal life carried more weight than her beliefs or experience. The attacks made against Palin were petty and childish, and I highly respect Obama’s clear response that families are off limits. This is not an attempt to endorse or belittle either candidate, but rather, to make a point about the way we often play information to our advantage. Liberals, who normally advocate for the equality of women, were quick to question Palin’s ability to run for office while parenting five children. A factor that would have been a point of pride in a liberal candidate became a potential weakness when it was on the wrong side of the ticket.

Liberals, however, have not been the only ones to show hypocrisy in recent days. Following the announcement that Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol is pregnant, liberals sat back waiting for conservatives to react with disgust. Yet, conservatives have not delivered. This, I was pleased to see. To me, the disgust came over the fact that this was even an issue—that the media would go so low as to continually plaster the story of that poor girl and her boyfriend all over the news. But as frustrated as I was with the media, I found another issue to be nearly as disturbing. Why did the media think this was news? Why did liberals expect a reaction? Could it be that in the past, issues of morality have led to a rise of judgment from conservative camps? I question conservative’s quick dismissal of this “immorality” for the same reason that I question the liberal’s hasty attack of Palin’s motherhood—it doesn’t seem to fit. As conservatives ask liberals how they would respond to Palin if she were on the other ticket, they should ask themselves the same thing. Would they have given grace so freely if they disagreed with Palin’s politics, and wanted her to look bad?

It’s easy to give grace when you already like a person. It’s harder to remove a lens of political hatred to recognize that perhaps the people on the other side aren’t all bad. Maybe they are mothers, working hard for women’s equality. Maybe they have families who face the same issues as everybody else, and simply need some grace. Maybe there’s more to the story.

I guess what I am tired of is the political games in which we forget what the real issues are, leave out inconvenient facts, and make excuses. I think it’s more important to show integrity than to do whatever it takes to make one’s own party look good. Endorse your candidate based on his or her strengths, and the issues that he or she stands for. Point out the weakness or inconsistencies in the opponents policies, but don’t twist the facts, play only the cards you want, or attack them based on matters completely unrelated to their ability to perform the job. Eventually, you’ll be revealed as a hypocrite, and you’ll end up looking childish.

For further reading on politics, I’ve posted an article I wrote for the SPU newspaper just under one year ago. It explains in further detail why it is time for Christians in particular to give up messy political games.

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Written by liferenewed

September 7, 2008 at 12:41 am

Posted in Politics

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