Republicans, Democrats, Both sider-ism, name calling, politics and you

Yesterday we were talking to our assistant in his office and we were asking him about a recent trip to Amsterdam to attend a dance music conference called ADE. He was talking about how House music, a Chicago-based phenomenon, is considered almost sacred by people all over the world, except America and especially not by Chicago.

Sure, we have an underground-ish level of fandom. My brother-in-law produces a Sunday night House music night called Queen, that’s well attended but Chicago, as a whole, doesn’t don T-shirts or Jerseys of love for House. It’s something that, despite a bit of popularity, is a bit esoteric.

When I was in college studying abroad, I was shocked that I was so unaware of American culture. I’ve written about it before. I remember telling people, we have no culture. In my mind, our culture was centered around sports and religion, but to me at the time: that was not culture. In France, they had food, wine, art, music, and things that seemed to mean something. 

If I picked up a guitar at a party, everyone would stop and listen. People LOVED art and the expression of it.

The contrast of cultures gave my brain the way to recognize what American culture really was: religion, sports, fatty foods, muscle cars, and politics.

And since I was a wannabe artist, the French culture was SOOOO much more appealing to me.

Yesterday’s conversation with our assistant made me think that our American culture right now is completely centered on the drama surrounding politics. It’s been two years since the 2016 elections, which felt like they were stretching for years … which they did. And once our current drama-queen president took office, he went right back to the campaign trail and started rallying almost immediately. Since 2014/2015, there has been almost NO break in daily/hourly/minute-ly politics.

His tweets and World Wide Wrestling mentality dominate the news feeds and TV. Which is what he wants, I imagine.

“Both sides” have turned into warring mobs of voices fighting to be heard with as evil a derogatory reference as possible. At least for me, I can’t get away from it. Liberal leaning assholes have all kinds of asshole names for Republicans: Rethuglicans, Rapepublicans, Nazis, Fascists, KKK-r-us. Or they write: “Trumpanzies” or deplorables, Reich-winger, or tea baggers …. or rednecks.

Then the conservatives on their sites have tons of names for Democrats: Libtards, DemocRats, trolls, snowflakes … just hit a few posts at Breitbart and it’ll blow your mind how many derogatory names there are for liberals.

I’ve never been in the same room with a conservative and they called me a Libtard, nor I called them a deplorable or reich-winger.

But I fear, more and more, that even the people I felt safe around, accepted by, and loved by, are starting to lose their footing for keeping the peace. We recently celebrated a family anniversary at my Aunt and Uncle’s house and I lost my temper because a conversation started over the Kavanaugh hearings in which there were opposing voices. And no matter how many times I said, “Let’s change the conversation.” Others at the celebration insisted to “talk” about their “side.”

There are no “sides.” There are people up in arms and all they are armed with are ridiculous talking points that everyone is hearing over and over and over and over in our politics-centered culture. We’re not fighting for peace and love and prosperity. Our values of acceptance and civility are completely gone. Our culture has become: pit family against family members. Drive a wedge so deep, and make issues of complete insanity, mean more than friendship, fidelity and love.

You have videos like these, that I agree with to a point:

But these kinds of videos are weak. They are one-sided. They confirm bias. Despite that the personality in the video admits that, it won’t do a damn thing.

I read other day that “Older people are worse than young people at telling fact from fiction.” And it wasn’t in the Onion.

I am not alone, but I think the American populace as a communal spirit needs to eschew the media all together. In the very least, we need to do a better job managing our media consumption and our “both-siderism”. All the websites that they are addicted to, not just the facebooks and the twitter feeds. People at right-wing or left-wing sites are satiating their addictions for tribalism.

As much as I want to be in the Photographer’s tribe, the tribe to hate on conservatives is much more attractive. We all need a goddamn rehab from the endless flow of opioid-like-laden news feeds and the ability to respond and bond with like-mindedness that is further pushing us all apart.

Over the weekend, my dad, for the first time in what seems like years, called me. Called me directly. He wanted to tell me about an article he read that he thought I might like to read and share with Tina.

He’s called me, sure, in the past few years. But our relationship is strained. Not just because of politics, but it’s a huge part of it. I believe he thinks he’s innocent and has done nothing wrong. I believe he thinks it’ll take care of itself and it’ll just go away, without work or effort.

He hasn’t called because he wanted to open a conversation or lay a bridge of friendship. But this call felt like a positive effort. Like an olive branch. This call, this gesture might, just might, be a saving grace for our relationship. Or at least a stepping stone.

Yes, there’s a stubbornness on my end to help make amends. I can stand behind that. I’m confused. I don’t have a playbook for how to manage relationship expectations with someone who, at least in my mind, has pushed me so far away that I honestly can’t flounder my way back into how to make amends.

But the wall that Trump wants to build between the US and Mexico, he’s already managed to erect between people like me and people like my dad. And you thought your tax dollars weren’t working for you!

I’m not alone. It’s happening everywhere.

American culture has erected a “both sider-ism” that is so oppositional, so tribal and so evil, that chances are, you too are experiencing the wall that has been built between families, friends, loved-ones, and neighbors.

If you view my views as hateful. And I view yours as hateful. We are not at a standoff. We’re at a goddamn shootout. We’re at war.

Has American culture really become a place where the war rages, mainly in our minds, against each other?

The holiday season is upon us. I’ve been debating not visiting family this year since last December 25th. In fact, I’ve been debating not visiting my family for the holidays since December 25, 1999. Maybe even before that.

And every year, I think, nope, this year will be different. This year will be better. This year I’ll magically learn how to not get angry. Or let my anger motivate disconnect.

But I lose. I lose against whatever it is that influences me not to agree with “the other side’s” culture of politics.

What if … what if we revolved around art, not politics. Nobody’s going to divorce their family over whether they did or didn’t like House music, or a painting, or a sculpture. They might disagree over God, the divinity of Jesus, the idolatry of a president, though.

Oh why oh why aren’t we all centering our focus on the things that we all won’t use as a reason to push our loved ones out the door?


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