One of the worst fallacies that I can imagine is: I’m going to make my life better by making yours worse. This is the mentality of the bully, who distinguishes himself or herself from the crowd through fear, intimidation, and ugliness, rather than through character traits that are worth following, like ability and intelligence. While I do believe that all people are equal in the eyes of God, I know that we are not all equal in ability here on Earth, and those among us who rise to positions of leadership and authority should do so through exemplary behavior and judgment— not with actions that lead either to hate for an Other or to the all-too-human fear of being singled-out as the next victim.
Probably the second worst fallacy that I can imagine is the idea that “family values” can be defined narrowly. In some circles, that term seems to mean that everyone’s lives look alike. To me, “family values” are simply the values that make a good family: unconditional love, mutual support, acceptance of one another’s flaws, and assistance when help is needed. My stepfather once told me, Family is the people you take care of, who also take care of you. Perhaps blood kin, perhaps not.
I bring up these two issues in my column this week, because they both affect the Southern electorate in significant ways. Most areas in the Deep South suffer from real deficiencies in crucial aspects of practical living – poverty, racial division, healthcare, and education – yet our political rhetoric instead reflects an intense concern with entrenching one, narrowly defined way of living and attacking any that differ from it. Hyper-focusing on same-sex marriage, political correctness, gun rights, and displays of Christian and Confederate symbols is not only divisive, none of those issues create jobs, feed the hungry, address injustice, heal the sick, or educate children.
In Alabama, where I live, about two-thirds of statewide ballots in 2018 were marked straight-ticket, which seems to me a result of the discrepancy between what we should be talking about and what we are talking about. When we go to vote, we don’t know enough about how individual candidates plan to address our actual problems, so our choices are reduced to either accepting or supporting stances on hot-button issues. We are left to choose simply between an R or a D. More Alabamians chose the Rs last week, so our next four years may well look at lot like the last eight.
As each election approaches, my hope always remains the same: that we talk about the real issues of public administration that affect us all. Voters are actually frustrated about that, not Rs versus Ds, not the “liberal agenda,” not Nancy Pelosi. True family values – that cooperation and kindness are better ways to treat people than exclusion and obstruction – don’t need a bill from the legislature or a statewide referendum to endorse them. What we need from our public officials, no matter their political party, gender, race, or sexual orientation is to address our practical problems, then propose and implement viable solutions. I hope that our newly re-elected batch does that. I know that some have been trying, but they all said that they are going to. During the campaign season, when I heard a candidate say, “I’m going to move Alabama forward,” all I could think is what my mother used to say when I was growing up: I’ll believe it when I see it.
“Dirty Boots: A Column of Critical Thinking, Border Crossing, and Noblesse Oblige” posts will be published regularly on Tuesday afternoons.
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