Sunday, November 2, 2008

Think about it, then vote

I received this email from my old swimming coach.

Think Before you Vote on Tuesday

Can you identify with this?

When dining on meat, you must hold the fork in the left hand while cutting, then switch it to the right hand for lifting the slice into your mouth. That’s the “proper” way to eat, at least here in XYZ. XYZ can be this house, this town, this family, or this continent. Sound at all familiar?

Either you've said this (to your kids), heard this (from your parents), or know of someone who has.

What could possibly cause someone to have such a deep-seated desire to control how someone eats their meat? Its just, ”eating” after all, isn't it? The answer lies in this core principle:

“Everyone else is just like me, or at least they should be.”

Think about it: We do things this way here in “this house.” And if you don’t then you had better (or will, if you want a roof over your head.) Remember there was a time when left-handed individuals were “going to hell.” If you didn’t do it my way, then you were condemned to hell for all eternity?

This core belief is shared by all humans, on some level, and implemented continuously in our daily lives to some extent. However it is by no means evenly applied, and certainly not the only principle that guides our decisions and actions. The principle on the other side of the coin is:

“Everyone is different, and that is ok.”

Throughout our lives we apply both principles somewhat interchangeably to every opinion or decision we make regarding another person.
- Look at how that idiot is driving!
- That’s just the way they make ice tea in the South.
- I can’t believe this homework assigned to my daughter.
- I hear Europeans get away with it all the time.
- I don’t like the neighbor’s new landscaping, it doesn’t fit in the neighborhood.
- My son is a vegetarian. Well, at least he’s not into drugs.
- Did you see what she was wearing?
- Those kids at the mall need a good scolding.
- Oh look, there’s a baby in the airplane seat behind me.

Most of these opinions hold little consequence, because we hold them as our own and keep them to ourselves or our small group.
These two principle beliefs are not polar opposites. The principle “Everyone is different, and that is ok” is very inclusive, and will allow for other people’s ideas and opinions. That’s a good thing.

The principle “Everyone else is just like me, or at least they should be” is not inclusive, and by its very nature, prohibits the other principle, and other people and opinions they hold. On a big scale, that’s a very bad thing. Because regardless of what anyone thinks or preaches, in reality, we are all different.

If this thinking causes a rift or argument at the dinner table in the privacy of your own home, imagine the destructive power it has when played out on a national stage, by thousands of people holding on so tightly to this conservative principle.

Have you noticed at the rallies that John McCain and Sarah Palin are holding there is usually a small yet vocal group of audience supporters that will invariably yell some disparaging remark about the other candidates? These remarks are always some of the vilest and most condescending words from their own lexicon. You’ll hear words such as “communist”, “socialist”, “terrorist”, “Muslim”, etc. Yes, to these people, a Muslim is as good as the devil. You will hear no such outbursts from supporters at a Barack Obama rally regarding John McCain.

The people that are yelling out these words are not really the problem, or inherently evil themselves. The problem is that they are holding onto the conservative principle “Everyone is just like me, or at least should be” and applying it to everyone in the entire nation, which of course makes no rational sense. Yet they still do it. They have taken their deep-seated principles and stretched them so that anyone who is different (in this case, a Democratic Candidate) is inherently evil. While the Republican Party proper and the McCain campaign in no way believes that Barak Obama is a Muslim, they do whole heartedly endorse the principle “Everyone else is just like me, or at least they should be.”

Think about it. What are (or have been in the past) the conservative Republican and candidate positions on women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay rights, tax codes, school voucher programs, health care, abortion, immigration, and federal spending? To the letter, each has followed the principle as it applies to the conservatives in power at the time:
- Women shouldn’t vote (we’re all men)
- Blacks shouldn’t have rights (we’re all white)
- Gays shouldn’t marry (we’re all straight)
- Don’t tax the wealthy (we’re all wealthy)
- Don’t spend public funds (unless its on us)
- Etc.

How does the other, more liberal principle play out on this stage? “Everyone is different, and that is ok.” There are scant few liberals out there with the same deep-seated hatred that you see repeatedly on the conservative side. For liberals, it is ok for John McCain and Sarah Palin to run for the presidency. Liberals may not agree with their views, they may even have a powerful dislike for the individuals themselves. They certainly don’t believe God will punish the United States if John McCain is elected. You don’t see liberal groups plotting to assassinate John McCain. You don’t hear women getting up with a microphone and declaring how McCain is a terrorist and friends with Osama Bin Laden, or calling him a neo-nazi. You don’t have CNN calling McCain the most dangerous thing to happen to the US, as Fox News says of Obama.

“Everyone else is just like me, or at least they should be.” As a principle, it is about as destructive a force the United States can face. That is because once our nation begins to make laws, amend the national and state constitutions, negotiate foreign treaties, and levy taxes based on this principle, it automatically divides the nation internally and quite possibly from its friends. According to the old adage: “United we Stand, Divided we fall,” the conservative principle on a national scale is a recipe for “falling”.

If you need any proof at all, look to how England treated America in the 1700s. At the time England was one of the most powerful nations in the world. Americans were different from the English, yet the English either didn’t see that, our refused to embrace it. It was their majority religion, their laws, their tax and land systems that the people in America wanted freedom from. Because we were different! There were multiple religions in America; Untilled land and exploration were the norm in the new world. People on this continent grew up differently, faced different challenges, and ultimately had different needs than those in England.

Our nation was founded on the liberal principle of “Everyone is different, and that is ok.” Our constitution was set up to protect the minority (Americans, different) from the majority English. Yes, including the right to bear arms. However, we have become our own “majority”. When we let the conservative principle “Everyone is just like me…” trump “Everyone is different…” we set ourselves and children’s generation up for failure. It is diversity, inclusion, and the principle that “Everyone is different, and that is ok” which has propelled our nation to prosperity, civility, and peace. The conservative principle, especially on a national scale, promotes bitterness, war, insecurity, and distrust among ourselves and our neighbors. Not too different from the dinner table, actually.

I urge you to look carefully at each of the candidates in the national and in your local elections. Do they stand for diversity and inclusion, or for isolation and self-importance? Please also inspect the ballot propositions in your particular state or precinct. Do they promote diversity, peace, and general prosperity, or do they promote distrust, and serve only those who sponsored them? Remember voting is the most important civil right you possess, and it can change the world.

Will you cast your vote based on everyone being just like you, or will you vote based on everyone being different?

Marty Sarussi, Phoenix, AZ

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