More and more I find that people who discuss politics on facebook and twitter will defend the things that one person does by pointing out something similar done by another politician of different views. Then they’ll call the people of the other political party hypocrites for holding opposing politicians to different standards.
There is a certain amount of validity to that, but I think that it is important to start with a conversation about who we oppose and why.
Case in point: I despise Donald Trump. Completely, and utterly despise the man. I hope that he is impeached as soon as possible, and that, fingers crossed, his entire administration goes down with him.
I also believe that there is reason to do so. But my reason for wanting him gone and my belief that there is sufficient legal reason to do so are two very different conversations.
I want Donald Trump gone because most of the things that he wants to do, most of the ideas that he supports, most of the bills that he pushes for, seem to me to be terrible ideas that will hurt a lot of people. I believe that he is a narcissist whose only interest is his own personal well-being.
What I am trying to say, is that I would want the man out of office even if I believed that he had never broken a law. Frankly, even if I didn’t think that he was a narcissist, I would want him out of office just because the things that he wants to do will be disastrous for the nation.
The fact that I want him out of office, the fact that I want to fight everything that he’s trying to accomplish, leads me to look for mistakes that he’s made, or times when he oversteps the bounds of his office. If I believed that his goals were noble, reasonable, and right, then I would be much less concerned with finding anything that could be used to fight him.
The interesting thing is that our political system is not designed to be ‘moral’ or ‘right.’ It can’t be. Morality cannot be built into a system. It is designed to be difficult. We have three branches of government, each of which is capable of grinding its feet in and making life incredibly unpleasant for the other two. Why? Is that in some way ‘morally superior” to other methods? No. It’s just harder. But I think that’s the point. I think we have a system that is designed so that if somebody is trying to make things worse, it only take a couple of people realizing what’s going on to keep them from doing it. If someone is trying to make things better, the same thing happens, but I guess the theory is that, at a certain point, ‘better’ should be obvious. It’s only when we are absurdly confident of our next move, or when we have people who are willing to fight tooth and nail for ages at a time, that we change.
On the one hand, it does slow things down a bit, but to be fair, we’ve spent centuries with modes of government that allowed for quick, capricious shifts, and, frankly, those rarely worked out well.
Anyways, my point is, whenever you get into an argument and start thinking about calling the other person/group a hypocrite, take a moment and consider whether they are doing any differently than you would do in their position, or than you have. AFter all, you might be hypocrite about hypocrisy, and that’s not just hypocritical, that’s ironic.