Friday, July 14, 2017

For the love of God, get a passport.

This week, I mentioned that Bill and one of my cousins have been arguing on Facebook.  It's actually kind of funny, because Bill rarely posts on Facebook and almost never gets involved in debates.  When he does, he's very conscious of other people's online spaces and uncomfortable with contentious exchanges.  Bill is a considerate, thoughtful person who cares about other people and their feelings.  Unfortunately, not everyone is like that.

I unfriended my cousin the other day because he's been annoying me on a regular basis for weeks.  It's like a sport to him.  He'd find a controversial topic on my page and leave an obnoxious comment.  When he would finally drive me to the point of writing an annoyed response, he'd leave me a smarmy comment about "loving and respecting" me.  But then he'd invariably come back to my Facebook page and spew more of his bullshit, trying to goad me into debates and then acting like a know-it-all bully.  He loves to argue politics and is very rigid in what he believes.  I find his beliefs very narrow-minded, myopic, and frankly, often offensive.  Moreover, chatting with him reminds me of trying to chat with my dad after he'd been drinking all night.  It's pointless and ultimately leads to heartbreak.

When I read about my cousin's desire to help crowdfund Trump's stupid border wall, that was when I'd reached my limit.  I have a feeling that Bill is about to reach his limit, too.  

My cousin-- I'll call him Timmy (after the South Park character)-- has more or less said that he thinks allowing Muslims into the United States will eventually lead to them taking over and introducing Sharia Law.  He seems to agree fully with Trump's desire to ban travelers from certain Muslim countries from coming into the United States.  He thinks it will keep us "safe" from terrorists.

I will admit, when it comes to hyper-controlling religions like Islam, I am myself a little leery.  For instance, I didn't vote for Mitt Romney, in part, because he's LDS and I know something about Mormonism and how it often spreads like kudzu.  Mormons have a history of getting into government positions and making laws that suit their collective worldview.  Since Mormons have an appearance of being "normal" to those who don't know anything about their beliefs, they have a fairly easy time of getting into leadership positions and passing laws based on their religious or moral beliefs that affect everyone.  One only has to look at the state of Utah to see what I mean.

I am only using Mormons as an example of what happens with politics and religion mix.  Naturally, other religious groups also use government offices to promote their religious beliefs.  The Southern Baptists and Evangelicals do the same thing in the Deep South.  That's why I also would not have voted for Mike Huckabee when he was running for office.

Here in Germany, I have personally witnessed an influx of Muslim refugees from Syria.  Many days, when I'm out and about, I see the fully veiled women shopping in the grocery stores.  I know that many Germans fear that the refugees might try to change Germany rather than simply assimilating.  That's not necessarily an unfounded fear.  For decades, there have been many Turks living here.  They were brought in after World War II to help rebuild the country, and many have stayed.  Although it seems to me that the Turks who live here have mostly assimilated nicely, I do sense that some Germans view Turks like some Americans view Mexicans.  Some seem to resent and fear them.

Despite the concerns that people have about their way of life being challenged or changed, Germans remain welcoming to people who are in trouble and need shelter.  They don't always help with a sense of altruism, but they do seem to support being open minded and accepting people who are different.  I'm sure a lot of that comes from the not too distant past, when their country was in the grips of Naziism.  That blight on history remains a source of great shame to many Germans.

This week, Bill and "Timmy" were arguing and Bill, being a courteous and respectful person, tried to gently point out that Timmy's comments were narrow-minded and racist.  Timmy, being a rather black and white thinker, came back and accused Bill of playing "ring around the rosy" and not being direct with his comments.  So Bill asked Timmy some pointed yes or no questions.  After Timmy answered, having been backed into a corner, Bill came right out and said quite bluntly, "You have confirmed my suspicions that you are a xenophobe."

Well, Timmy's reaction to that comment was epic.  He went from calling Bill out for "being indirect" to being very offended that Bill came right out and accused him of xenophobia.  Within a couple of hours, Timmy was back with a book length comment refuting Bill's assertion that he's xenophobic.  It was similar to the reaction I got from Timmy's brother a few months ago...  I referred to "xenophobic ideas" and my cousin got very offended.  I hadn't even directly called him a "xenophobe", but he seemed to take my comments that way.  But, unlike Timmy's brother, Timmy kind of asked for Bill's comment.  He complained that Bill wasn't direct enough.  Well, be careful what you wish for.

