Entry 10: When American politics became dueling religions.

I was just watching a PBS Nature doc about this man who raised wild turkeys and lived with them in the woods, away from human society, for a year. With gorgeous recreated footage, we saw these turkeys bond with him, treating him first as their parent, then as their brother. Contrary to the popular belief that turkeys are stupid creatures, these wild birds he said and saw were smart and affectionate, with a curiosity about the world that made them unafraid to make friends with other creatures like humans and deers. I thought: during all the shit that has gone down this year and week, we could learn from these animals how to get along.

Advertisement

Especially with a habit or custom that is particular to humans. Turkeys will fight each other for dominance and mating, but they're not going to argue about tax cuts and whether young black men are thugs. Actually, who knows what they argue about: we can't get into their heads. But humans being tribal now argue and fight and don't get along with each other on political opinions, and that's a damn shame in addition to being pretty fucking stupid.

It's because in the America we live in—declining social mobility for Americans, massive government dysfunction, and the segregation of "liberal" and "Conservative" culture in where people live and how they think—partisanship, always there, has taken on the full force of religious faith. It has taken on its power and being an identity marker, an entrenched characteristic of the individual. Politics and government aren't something to be looked at by philosopher-kings, in the dispassioned gaze of reason and intellect, but a religious denomination that cannot be argued against, cannot be reasoned. Minds are closed. You bring up facts, you get more disbelief.

This is hurting the country. It's pitting good people against each other. It's causing a cessation of kindness, compassion, empathy. People are not looking at each other as whole people but as like-minded or repugnant political opinions. They're taking a few thoughts of the millions that make up a person, and casting a shadow over the whole, so the complicated person with a big heart and amiable personality is reduced to the enemy just because he doesn't share my view that Barack Obama is destroying the country. I'm sure anthropologists have written books on when political discourse in this country turned to religious dogma. Maybe we're going through the secular version of the Middle Ages religious wars, because we're a young country and we need these experiences in order to grow into a better, more modern country European states already are.

Advertisement

A good, easy-to-find example of politics as religious blloodsport today, and everyday as long as we're online, is the Washington Post. I was reading the troubling story of the very unorthodox and hinky actions the Ferguson PD took after Brown's death. And then I looked at the comments, which when reading WaPo, is always a bad idea. Conservatives calling Liberals retarded, and so forth. Now family and friends are inured against being this uncivil, because they're not commenting online to another stranger, but enough with the damn partisanship. And treating the empirical world as malleable and only important in how you see it.

So on this Thanksgiving, a Fuck You to politics that has become religion. Let's try to be more like wild turkeys (at least until they age and fight for dominance) and other animals that get along with each other.