Thursday, August 30, 2012

The World, Politics, and Me

Dear People of Politics, USA:

Democrats: Most of you are perfectly well aware that when Mitt Romney said 'Corporations are people', he did not mean 'a corporation is a kind of human being'.

Republicans: Most of you are perfectly well aware that when Barack Obama said 'You didn't build that', he did not mean 'Americans are incapable of doing anything constructive without Big Brother's help'.

Oh, you'll claim that you're sure he really meant it that way. Maybe you won't recant even under the threat of thumbscrews and waterboarding. You're too emotionally invested in making fun of The Other Side to admit that you're deliberately misunderstanding Big Ol' Stupidhead here. But you are. Deep down, you know you are.

That's because there is no way reality could admit the existence of the person you're making Big Ol' Stupidhead out to be. Even a plutocrat who wears a top hat and a monocle and uses employees as footstools knows that a corporation is not a kind of person. Even a tyrant who wants all people to work for the federal government knows that people can build things. These are not things that, deep down, people who have a functioning theory of mind believe Romney or Obama meant.

I do not say this lightly. It grates on me when some opinion-mongering person assumes they know what other people are thinking, like they never got the 'other people have their own minds' memo back in early childhood cognitive development. I'm well aware I'm treading perilously close to that ground. That's why I said 'most of you' rather than 'every last one of you'.

OK, now I'm a nerd at a sporting event pointing out that the taunts fans shout at the other side aren't literally true. Why did I bring this up?

I've got a very pragmatic view of politics. I don't gasp with horror when I see a politician say something that I'm pretty sure he knows perfectly well is untrue. I don't even become perplexed when I see a crowd applaud a statement that I suspect most of them don't really and truly believe.

But I am very naive in one way. I'm a little too attached to the actual world. If well-known politician Dumbpants McGee, who I don't like, gives an impromptu talk without a teleprompter and says something that can be hilariously misunderstood, I'll laugh along with everyone else. But every time Dumbpants McGee's stupid comment is repeated afterwards, I'm going to think, 'You do realize that wasn't really what he meant, right?' I might not say it out loud, but I'll think it.

Please, people of politics, be more understanding and tolerant of people like me. If we say, 'But Senator Dumbpants didn't mean to say that; it's clear if you look at the full context', maybe we're not secret supporters of Dumbpants McGee. Maybe, in fact, we hate him as much as you do. Maybe we're just clinging a little too tightly to the actual world.

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