Letter to My Uncle

[reply to litany of anti-Obama invective in a discussion about THE SUPER BOWL *sigh]

Dear Uncle ■■■■,

I’ve tried to talk about football and other things you like so you wouldn’t stop talking to me when I replied about politics. You said we shouldn’t talk about politics yet you insist on doing it. I have resisted each time because if I reply, there’s a chance it’s a massive waste of my time and in the end you’ll not want to be my uncle anymore, not want to be friends like your ugly and mean sister who will bleat on about Jesus’ love but then be a horrible person in an argument and end it by never speaking again, or on and on with several other examples easily available. I always thought you were different, more worldly, educated, etc. but the more I let you go on you sound like everyone’s stereotypical crazy racist uncle. If you start going on about Jesus too I’m giving up. (smiles). Now, since I know you aren’t that bad, I keep trying. So I will break the no-politics pledge just this once, but if you decide not to talk to me anymore, that’s on you. You can run out the rest of your days without hassling with that nephew who loved you and cared about you but then you fucked it up.

I agree the national debt is bad. I was complaining about it when Bush took a surplus and turned it into a deficit, doubled the national debt, and left us bailing out rich people who paid themselves massive bonuses. I don’t recall such concern among Republicans then, and was even called unpatriotic etc. So I agree the national debt is too high and bad, but it is hardly just Barack Obama’s fault and anything else is disingenuous.

Also the concern is always on social programs (which conservatives benefiting from them, like you or your sister or my parents, invariably want to keep and inexplicably think Democrats are coming to take), but my concern is also with the bloated defense budget, other waste, corruption – and corporate welfare is way worse than human welfare. I rarely hear conservatives complaining about these things, so I call shenanigans again.

The President called for a “grand bargain” on social programs. Like Bill Clinton being able to get away with signing welfare reform, Barack Obama could have worked on social programs and got away with it, but Do-Nothing Congress 2 well, did nothing. They opposed everything, on purpose, practically treasonous. So I have a hard time with statements that indicate it was all the bad president who wouldn’t work with the nice Congress. Compare the approval rating for Congress to the approval rating for President Obama. When we needed it the most this was one of the worst Congresses in the history of the nation. Disgraceful.

I agree that illegal immigration is a problem and what’s more is I think legal immigration is a problem too. With H1-Bs they are trying to replace citizens with cheaper labor as fast as they can import, they would import faster if they could (and keep trying), and this effort is just to replace the jobs that they can’t just ship overseas as fast as they can. And these are the decent-paying middle class jobs, not picking fruit (which should also largely be going to American citizens). I’m with you on immigration, believe me. It’s a big reason why Trump might still get my vote before it’s over.

We have lots of things we agree on: Americans take their lives for granted and many couldn’t even pass an immigration test, concern about ‘anchor babies’, immigrants integrating into American society, and on and on. However, I think statements like ‘Obama doesn’t believe in free enterprise and capitalism’ are ridiculous unsupportable hyperbole. I agree the money corporations and the wealthy have stored overseas is a problem, we just have different remedies. I agree the they print money and devalue the dollar. But stunts like closing the government and risking debt default are bad and endanger our global hegemony.

So, thanks for sharing your opinions and thanks for reading my reply. Hopefully we can continue to be civil.

Love, Jason

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It’s Difficult to Debate Most Conservatives

I love to talk politics and religion and other contentious topics with people. It’s entertaining, enlightening, and should be an essential element of a functioning democracy. With Facebook and Twitter and the like more opportunities present themselves, which should be great, except some people seem to treat social media like email: forward political messages around to an echo chamber and nothing results except reinforcement of these dubious ideas. I find when I engage with these posts on Twitter or Facebook, it often leads to trouble. Even good friends in the family threaten unfriending #shun as a punishment for disagreeing, rather than offer counterarguments. You know, like being “social”. Interacting, and as a result perhaps even growing and learning.

I’m prompted to write this because I just checked a similar posting’s activity. I see another Friend had taken up the cause, posting well-reasoned and factual rebuttals to the original post. The commenter is even a respected educator using perfectly acceptable language (and spelling and sentence structure #bonus) to explain the opposing point-of-view. And, being a closer friend or family member, the commenter could weave the poster’s other oft-trumpeted beliefs into a more comprehensive narrative, to help explicate a more nuanced and reasoned position.

In response to this eloquence, the poster replied with a few new, easily countered bumper sticker remarks. As expected these counterpoints were quickly answered in a polite manner, along with helpful links and analogies attempting to keep focus on the larger topics and shared values. The poster follows this additional reason with (essentially) “BUT GOD!” and the meaningless “we’ll have to agree to disagree”. So, responding not by gathering more facts, resolving cognitive dissonance with improved arguments, or (gasp) perhaps even modifying opinions. Those would be good choices. Opportunities for positive response abound. But the most likely course of action is to ignore, change topic, withdraw, block, unfriend. And then these kinds of things cause trouble at holiday gatherings, create rifts and keep family members from talking, but most importantly, they stop people from being smart and informed parties in our larger cooperative system.

After one more halfhearted closing statement from the commenter, a new commenter chimed in, simply indicating agreement with the original poster. Because, of course. Why would this person enhance the debate with counterarguments? They shouldn’t have to, because in these minds beliefs count the same as facts. To some everything has two sides, both equally valid, with truthfulness and merit decided only by sincerity of belief and not empirical knowledge or well-constructed reason.

It’s difficult to debate conservatives – especially religious conservatives – primarily because they deal in belief and lack facts and information, but also empathy and the skills to effectively communicate their prescribed ideas. Worst of all they demonstrate an alarming lack of critical thinking. Lazy baseless beliefs that are clung to by the nearly illiterate masses without any evidence and then enacted into legislation is the bane of our great democracy and I applaud those who attempt to fight it. Even if it can seem pointless.

Someone tried to get me to agree that Bush and Obama were “equally bad”

My response:

MERICA“…yes, if deficits and unemployment go up instead of down, Obama starts a couple intractable wars, we are attacked by terrorists, the stock market loses half its value, there’s another recession, we find out bin Laden is still alive, Iran get nukes, Obama spends the next two years on vacation and we have to give banks trillions of dollars on his way out of office…then yes, we’ll agree they are both equally bad lol”

How quickly we forget smdh