“I would point out that if you’re a believer in in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.” – Texas Republican State Rep. Joe Barton
The title of my final, hideous blog entry for 2013 does not contain a misspelling. It is completely purposeful. A title for a blog post about New Year’s resolutions entitled “New Year’s Resolutions” would be pretty mundane, even allowing for my own lousy writing conventions.
I originally started out wanting to write about yet another blow to yet another phony-assed scandal perpetrated by the GOP called, ‘BENGHAZI, BENGHAZI, BENGHAZI!’
For those of you who have been too busy getting your party on to keep up with the news, the New York Times (which is considered a “liberal mouthpiece” according to the right—okay—sure-whatever—explain to me how they basically green-lighted Bush’s phony war then), pretty much backed-up the Obama administration and their assertions early on about the tragedy in Libya. Bottom line, it was :
…a complete mess,
…and fairly convoluted.
…much like most of my attempts at this blog thingy.
But what it was not was some cynical attempt to completely fabricate some story about an event for political purposes. Now, do I think there were extenuating circumstances like a possible CIA covert operation that had to have a veil of secrecy to it? Sure. That is looking like a possibility.
Was the administration supposed to come out and say in the hours after if happened, “Yes, we are once again attacked by al-Qaeda who planned for months to attack this embassy and succeeded, and now we are totally screwed people”? Or maybe more of the truth might be that since the Republicans voted to cut embassy spending because, you know, we need to give more tax cuts to billionaires, Susan Rice could have said on all the Sunday shows, “Hey, there is blood on the hands of those who voted to cut funds for security as well…” Right Mr. Issa?
This episode did, however, lay bare three real facts. Number one, the GOP will twist and distort anything, including tragic deaths, to serve their purposes. Number two, the GOP will never admit Obama has done one damn thing right. Finally, number three, Darryl Issa even makes scumbags wince. This entire year of 2013 was a testament to those basic observations.
I’m already bored to tears by the typical response from the Republicans and their standard talking points (Obama villainous, New York Times yucky). They acknowledge nothing that comes out after investigations that prove the right was wrong. Nah. They simply double-down.
Because I’m fairly lame-o what with all of my “touchy-feely-ness,” and have been looking back on the year both politically and personally—and often at the intersection of the two when it comes to my own take on events–I’m ending my blogging year with some personal reflections and new insights gleaned. I also would like to list some basic facts about myself before I continue, because I think it is relevant information considering the content to come:
- I am not out to kid anybody. I am no political pundit or guru. I am only a person who seeks truth, justice, and the American way. I like facts. I like reason. I like to make decisions in my own life based on facts and reason.
- I like it when legislators make decisions based on what is actually good for the country and not their own selfish devices…and when they make them based on facts…and reason.
- I believe that climate change is the defining issue of my generation and that we have totally dropped the ball on it. I understand that it is a complicated issue, but 97% of the world’s climatologists agree we are at least helping to warm up the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. That’s an “A” in my classroom, so I’m going with it. If 97% of the world’s anything agree on anything, I’m going with it. I’m like that.
- I believe in unions. I believe even in the year 2014, workers should be able to collectively bargain for fair wages and benefits. I believe that markets do not always wind up balancing the interests of workers and employers, mostly because employers often have the power to skew legislation in their favor.
- I don’t like ad hominem attacks, mainly because it proves you have no argument—and it’s plain rude…and I don’t like rude people.
- I post too much on Facebook. No, like really…way too much. I’d just like to mention that, although this little fact has nothing to do with this blog.
That said, I did have an epiphany of sorts in this, my 50th year on the planet. I have come to understand that the psychological convention called cognitive dissonance is a very real phenomena (or is it phenomenon? I always get that wrong). It has helped explain so much about not only why so many people seem to dismiss facts and reason (investigations into IRS scandal/Benghazi exonerate President Obama and administration but the right doubles-down, even after being exposed to the vetted facts), however, it has shaped some of my my own thinking about many things this past year.
Simply put, cognitive dissonance is the tension that arises when holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time. You need to diffuse that tension and you come up with a way. For example, you smoke and you know it’s bad for you but you can’t seem to quit. You wind up telling yourself that it’s okay because you really enjoy smoking, and quitting is exceedingly hard.
Cognitive dissonance theory was postulated and then examined through an experiment by Festinger and Carlsmith in 1956:
“Festinger first developed this theory in the 1950s to explain how members of a cult who were persuaded by their leader, a certain Mrs Keech, that the earth was going to be destroyed on 21st December and that they alone were going to be rescued by aliens, actually increased their commitment to the cult when this did not happen (Festinger himself had infiltrated the cult, and would have been very surprised to meet little green men). The dissonance of the thought of being so stupid was so great that instead they revised their beliefs to meet with obvious facts: that the aliens had, through their concern for the cult, saved the world instead.”
Now, if ever there was a psychological explanation for the way the right comports itself when the facts are presented to them, it is this one. It explains the love of the trickle-down theory when it has proven to be a disaster. It explains how you can be against jobs bills and then against extending unemployment benefits when jobs are scarce. It explains this supposed hatred of deficits on the right when it has been the republican presidents who have incurred them to the nth degree and democrats who reduce or slow them down. It explains how reviling Osama Bin Laden and wanting him caught or killed all of a sudden was a bad thing when it was done under Obama’s watch.
Cognitive dissonace explains why there are birthers. It explains the Benghazi obsession. It explains why people who thought there was such a thing as the dreaded and insideous…duh, duh, duhhhh–Obama phone— still can’t quite grasp the real facts about it. It explains why people who claim (they) “aren’t racist” still postulate that President Obama “isn’t like us.” It explains how on one hand he is a bumbling, ineffectual leader and yet he is Hitler-lite. It just does. And for that little bit of knowledge that I stumbled upon this year, I am grateful.
