The Ills of a Two Party Dynamic

Recently on Facebook I saw this post titled “Liberal Idiot Caught on Tape”.  I watched the video, and yes, it makes the woman in it look rude and obnoxious.  She essentially walks up to the guy holding the camera and cusses him out for driving a pickup truck, telling him that he’s polluting the environment.  The problem I have with this video is two-fold.  My first issue is with its implication.

This video is deliberately set up as a “look how dumb these people are” kind of video.  It creates this false generalization of who liberals are, and is part of the reason why so many people see the word “liberal” as dirty.  It has a toxic effect, further widening the gap between people of different beliefs in a country that is supposedly progressive and accepting.  It breeds hatred in conservatives toward a group of people that encompasses far more than just one obnoxious lady who drives a Prius.  “But wait,” you may ask, “how do you know that’s the effect it’ll have?”  It’s not going to have that effect.  It already has.

I looked at the comments on the website the post linked to, and it’s pretty scary stuff.  It was full of people saying things like “liberals are fat and ugly” and “haha look at those dumb liberals, they know nothing”.  It’s rather disheartening, because it just shows how caught up in this two-party dynamic people truly are.  It seems like in so many people’s heads, it’s either one way or the other, and there is no middle ground.  You’re either conservative or you’re liberal.  This type of thinking is incredibly dangerous, because it becomes so easy to just shut out people from different viewpoints.

And besides, I bet I could just as easily look up a video of some rude and obnoxious conservative person and pass it off as a “look how dumb conservatives are” video.  I would probably get the same type of comments too.  “Conservatives are obnoxious and stupid” they’d say, or “all conservatives care about is getting drunk and shooting guns”.  Because you obviously have to be part of one group or the other.  You can’t hold your own thoughts and beliefs.  You have to align yourself to one side (hint: massive amounts of sarcasm).

It’s sad, because what this means is that people on both sides become unwilling to even talk to one another because they’ve driven this gigantic wedge between them.  I’ve known plenty of conservative people in my life, and I tend to be much more of a liberal.  It’s not like one side is smart and the other is dumb.  They’re all just different shades, different ways of looking at the same world.

Letting your political views run your life and your relationships with people?  Now THAT’S dumb.

My second issue with this video is that we don’t get good context.  It just starts up, and immediately this obnoxious lady is in our face.  She yells and cusses this guy out, who for all intents and purposes in the video seems like a perfectly nice and reasonable guy.  Here’s my problem with this though.  We can’t be sure this is one hundred percent true.

Think about it.  What happens before the camera starts rolling?  What happens once the video is done?  Both are unknowns.  For all we know before the video started rolling this guy sat there and revved his engine over and over again just trying to get a rise out of the lady.  Then he turned on the camera once he got her attention and basically made a laughingstock of her.  He sounds all nice and calm in the video, but again, he could just go completely ballistic once the camera cuts and cuss her out.  The video does end in the middle of one of her diatribes after all.

But does anyone actually question that?  No, they all just seize their chance to poke fun at her and inflate their own egos.  “Hurr hurr hurr look at this dumb liberal,” they say.  “She’s so fat and ugly, just like all liberal women.”  Thank god she wasn’t a blonde, or I’m sure we would have gotten a bunch of dumb blonde comments in there too.

It reminds me of an event that happened at college a few years back.  A student (who happened to be one of my roommates from my first year at college in Duluth) confronted a representative from a group that reads very much like a white supremacist organization.  They’ll say they’re not if you ask them, but honestly, who would actually admit to that these days?  Anyway, a video recorded by the group’s representative comes out, and it makes the student look plain antagonistic.  The problem here?  The video was very obviously and intentionally edited.  After the story broke the representative claimed that the video wasn’t edited at all.  Sure man, I totally believe that the black screens with white text just ended up in there by random happenstance.  Please, how dumb do you think we are?

While the video I’m talking about has much less editing done to it than the one from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) incident, it’s still worth bringing up the same questions.  What led up to this video?  What happened afterward?  Why was this guy carrying around a camera in the first place, and why did he even decide to record this encounter?  These are all questions that are worth asking, but few people seem to care about that.  They’ve got tunnel vision, and are too focused on making the other side look bad.

What it all comes down to is that people seem far more willing to ignore the possibilities in favor of making themselves feel good at the expense of others rather than ask any important questions.  It’s far easier to look at this video and say “man liberals are just annoying” than it is to say “I wonder what happened to make her so angry in the first place?”  These types of videos circulate around every once in a while, basically for the sole purpose of reinforcing one political side’s belief in their rightness.

And I’m not excusing this woman’s behavior or attitude.  I’m just trying to point out that we don’t have all the information to make a perfectly sound judgment on this event.  All we have is one video recorded by one guy from one side of the equation.  Our view at the event is certainly skewed to one end, and we have to be careful about what judgments we make then.

We seem to want to lump people into specific categories, so we can separate and define them.  But the problem is that humanity cannot be defined that easily.  We are rational and irrational.  We love and we hate.  We kill and we save.  We’re rich and we’re poor.  We’re happy and we’re angry.  The vast spectrum that is human existence cannot be assigned categories without blatantly ignoring large portions of it.  By creating this videos with the implication that “this is a prime example of a liberal”, we ignore the simple fact that there are always bad people within good groups, and vice versa.  It creates this ignorant dichotomy of black and white.  But as we know, humanity doesn’t easily fit into those terms.  The same species that will commit mass genocide will also rally to help people in need.  There are no rigid boundaries for us, and forcefully trying to create them is ultimately malicious and self-serving.

You can try to lump people together to make your own life easier, but you will find very quickly that people will resist being defined by anyone but themselves.

And that’s all I have for you.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a great week everyone.

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One thought on “The Ills of a Two Party Dynamic

  1. “At the expense of others” is a very popular format these days. Think about how much of our entertainment is produced in this way, not to mention political ads. They spend most of their campaigns making the other candidate look bad and much less time telling us why we should vote for them.

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