If we're not careful, arrogance and cockiness (undesired human traits by most standards) may be the unintended results of knowing we’re right. There’s a big difference between self-confidence, which speaks volumes when one knows they are on the right track, and the gross overbearing displays of in-your-face egotism.
I’m a big fan of liberal comedians who poke fun of the new radical right-wing. I agree with almost everything they say and when listening to their rants I’m saying to myself, yes, that’s true! But another part of me is cringing, while thinking, you know, this kind of bravado could be turning people off. I know it’s fun to show the obvious in absurd terms like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Andy Borowitz, Lewis Black and Bill Maher, do. They make us laugh and show us just how preposterous it is to blame things like hurricanes and tornadoes on “the gays”. Through brilliant writing they cleverly show us how ridiculous it is to blame the current state of the economy on President Obama, considering the reality of what he inherited and who he inherited the problems from. Not to mention how the new Congress has used the filibuster to keep jobs bills from being implemented which would put tens of thousands of people back to work and would begin the upgrade to our decaying infrastructure. Republicans are more interested in simply making the president look as bad as possible to voters, hoping to make him a one term president, as Mitch McConnell so honestly proclaimed in 2010:
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. " -Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, quoted in National Journal, November 4, 2010
Even though I tend to agree with them, the danger I see emerging is in the arrogance and overconfidence being displayed by those who think they are right. It's taking the grace and wisdom out of the truth, and turning it into a sideshow circus; and I’m afraid it may end up backfiring come election time. Take for instance the Obama campaign ad with Mitt Romney singing America the beautiful. The inserts over the video explain how while at Bain Capital, Romney helped to ship jobs over seas. The minute I saw that ad, I knew it was a loser. Sure, Mitt Romney doesn’t have a very good singing voice, and perhaps his record as a job creator may not be the best. But people who have yet to decide who they will vote for come November, especially the older and seriously patriotic folks, may see that ad as an unfair attack on Romney's singing voice, and a cheap comedic jab at someone just to gain political points. And I predict they don’t like that.
When Republicans say stupid things while being serious, like Michelle Bachmann and the gang of four on a witch hunt for Islamic extremists who they believe have infiltrated our government, those accusations echo back to the McCarthy days and the communist witch hunts that ruined many lives. When they single out specific people like an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abadin, accusing her of close family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and demanding an immediate investigation, it’s nice to know that rational Republicans like Senator John McCain can be the voice of reason. On the house floor he condemned the witch hunt and in part had this to say:
“These allegations about Huma and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.
The letter alleges that three members of Huma’s family are “connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.” Never mind that one of those individuals, Huma’s father, passed away two decades ago. The letter and the report offer not one instance of an action, a decision or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government.
These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now.”
It’s hard not to poke fun at such baseless claims and become a little self-righteous over being the rational party grounded in facts and not conspiracy theories. But this is where I began noticing my own distaste for the kind of cockiness that many liberals pride themselves on. It’s kind of like bullying the handicapped because you know you can walk but they can’t, or you have higher level thinking skills while they don’t. Sometimes it’s just not funny.
It took awhile to come to this conclusion. It was after hearing conservatives call liberals mean-spirited – of course over my refutation at first – that I began to look at the situation to see if maybe there was some truth to it. Up until then mean-spirited to me meant organizing political armies like The National Organization for Marriage, to vote away the constitutional rights of gay couples to marry the person they love. It was the uptick in gun and ammunition sales and hate groups after Barack Obama, the first African American man, was elected president of the United States. Mean-spirited to me was how Rick Scott, the new Governor of Wisconsin swiftly stripped Unions of their rights to collective bargain for better pay, better insurance and better benefits for their workers. Mean-spirited was a plan to turn Medicare for seniors into a voucher program where retired citizens in our country would now have to buy their health insurance on the private market and hope that some insurance company would be willing to cover them without robbing them of their entire life savings.
I began looking at it from the Republican’s point of view, and quickly realized liberal comedians have helped conservatives reach their conclusions, albeit faulty ones. They see their values being attacked for a laugh. They don’t realize that the intent is to use comedy as a tool to pry open the eyes and minds of those so steeped in ideology that they don’t recognize the absurd for what it is – the absurd. They don’t realize that what’s being said in a comical way is actually the truth, and the shadow of that truth is the reality that liberals are doing their damndest to shine a light on what will happen if the income inequality continues on its current path, which it will if Romney takes the White House in 2013, and if the advancement in our health care system with the Affordable Care Act is overturned. They believe ObamaCare is all about death panels, while never realizing for a second that our current health care system kills nearly 50,000 people each year who can’t afford insurance.
It doesn’t take long to search out and find Democrats putting their holier-than-thou hat on (in intellectual terms that is.) I scrolled for 20 seconds on my Facebook page to find this quote from Andy Borowitz, (who I love and actually paid to see in L.A.)
"Dick Cheney says Sarah Palin was not ready to be VP, according to We Know That Already Dumbass magazine."
The quote made me laugh and cringe at the same time. It’s obviously true, especially if you’ve seen the true account as told by Palin's handlers in the movie "Game Change." But do comments like that make the politically undecided like the progressive party more, or, like I said earlier, does it make us look like bullies?
It took only a few more seconds to find a picture of Romney in a Helicopter with the caption "Scumbag Republican" and then in fine print “Worth $750 million – pays 13% in taxes. Wants to cut taxes for the rich and raise taxes on the elderly.” Now the fine print was fine – it is, after all, true. But did they need to call him a scumbag?
I think it’s time we Democrats-Progressives-Liberals, whatever you want to call us, have a discussion about our pompous attitudes. I know comedians need to make a living and they do their best work as political pundits. But if we want to fight this very real threat to our democracy, which arrives through the efforts of people who don’t care about the poor or middle class as long as the rich can keep their tax breaks, then we must find a way to have this debate without being offensive, because if the people we are trying to influence are offended by what we are saying, they certainly won't be convinced of the valid points we are trying desperately to make.
Of course it’s true that many on the conservative side have done far worse, like sending out pictures of President Obama and his wife Michele as some kind of African witch doctors with bones through their noses (and even worse, but not worth mentioning.) Or people displaying signs and posters at conservative rallies showing Obama’s neck through a noose or painted with a Hitler mustache, or his face on targets at shooting ranges. But Progressives are supposed to be the intelligent party, the party with brains and savvy. We are the party that sees the beauty around us from the tiniest spec under the microscope to the new galaxies that have been discovered just in the last decade in our miraculous universe. We recognize the negative affects man is having on the climate and are the only party willing to invest in doing something about it before it’s too late. We are the party who believes that every citizen, including the GLBT population, should be granted equality under the law for fair pay, fair hiring practices, and a legal marriage license if they so choose, and we are the party that stopped discrimination in the military by helping convince President Obama that DODT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) had to go. And we are now striving to have DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) overturned so survivors like the life long partner of NASA hero, Sally Ride, can get survivorship benefits just like a heterosexual couple who has been married for two hours can, if one of them dies. We are the party that wants to keep and improve social programs to help the less fortunate in times of need, and don’t consider every such program a crutch which weakens our nation.
We are the party who often quotes the loving words of Jesus Christ asking us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and do unto others as we would have done unto us. And yet sometimes in our arrogance and pride, we fail to walk our own talk. For my part in this hypocrisy, I’m sorry. And although I will probably still watch (and laugh) at the political jokes by liberal comedians, I will do my best to not engage myself in being a bully simply because I know I’m right.