However, as this year progressed, I began to ponder that I might have been subject to this effect in my own political thinking and stances. I am nothing if not willing to accept my own shortcomings. It may take a while to get there, but I usually get to the happy place of introspection (usually around this time of year).
There is another psychological term called “confirmation bias” which basically says that we tend to surround ourselves with people who think like us. We also read or watch things that we tend to agree with because we need to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our “world-view.” It makes so much sense and none of us are free from this reality (you may think you are, but you aren’t.) So with that in mind, this past year, I made a decision and a concerted effort to try to see things from another point of view. I knew it was not going to be easy. I knew it might cause me some pain. But I soldiered on, even knowing the risks.
I made myself read the musings of right-wing bloggers. I forced myself watch shows like “The Five” and “Fox and Friends” and “The Factor.” I had truly felt I had maybe fallen into the trap of rigid ideology. As much as I knew that my beliefs were my beliefs, I held them for a reason, and felt like they were pretty much well-reasoned, well-researched, fair, and free from most bias, I also knew that if I did not allow myself to really try to “understand” and “listen” the other side, I would never be completely satisfied with myself and my choices.
So I did just that. I watched these shows a little more. I listened to right-wing radio. I made an honest attempt to hear them out. On my way home from work, I (gulp) made myself listen to Sean Hannity (Rush Limbaugh was completely out of the question because I’m not a self-hating, masochist for goodness sakes). Admittedly, it was excruciating. It was infuriating. I’m not kidding when I say I must have screamed “f*** you” at the smirking images on my tv screen at least 50 times this year. I watched a succession of blond Barbie-dolls on Fox sashay across the screen and tell me that Obama was the devil while I screamed into my pillow. In my car, it was no less pretty. “What an a**hole!” was not only summoned to mind, but loudly verbalized– numerous times– during my commute home from work. It got so bad that I could never listen to the right-winger stuff before work, or else it would put me a way bad mood to start my day. It wasn’t always that these talking-heads were saying things that just weren’t true, which was like half the time to be sure. It was also the way they were saying them (I have tried to explain this to my daughter a million times. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that annoys the piss outta me.”) At least at the end of my work day, I could pop open a beer to mellow out or go hit the heavy bag at the gym to release my fury.
Here is what I learned from this exercise in 2013 in a very, tiny, nutshell.
I’m a liberal and proud of it…
…and the right is nuts.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking. ‘She didn’t keep an open-mind. She is a dyed-in-the-wool-wussy libby and nothing could change her views.’
And you know what I say in response?
You might be right.
But I swear I made myself really, really see if there was anything that I could agree with. I know that I would probably never switch teams, but I’m not that dogmatic that I don’t think that there aren’t issues or pieces of legislation proposed by the teapublicans that I couldn’t possibly latch onto.
Why? Well mostly I couldn’t find very much they were for. And anything they were for, were non-starters to me because sometimes—facts:
- Tax cuts for the rich has been the standard-bearer for decades with the right. The facts are in. THEY DON’T CREATE JOBS BUT SIMPLY MORE INCOME INEQUALITY. PERIOD. Sorry for shouting but this one makes my head hurt.
- Being against the ACA is NOT a policy. They keep saying “repeal and replace”, “repeal and replace”, but they HAVE NO REAL IDEAS TO REPLACE IT WITH. Sorry. Shouting again. I apologize. Hey, guess what? The cost of healthcare was admittedly going to bankrupt us very shortly if we did nothing to change course, which we all agreed upon once upon a time. But because Obama did this and corporate suits no likey, we have this loggerhead.
- They refuse to address climate change. They refuse to accept scientific and world-wide agreement. Why? Publicly they think that Noah will send an ark and save us. Seriously, this happened. But in reality, they are there to protect business and corporate profits. That one really makes me angry.
- They want to destroy unions. One of their big pushes was “right-to-work” laws that they are trying to push through every legislature in the country that is republican controlled. Right-to-work is union-busting and wage-reducing. It truly should be renamed, “the-right-to-work-for-less.”
- The disgusting attempts at voter suppression this past year were completely transparent to anyone with a brain cell still functioning. The “solution looking for a problem” was in full effect in 2013. In one state, Indiana, the officials who claimed that these voter ID laws were so necessary, could not find one damn case of in-person voter fraud!
- The party of “get government off my back” was truly the party of “get government into my uterus” in 2013. When you figure this one out fellas, get back to me.
- Shutting down the government is not a grown-up policy. It was destructive on so many levels. And yes, it really was the teapublicans fault. Just stop it. It was.
Besides the dearth of policies or ideas from them, honestly, I would estimate that roughly 75% of what I heard or saw from my little quest was this ‘we hate everything this president does’ drumbeat. That was pretty much it. It just didn’t matter what Obama did, they really, really, frikken hated it. When you combine that with the total distortions, if not out and out lies, like my favorite example of the disingenuousness from conservatives like Hannity , you have the reasons why I “yam what I yam” in the succinct words of Popeye.
Believe me when I tell you that I was genuine in my quest to see the other side’s views. I would deposit some of the information I saw and heard and swish it around in my brain for a bit, trying to see if I would have some great eye-popping moment, some reason to agree with them. Gimme something. Anything.
For many of the aforementioned reasons, that koombaya moment with the GOP never came. Maybe someday. Maybe in 2014. I won’t hold my breath, though.
And perhaps that is just the way it is.
I think like this. You think like that.
I’m a bleeding heart. You’re a heartless conservative.
I leave you with one of my all time favorite quotes from Craig T. Nelson, the actor from “Coach” fame. He personifies this idea of cognitive dissonance pretty well:
“I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.”
Have a stupendous, healthy, and rocking 2014 my friends.