Friday, October 16, 2009

Hating

Today is National Bosses' Day. That sounds like a great idea. Bosses make more than anyone else in the office, and spend all day telling people what to do. They need a special day for themselves. I'm not that crazy about Secretaries' Day, but at least it makes sense: secretaries do the menial work in an office every other day of the year, so having one day in which they get special treatment seems appropriate. I'm fortunate that my boss is very nice. I've heard that your relationship with your boss is the most important factor in job satisfaction, and I've been lucky that all but two of my bosses have been very easy to get along with. The other two weren't bad; they just weren't as good.

About hating: Liberals love the subject of hating. They accuse their opponents of it all the time. One of their biggest insults is to call someone a "hater." Of course, they are immune from hating -- or rather, anytime they hate it is justifiable, because they only hate bad people. Thus, Keith Olbermann can rail about Michelle Malkin's "fascistic hatred," and yet in the same breath call her "a big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick." Very classy.

At Obama's town hall in New Orleans yesterday, a fourth-grader asked the final question: "Why do people hate you? They're supposed to love you. And God is love." Excellent point, young man. I'm sure you and the adult who put you up to that question love Obama, just as you loved George Bush when he was president. But what about other people?

I don't hate Obama. I don't like to hate anyone, because my religion tells me it is wrong. If I hate someone, it is a sign that my frustrations have gotten the best of me, and I prefer to be in control of my emotions.

Obama strikes me as someone who would be hard to hate in person. I heard a radio clip of him calling Kanye West a jackass for interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the Grammys, and I couldn't help liking him. It wasn't just what he said, but that deep voice of his, and the total sincerity with which he said it.

I don't really think politics is the place for putting personal emotions -- good or bad -- ahead of ideas. I wrote in a previous post about how David Brooks seems to have let Obama's personal features outweigh rational considerations. I'd like to be led by a charismatic person with whom I agree, but I'd rather be led by a jackass with whom I agree than a charismatic person with whom I disagree. Charisma is useful in a leader, even if I don't personally like him (because it makes him more effective), but it's more important to be led in the right direction.

I get frustrated with people like Olbermann (and there are many others like him) who talk out of both sides of their mouths, accusing their opponents of hating while at the same time spreading hatred. I'm frustrated, but I don't want to respond by hating them back. I try to look on them with pity instead. This is often justified in one sense, because people with that much anger in them are usually not very happy anyway. Whether justified or not, I think it's the best approach. Anger leads to more anger and ever-escalating distrust and contempt for one's political opponents. I don't know if the present state of discourse in America is any worse than it has been in the past (I doubt it), but it seems like it would be better if we could have our debates without the anger. It also seems like a good political strategy, because responding civilly to the other side's uncivil attacks might swing moderate voters.

I know that this line of argument can't be carried too far, however. Arguably there are some people whom one should work up a righteous anger about, people who threaten the existence of our democratic system. I would not include any politicians in that category; I'm thinking more of the terrorists who want to destroy us. And while being civil might garner swing voters, it might just sacrifice the enthusiasm of anger for no apparent gain, allowing one's opponents to win.

I'd like to think that's not the case, at least not if it's done right. And I'm just tired of all the extremist rhetoric that I hear, mostly from the left, although also, of course, from the right. So I will stake my position on civility; and, although I'm sure I will fail at my goal many times, I hope I will stick close to it, and do my tiny part to help bring political discourse out of the gutter.

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