My little sister is smart. Very smart. Often smarter than I would like to admit. We grew up in a family that talks about politics.
No, wait, that’s a lie. We grew up in a family that yells about politics, back and forth, with passion and rage and little regard for opinions other than those we consider correct.
Despite this, we have both managed to gain something at least resembling humility. This, as it turns out, is something you need in order to be able to listen to the other side. It also relates to where this entire article is going.
As my younger sister pointed out, a lot of stuff in politics is complicated. (Shocking, I know). However, beyond this, much of politics requires explanation and dumbing down for the vast majority to understand it.
Let’s take same-sex marriage as an example here. Fact one, all people are required to be treated as equal under the law. Fact two, government and religion are required to be separate, meaning that, while religion cannot influence government, neither can government really influence religion.
Sure, free speech and all that jazz, as long as you don’t start breaking the law.
Fact three, marriage results in different treatment under the law. Fact four, homosexuality is not recognized as a disease by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the prevailing authority on what is and is not abnormal in human psychology.
Now, how do I want to arrange these facts to interact with one another? Well, religion cannot influence government. All people have to be treated equal. People who identify as gay/queer/pick-the-label-you-choose must be treated equal under the law as well. Marriage is a legal contract that affects the way that the government treats you.
Therefore, everyone needs to be able to marry someone who is able to legally consent to the union. It is the logical thing to do.
So, what’s the problem with spelling it out like this, independent of emotion and such?
Well, you can end up with people on the left side who are angry because you used arguments that are narrow and overly simplified with regard to gender and sexuality.
You also end up with people on the right who are mad at you because, well, same-sex marriage.
(Note my generalizing about people on the political spectrum, too).
Beyond all this generalizing though, you will get people on the right angry at you as well because to argue at them in this way is to treat them like an idiot.
Never mind that most likely they wouldn’t have thought of the argument that way in the first place, and never mind that it makes sense; rage because you treated them like an idiot.
Take more complex things like the Internet and policing it, privacy and surveillance, student debt and minimum wage in the current job market. These types of issues are far more complex than “adults should be allowed to marry other consenting adults and do whatever they choose to do independent of what your religion says.”
I think what it really comes down to is that regardless of what you happen to be studying or doing with your life, you need to get used to feeling like an idiot. That way, someone can be allowed to explain parts of the world to you in terms of generalizations that we all can understand without anyone being offended.
Yes, the world is wonderful, wild, and complex, but if we were to all become political analysts or economists to the point where we understood our governments completely, inside and out, then we would also all starve.
Besides, what’s the point of a good political debate between friends without the beer?