Like many Americans, I’m having politics fatigue. Or, to be more specific, arguing-about-politics fatigue.
I haven’t run out of salient points or evidence for my political perspective, but there is a particular stumbling block I keep running into when trying to reach across the proverbial aisle and have those “difficult conversations” so smugly suggested by think piece after think piece:
I don’t know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people.
Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am. I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.
If I have to pay a little more with each paycheck to ensure my fellow Americans can access health care? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP. Poverty should not be a death sentence in the richest country in the world. If you’re okay with thousands of people dying of treatable diseases just so the wealthiest among us can hoard still more wealth, there is a divide between our world views that can never be bridged. I don’t know how to convince someone how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy. I cannot have one more conversation with someone who is content to see millions of people suffer needlessly in exchange for a tax cut that statistically they’ll never see (do you make anywhere close to the median American salary? Less? Congrats, this tax break is not for you).
I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters. There are all kinds of practical, self-serving reasons to raise the minimum wage (fairly compensated workers typically do better work), fund public schools (everyone’s safer when the general public can read and use critical thinking), and make sure every American can access health care (outbreaks of preventable diseases being generally undesirable). But if making sure your fellow citizens can afford to eat, get an education, and go to the doctor isn’t enough of a reason to fund those things, I have nothing left to say to you.
I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings. The fact that such detached cruelty is so normalized in a certain party’s political discourse is at once infuriating and terrifying. The “I’ve got mine, so screw you,” attitude has been oozing from the American right wing for decades, but this gleeful exuberance in pushing legislation that will immediately hurt the most vulnerable among us is chilling.
Perhaps it was always like this. I’m (relatively) young, so maybe I’m just waking up to this unimaginable callousness. Maybe the emergence of social media has just made this heinous tendency more visible; seeing hundreds of accounts spring to the defense of policies that will almost certainly make their lives more difficult is incredible to behold. I don’t know what’s changed ― or indeed, if anything has ― and I don’t have any easy answers. But I do know I’m done trying to convince these hordes of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.
Futility can’t be good for my blood pressure, and the way things are going, I won’t have health insurance for long.