One of the laziest responses from Republicans that are clearly uncomfortable addressing the reality of American politics and propaganda in 2019 is “well, there’s bad stuff on both sides.”
When someone says this, here’s what they really mean:
- Jeez, we don’t usually talk about politics, I don’t want to (or can’t) justify what’s going on, and I reeeeeeally want this conversation to end
- Every “media source” I read has given me a justification for [insert ghastly behavior of the day], and noted that Democrats have done the same thing in the past, so there!
In other words, “both sides” lets a person quickly circle the party wagons and feel confident in their life choices (no difficult self-examination required). After all, you can’t have chosen the wrong “team” if the other option is just as bad.
We can of course argue about the direction in which the Trump administration (and modern Republican party as enablers) has taken the country, and whether or not the actions of past administrations have done similar or worse things. We can also agree that extreme viewpoints do indeed exist across both sides of the political spectrum.
Here’s the thing though…
Regardless of what’s come before, why would blind party loyalty trump (groan) compassion?
We can debate about whether Obama did worse things at the border than Trump (spoiler: he didn’t), but even if he had, why would the existence of past horrors justify letting current horrors slide?
Are you frustrated that nobody was paying attention when W or Obama did suspect things, but now everyone is laser-focused on criticizing Trump? I can understand that as a human reaction (hey, you guys are just jumping on the politics bandwagon, I was born in it!), but guess what? People change. The media landscape changes. People pay attention when tipping points are reached.
The prodigal son’s brother was visibly annoyed at the attention lavished on his sibling’s repentance, but his father correctly guided his heart towards celebration. We should cheer those that have woken up and joined the fight against injustice, not be bitter that they’re late to the party, then sulk away while downplaying the current threat.
The stories from the border are horrifying, but the conservative reaction has been to label it “fake news” and trot out the “Obama did it too” card. The Jeffrey Epstein stories are ghastly, but the conservative reaction has been to downplay Trump’s involvement (which is emerging as more and more troubling) and foam at the mouth over the possibility that Bill Clinton was involved (if he was, justice should absolutely be demanded as well).
An open mind is a powerful thing. I’m certainly guilty of ignoring many issues as a younger man, but I absolutely believe in the power of people and society to change. That said, it’ll take effort from both sides.