“People are wonderful. I love individuals. I hate groups of people. I hate a group of people with a ‘common purpose’.”
– George Carlin
Donald Trump. The two ugliest words in the human language. It’s no secret that the two things that get people riled up the most are politics and religion. Well, this last American election cycle has succeeded in dividing not only our neighbours in the U.S., but right here in Canada, as well as the rest of the world. People throughout the political spectrum have been at each other’s throats and it won’t stop any time soon now that Trump has the keys to the kingdom.
A couple weeks ago I was watching a political discussion on CBC Newsworld and one of the guests said something that gave me a glimmer of hope. The man, whose name I can’t recall for the life of me, said that there are five things that divide us: politics, religion, race, class, and sex/gender. That’s it. But we have over 500(!) things that we have in common. The average person just wants to go to work, pay their bills, have good health, enjoy good food, you name it. If we remove the labels associated with politics, religion, race, class, and sex/gender then the vast majority of people would get along, or at least smile and nod and keep walking.
Unfortunately, these five things seem to be all that people focus on nowadays. The world has become a case of Us vs Them throughout all walks of life. With the rise of social media, ‘The Left vs. The Right’ has always been a case of lowest-common-denominator in the comments sections, where lame terms like CONservatives, LIEberals, and the always classy libtards get tossed around. However, things have escalated these last couple of years. There has been a scary trend of xenophobia, racism, and white nationalism brewing in North America and Europe. Thankfully in Canada we elected a Liberal government that campaigned on compassion and inclusiveness and we didn’t fall for fear mongering tactics presented by the Conservatives, but our American neighbours were hellbent on fucking shit up that they went with the only candidate remaining who was considered an outsider to the system. People wanted to feel the Bern, instead they get to see the world burn.
Now, with someone as divisive as Trump in the White House, you would think that ‘the Left’ would do everything in their power to unite against a common enemy. You’d think. Instead, a gradual splintering of ‘the Left’ has only intensified. With the Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and Million Woman March protests this past year, it’s clear that the marginalized sections of our society are pissed off, and rightfully so. With Trump in power, if you’re not a white, rich, straight guy in the U.S., you’re fucked. The shitty thing is that as a white, straight, male liberal, I run the risk of being labelled a misogynist while showing support for women’s rights. White female liberals run the risk of being called racist for showing support for Black Lives Matter. If we show support and solidarity for those who aren’t our race, sex, or gender, we get told by some liberals to keep our mouths shut. The message sent is that if we observe some shitty things in the world we’re not supposed to comment on it unless we’ve experienced it ourselves. But turning a blind eye doesn’t help the situation. So instead, we bicker at each other.
Everyone seems so angry and bitter, so what are we left with? Now it’s no longer just ‘the Left’ vs ‘the Right’ or conservatives vs liberals. It’s liberals vs liberals, conservatives vs conservatives, Black Lives Matter vs LGBTQ, women vs women, working class vs elites, blue collar workers vs hipsters, Generation X vs Millennials, Catholics vs Muslims, Catholics vs Atheists, etc etc etc. It’s maddening. And every time I turn on Facebook these days I get sickened by the racist, xenophobic comments of those on ‘the Right,’ and get fed up with those on ‘the Left’ who tell people who are on their side to shut up while they are on their soap box.
So when it comes to politics, I’m done. At least for now. I’ve realized that being politically engaged is bad for my mental health. I can get annoyed with people every now and then but when I dive into politics I get angry with some people. And for what? George Carlin was a hero of mine and he had no political attachments. He was skeptical and critical of every political party. Instead of engaging in the political process he sat back, grabbed the popcorn, and watched the shitshow.
The above Carlin quote became evident today when Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley, and Brad Wall were all on the same page in going forward with the Keystone XL pipeline. Any supposed concerns for the environment by the left leaning Liberal and NDP governments fell by the wayside because Big Oil has all these politicians bought and paid for. So all this bickering with our friends, family, and internet strangers over politics just isn’t worth it. I’m going to just grab the popcorn and watch the world burn.
Not stressing about the things I can’t control is one tool I’ve tried to implement in my battle with depression and it’s been extremely helpful, but it’s easier said than done. With politics it’s obvious I can’t control what our elected officials do so I am going to try my best to disengage and say fuck it. I will try to focus less on labels like ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.’ Instead, I will attempt to see people more as individuals who are separate from their self-imposed tribe because people have waaaaaay more in common than differences.
“Every person you look at, you can see the universe in their eyes, if you’re really looking.”
– George Carlin