re-repost: gray matters

I+used+your+repost+to+blame+you+reposting+_cb682e7f3b001ba9bfcaf7c1755cd371I have a personal policy that I only post things two times max on this blog. Because I’ve been blogging for almost ten years, I occasionally (and unapologetically!) re-post older stuff becase a) I have no illusions that anyone is going to sit and spend hours re-reading my archives and b) sometimes it’s one of those weeks with crazy travel and two big deadlines and someone washing an entire pack of gel pens in the white load of laundry.

But I’ve never posted something more than twice–until today, until after I stumbled across a remark on the “Christian Churches and Churches of Christ” Facebook group that someone with a sense of humor added me to, a remark from a guy saying he just doesn’t understand how any Christian could ever vote for a Democratic candidate ever because the Democratic platform is so opposed to God and the Republican party is so much more in line with God, and then others chimed in with the usual pablum about how we are a Christian nation and need to get back to our roots (note: please read One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America) and then others wrote about how anyone who votes for a Democrat will be judged by God and others about how they vote based only on the pro-life issue and then others about how they vote “according to scripture,” whatever that means, and on and on until it was either stop reading or repaint my office because I was going to throw a pot of coffee at the wall.

Or re-post this, on the very slim chance that any of them would read it or even consider it before resuming their shouting points. So here goes nothing. If I thought anyone might actually think critically I would rustle up some new examples of how leaders of both parties have made hobbies of the immoral and illegal. For instance, I’m currently reading “No Place to Hide” by Glenn Greenwald (hint: probably next week’s blog topic), who is not exactly Glenn Beck in his politics but who still writes scathingly about the Obama administration’s unprecedented prosecution of whistle-blowers and its lies to Congress about NSA spying. Meanwhile Dubya dealt with the same issue years earlier by personally summoning the publisher and the editor-in-chief of The New York Times to his office to stop their reporting on these topics.

People. Stop thinking in lazy soundbites and ignoring the information you don’t like. Stop putting your hope in politics in the first place. AND STOP MAKING ME WANT TO THROW COFFEE.

I’m still catching up from my trip, so last week I finally read the Time magazine from May 9 with a cover story about the FBI’s progress (or lack of) in the last ten years. In addition to an overview of director Mueller’s operating style, the agency’s old-school culture, and the ways its agents are learning to work together, the article describes Mueller’s almost-resignation in 2004.

“At issue was a highly classified surveillance program, called Stellar Wind, that President Bush approved after 9/11. For the first time since Congress forbade the practice in 1978, the National Security Agency was spying on domestic communications traffic without a warrant. In the second week of March 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Justice Department ruled that Stellar Wind was illegal. The next day, Ashcroft fell gravely ill with acute pancreatitis. Bush sent two top aides to George Washington University Hospital, where the Attorney General lay in critical condition. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card Jr. asked the semiconscious Ashcroft to sign a document reversing the Justice Department’s ruling. Mueller arrived at the hospital just after Card and Gonzales retreated in defeat. His notes described Ashcroft as ‘feeble, barely articulate.'”

Bush then reauthorized Stellar Wind despite the Justice Department’s decision, and Mueller tells the president he will quit before carrying out this order. “Bush pulled back from the brink,” the story ends, “submitting to the Justice Department’s legal ruling.”

This anecdote wasn’t the point of the article; it was included as a comment on Mueller’s character, not the former president’s lack of it. But it left me wondering: why do we ignore the bad things our favorite political party does and trumpet the errors of the other party?

Many of my Facebook friends lean Republican, so I routinely see rants against Obama. Even this weekend there were angry comments because he golfed on Memorial Day after visiting Arlington, as if everyone else in the country spent the entire day leaving flowers on graves instead of grilling hamburgers and watching people in Indianapolis drive too fast.

I see unquestioning approval of Dubya. I see adoration of Palin and her book. Never, ever have any of my conservative friends ever commented on anything positive or helpful Obama has done.

I’m not the president’s PR committee, but I think it’s telling. If Obama’s administration tried to illegally spy on American citizens, trick a sick public official into reversing a ruling on the constitutionality of it and then ignore his decision, that’s all I’d read on Facebook for a week (and rightly so). Strangely, none of my friends have linked to the May 9 issue of Time.

Both presidents have major faults. They’ve both made decisions to disagree with. What I don’t understand is why we can’t be honest about that.

Bush banned partial-birth abortion, signed legislation to protect our forests and lakes, and changed the Medicare program to benefit seniors. He also lied about weapons of mass destruction, mishandled Hurricane Katrina and doubled the national debt. Obama has continued raising the deficit, he gambled considerable political capital and time on the health care reform issue, and he’s undercut Israel’s position with Palestine more than once. He also got us out of Iraq, expanded laws against hate crimes, and made a gutsy call that led to bin Laden’s capture.

Black and white positions are always more comfortable because they are both easy to understand and efficient to argue. (“The Bible says it, I believe it, and that’s that.”) Trouble is, the black and white perspective is almost always incomplete. Few issues are clear-cut. Few arguments can be blamed on just one participant. And few politicians are all bad or all good.

I’m sorry to my fundamentalist friends, religious, political or otherwise. I’m sorry to everyone who scores an off-the-chart “J” on the Myers Briggs. I’m sorry to those impatient with nuance. I’m sorry to both the reds and the blues who don’t want to think. But it is intellectually dishonest and just plain lazy to vilify one party and venerate the other.

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