Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Poison of "Us Versus Them"

Well, the elections are over in Spain and not much really changed. What everyone thought would happen did happen. Some people are very happy - they think they “won”. Others were disappointed in their team’s performance. In the end, power is still shared pretty much evenly between the two “enemies” - one team with an edge.

A lot of people got real pissed off in the process - over the issues I guess. Sometimes I feel that people work themselves up in a frenzy over a whole lot of nothing. The PSOE people think that Rajoy and the PP are goose-stepping Nazis. The PP people think the PSOE are a bunch of free-love spouting Commies. But are they really?

To me both parties (and the people who support them) are acting in good faith – the other guy is not your evil enemy. They both genuinely feel that they are doing what is best for the people and for Spain. You just don't agree with that other guy and feel he is misguided.

I don’t understand when people get so blinded by ideological labels that in their mind the other side is just evil and cannot be listened to or even tolerated. Some are not even able to be friends with a person with differing political views (in the U.S. too) – how silly! Are people so insecure? I guess so …

I also get real irritated with those who see every issue from one political point of view. They seem to have a litmus test with a script that tells them what to think. How can ALL the issues be so black and white? Surely most of us agree, and disagree, with a little bit from both the so-called “Left” and “Right” political columns if we really think about it.

And what are the main issues that divide everyone? Where is the line in the sand that people are willing to fight over? If I were explaining it to a five year old I think I would say the following:

Conservative or “Traditional” (PP):

  • They like families with a Mom and a Dad. They want things to stay like they have always been. Just don’t mess with stuff, please! They like God and religion because it is comfortable and they think it is best for society.
  • They are scared of weird people and change.
  • They want to keep more of their tax money and spend it where they want to and not lose control because they think government will just waste it because it is not the government's money.
  • They want government to just do the basics and leave the rest to the individual.
  • They don’t want to give a bunch of money to “help” others. They think people should help themselves. They think that giving money away does not really help anybody, it just enables others to continue to make bad decisions.
  • They like business and making money and think the government should stay out of it. They think that is best for the economy.

Liberal or “Progressive” (PSOE):

  • They like families with a Mom and a Dad but they also like “different” families. They think "different" families don't hurt anyone.
  • They are not too crazy about God since it seems to them that God always says to not have fun and that God does not like them if they are not the “normal” people.
  • They think Government should, and can, take care of a lot of stuff for you. What else is it there for? They think government can help people and that it is basically good.
  • They don’t mind giving money to help others. They think their tax money can really do good if used properly.
  • They do not trust businesses because they think that businesses will screw you royally just for the money.
  • They seem to be more in touch with their feelings and they care for animals, trees, and the atmosphere.

Now come on! There is a little bit of both sides in you right? There is some sense in each column. Forget the labels “Conservative” and “Liberal”, or “PP” and “PSOE” or “Democrat” and “Republican”. These people are not to be hated for their views, are they? They are your parents, your children, your neighbors. They are basically good. And the only way you're going to get them on your side, is to understand - just a little bit - their side.

In the U.S., we take politics seriously too. Both the Republicans and the Democrats think they know what is best for the country. Sometimes Democrats are in control of the country and sometimes Republicans are in control. It can get nasty - but we usually understand "It's just politics".

However it seems the whole “Us Versus Them” attitude is particularly dangerous in Spain. Parents and Grandparents of a lot of these same guys were killing each other over this stuff not too long ago. It’s time to realize it's just politics.


Anonymous said...

Se te ha olvidado decir que para los socialistas los yanquis, no los yonquis, y los israelies son el demonio. :)

Carl said...

Well, I didn't want to mention those two because I was trying to keep the lists as neutral as possible. I'll go back to needling the Spanish and my Left-leaning friends about that later.