Saturday, November 24, 2007

Recycle Your Box

This one pissed a few people off. Posted Saturday, November 24, 2007, I still pretty much feel this way, and I am still hoping for an opportunity to demonstrate that I am as Centrist as I feel I am. Perhaps I should write a follow-up about that...

It is not easy being one of us. Whatever it is that I am, that is. One of the non-branded, non-affiliated, un-marketed.

I know I confuse people with my opinions. No one really understands what it means to reject the options that are forced upon us, and ask for something better. Everyone is constantly trying to fit us into one of their pre-defined, factory stamped, UPS-coded boxes - because then they feel safe and in control.

My tendency is to blow off the trappings of the Boxes, and deal with the substance of things. I don´t pay attention to the clues I give off when I express my distaste with things of a political nature, especially. That is probably why I was recently accused of being a Democrat. Yuck.

I can see where someone would make that mistake. After all, I spend a great deal of time criticizing the current American regime; the Republican controlled Congress that has worn the country down since 1994; the misguided incompetence of the Bush Administration; the mystifying workings of the Supreme Court. But all of this easy criticism means that the so-called opposition never gets equal time, and as FOX News has programmed us to believe, if I am not spending equal time bashing Ted Kennedy, then I am somehow biased... Heaven forfend.

Well, yes, I guess I am biased. So what? Find me someone without a bias, and I will show you someone without an opinion. But no one bothers to figure out what my biases actually are; instead, they determine that I am disagreeing with them, and therefore must be on the so-called Other side.

I find it to be extremely disingenuous that the same people who will dismiss my criticisms as biased often follow their dismissal up by telling me - proudly - that they get all of their information from extremely biased sources: FOX news, Talk Radio (tm), or some similarly slanted publication. They will often compound the blow to their credibility by telling me that Bill O´Reilly is not a conservative, or that NPR - my choice for news on my commute - is a leftist organization. If you believe either of those statements then you seriously need to go check out Political Science for Dummies or something, because you don´t understand what the words ¨conservative¨ or ¨leftist¨ mean.

What I find ridiculous about these arguments is that the people arguing with me are so busy attacking what they see as ¨my group¨, that they never seem to recognize that I have not aligned myself with a group. Rather than addressing the substance of my criticism, they put me in a box with their perceived enemies, and waste my time trying to convince me that their box is better than mine. They don´t get that my point is often, ¨Hey, these boxes are convenient for framing bubblegum poll questions and building colorful graphics on the TV news, but if we are going to solve any of our problems, the boxes need to go.¨

It is really easy to tell when someone is boxing you, rather than listening to you. You might learn that the President is lying about something, and express disgust; they will respond that Hilary is trying to take away your money and give it to brown people. This is called a non sequitor. Say you realize that all of the billions of dollars in spending ¨on the troops¨ has actually been going to pay for contractors with no oversight or accountability; they might then point out that John Edwards got an expensive haircut. This is called misdirection.

It reminds me of 7th grade algebra class when I pointed out to a classmate that she had made a mistake in a formula that we were working on as a group, and she sneered at me that she could at least pick out matching socks. True, my socks that day were slightly mismatched, but I was still right about the algebra. In my mind, the Republicans are the idiot classmates that ignored me and went with Suzy´s answer - costing us points on the exercise - and the Democrats are the teacher who dithered on the sideline telling me it was impolite to call a girl a name like that.

The issues at stake these days are a little bigger than getting a math problem wrong. We need to decide how to fix the mistakes made over the last six years, and confront the inevitable shortages in resources that are going to start hitting us as the rest of the world realizes that they don´t need to support our habits of over-consumption any more. We need to deal with our problems intelligently and not as a pack of squabbling teams of marketing experts. Marketing is great for selling things, but not for making tough decisions.

Meanwhile, I will continue to defy your attempts to box me in, and will kick in the sides, whether from the inside or the outside.

Box THAT, suka!

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