A condensed and not-entirely-fair version of something that’s driving me batty on the comment thread of this entry:
Me: The Bush adminstration’s argument that foreign nationals in airports have almost no rights is appalling.
Commentor #1: Well, that’s because you’re a left-leaning partisan.
Me: No, I would find the argument appalling if it were made by liberal government as well.
Commentor #1: You’re clearly parroting the verbiage of your undergraduate professors.
Me: I went to the University of Chicago, which is a conservative political powerhouse. I suspect they would be appalled too. But this isn’t about partisan politics.
Commentor #1: Aren’t we just exaggerating — for purely partisan purposes?
Me: Not really, and again, this isn’t about partisan politics, and I wish you’d stop saying it was.
Commentor #2: I’m not Commentor #1, and this is absolutely about partisan politics.
Me: [expletive deleted]
My question: Have people been so well-trained to think of everything in partisan terms that they simply can’t conceive of another model in which to think? Is the idea that someone else might be thinking of something in non-politically partisan terms is so foreign at this point that they literally can’t wrap their brains around it? What the hell is wrong with people? When did independent thinking become so goddamned difficult?
Mind you, some of this line of questioning is due to simple irritation: I get annoyed when I state something and people then repeatedly suggest that I don’t actually mean what I’ve just stated. Not to get all hoity-toity about it, but, you know what, I’ve been a professional writer for fifteen years, and I have a degree in the philosophy of language. I know how to use words. So there’s a pretty decent chance when I say something like, oh, that my contempt for the Bush administration has less to do with its conservative politics than with its authoritarian streak, which is largely independent of classically conservative thought, and that I would oppose the same authoritarian tendencies in a “liberal” government as well, that I actually mean exactly what I’ve just written, and that flouncing along to say “oh, well, you’re really just a partisan hack and you don’t really mean what you just wrote” might actually offend me. And saying it four or five times in sequence — after I’ve corrected you each time — might actually cause me to think you’re a friggin’ moron. So, yes, irritation is definitely a causative factor here.
However, it goes beyond that. Watching people apparently just not get that there’s a mode of political thought outside the banally partisan is appalling. It’s depressing to see people fly back to that mode of thinking, like a homing pigeon batted out of a holding cage, because they apparently can’t conceive that anyone could think otherwise; they simply don’t believe you when you suggest your mode of thinking plots out off the right-left political axis.
Is it a failure of the imagination or simply cynicism? I mean, I’m on record saying that I would rather be in the company of rational conservatives than irrational liberals; I’m on record hating everyone’s politics equally. For God’s sake, I’m even on record saying that I think George Bush is probably himself a nice enough guy, and I’ve been the first to note when I think he’s done something right. I have a fairly extensive track record of independent political thought; is it really that hard to believe it when I say my loathing of the Bush adminstration’s attempt to suggest foreigners in airports have no real rights is essentially independent of the GOP, the Democrats, Fox News and the New York Times, the National Review and the Nation, DailyKos and LittleGreenFootballs?
Can one not suggest one would like to stand up for the moral ideals one believes the nation should stand for (in this case, not nabbing foreigners out of airports and detaining them without food or due process, and then shipping them off to another country to be tortured) without such an idea being dismissed has partisan hackery? You know what I would say to a conservative who agreed that we shouldn’t be depriving foreigners of due process and shuttling them off to Syria to be tortured? Thank you. You know what I would say to a liberal who thought it was perfectly fine (because, after all, that foreigner’s not a citizen)? Piss off.
And you know what else? I know there are conservatives who think it’s wrong and I know there are liberals who think it’s perfectly okay. And you know why? Because it’s not a partisan issue. It’s a conceptual issue, of how the United States should be, and how it should present itself to the world. That concept cuts across party lines and political boundaries, and I’m proud to stand with anyone of any political creed who thinks on this subject as I do. We may disagree on the particulars of how the US should be run, but we agree on the idea of what the US should be. Rather sadly, it doesn’t seem to be the same idea the current adminstration has, but perhaps time and an election or two will fix that. One may hope.
In the meantime, if you want to accuse me of partisanship, make sure you understand what I am partisan about. As a hint, it’s not about the left or the right. I leave it to you to figure it out from there.