Bill also called out Timmy for not voting Libertarian.  Timmy takes great pride in telling everyone that he's not a Republican.  He says he's a "constitutional Libertarian".  However, it's very clear that despite Timmy's insistence that he's a "constitutional Libertarian", he did not have the balls to vote for the Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson.  Timmy wanted to cast his vote for someone with a chance of winning, even though he claims Donald Trump's politics don't actually align with his.  In short, Timmy is a massive hypocrite.

Bill and I did vote for Mr. Johnson, although we both knew he couldn't win.  I don't think either of us would call ourselves Libertarian per se.  We just felt Johnson was the strongest of the four presidential candidates.  He seemed the least narcissistic and most humane.  He has experience in politics and is not too extreme in his policies, although Libertarians as a rule tend to be more extreme.  Yes, Johnson had his "Aleppo moment", but at least he's somewhat sane.

I actually think Mrs. Clinton was technically the most qualified of the four presidential candidates, but she's had plenty of time in the sun.  I don't like political dynasties or scandals and I had a feeling Mrs. Clinton as president would invite plenty of scandals.  And also... when it came down to it, I knew it wouldn't matter if I voted for Johnson over Clinton because Mrs. Clinton won San Antonio and lost Texas.

My cousin, the self-proclaimed Libertarian, did not vote for Mr. Johnson because he knew Johnson couldn't win.  So, instead of voting for the party he claims his beliefs align with, he voted for Donald Trump, who is an incompetent criminal that brags about sexually assaulting women and has embarrassing meltdowns on Twitter on a daily basis.  And then Timmy has the gall to lecture me and Bill about why Trump will "make America great again."  Bill explained to Timmy that it's true that a third party candidate has almost no chance of becoming president.  However, as long as people will only vote for the one of the two candidates in the major political parties, those two parties will be the only realistic choices we have for leadership.  And we will be stuck with leaders who are dirty and, perhaps, not the best people for the job.

Timmy has also never been abroad.  He has admitted that he's never so much as crossed the Atlantic and had fish and chips in England.  I would be very surprised if he even owns a passport.  His worldview is shaped by his many years living in the southern United States among conservative white people.  I think he has a college degree and he has informed me that he used to sell insurance and was licensed to do so.  I am sure he's technically competent at whatever it is he does.  But he has a very limited perspective of the world.  He's never seen it and apparently hasn't actually interacted with the people he fears.  I would be very surprised if he even knows any Muslims.  Say what you want about my comments about Mormons, but you can't say I don't know any and haven't interacted with them.  In fact, I actually married one.

I suppose there's nothing necessarily "wrong" with staying in one place if that's what one prefers.  However, when a person stays in one place and does not mingle with those who aren't like them, he or she tends to have a narrow viewpoint.  People who don't travel often have very black and white thinking and lack the flexibility to consider other views.  And oftentimes, when you try to talk to the most rigid of people who don't see the need to travel, they come at you with bullying and condescension.

I will admit, I tend to shut down when I talk to people who communicate in that way.  Perhaps that makes me guilty of black and white thinking, too.  I stop hearing anyone who talks to me in a holier-than-thou, condescending tone.  Liberals have done it just as much as conservatives have.  If you want me to listen, you have to approach with a basic modicum of respect.  If you don't, I will put up a wall of my own and simply stop listening.

Anyway... after reading Timmy's latest arguments, Bill posted that he didn't think the discussion was productive.  Then he advised Timmy to get a passport and travel outside of the United States.  I have myself suggested the same thing to Timmy.  I honestly believe he would benefit from having his eyes opened to what life is like beyond the southern United States.  Maybe it wouldn't change his mind much, but I would like to think he might have more empathy toward people who aren't like him.  I truly believe that travel is deadly to racism and closed mindedness and I think Timmy could use a mental enema and an empathy check.

I doubt Timmy will take Bill's advice, which is a real pity.  Timmy thinks he's right and no amount of pointless discussion will change his mind.  He just wants to engage in intellectual masturbation on Facebook.  It's a sport for him.  Too bad.  This will make Thanksgiving with my extended family more awkward... if I ever deign to attend again.  

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