Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Internet Hates Republicans

First off, I do not consider myself a Republican or a Democrat. In fact, I don't vote (think of that what you will) and my personal views pull bits from both major parties as well as other bits that neither party seems to support. As such, I have no personal interest in protecting either side.

With that out of the way, it has not escaped my attention that the internet at large views Republicans as the stupid party that is ruining everything in the world (or at least in the USA). I recently watched a Youtube video on the subject which, while nothing terribly special in its own right, gave a five-item list of reasons why the Republican party is stupid as a whole. I think this list is pretty representative of the claims the young generation dominating the internet tends to level against Republicans, so I'm going to stop and take a deeper look at this list, providing support or refutation wherever I see fit.

In other words, brace yourselves folks, it's about to get all political up in here.

The following list may be paraphrased for convenience, but if you fear I'm distorting the claims in any way you can check the video in question here. It's not too important, though, because I'm addressing these as common, general claims and only using that specific instance as a convenient reference point.

Anyway, here we go.

Item #1: Republicans are against allowing a raped woman to get an abortion.

True. Republicans in general oppose abortion in general. Raped women are not specifically the target of this opposition, though they do often find themselves subject to it. Of course this whole question boils down to the central philosophical question of moral agency, and at what point a life-form or potential life-form acquires it. Unfortunately, there's not a really easy way to resolve that question in the case of a developing fetus/baby, as several different points in the process each have their own valid reasons to be taken as the cut-off point where moral agency comes into play. Conception, first ability to feel pain, first cognitive function, ability to survive outside the womb, and birth are the five most commonly chosen cut-off points. Personally, I'm a supporter of the cognitive function option, which is a debated point but most credible sources say it begins somewhere around 10-12 weeks into pregnancy. At least in my mind, the beginning of cognitive function is the beginning of self, and therefore it is the beginning of moral agency.

Of course in both moral and political rhetoric, all this is set against a woman's right to do what she wants with her body. I won't deny that I think everybody deserves the right to treat and care for their own bodies as they choose. Additionally, I can certainly understand that a raped woman could pretty strongly want to not give birth to her attacker's child. At a certain point, though, it does become an issue of one person's life versus another person's personal preference. In a deep third-trimester case, currently illegal in most US states, where the baby is now fully formed but kind of small and could survive outside the womb, I feel like killing it could certainly be called murder. When the pregnancy is 5 weeks in, though, we're talking about a small clump of cells with no ability to think, move, or feel, and it's pretty hard in my book to oppose a woman ridding herself of it. Thus, the whole thing is a murky puddle in the middle, where a woman's right over her body is on a sliding scale against the developing life's own agency, and the trouble is agreeing on the transition point. The common conservative viewpoint of "all abortions are wrong" is, I think, pretty stupid. On the other hand, the common liberal viewpoint of "all abortions are okay" seems equally stupid. So technically his complaint is valid, but as pertains to the bigger issue of abortion in general, I'm not convinced that either extreme is really the best. And as with most issues, it's the extremists who shout the loudest and want to make it part of every discussion. Of course, many liberals and conservatives fall somewhere closer to the middle on this issue, and I think that's where the solution needs to be found.

Item #2: Republicans stand against two consenting adults getting married.

Gay marriage, in case it wasn't clear, is what he's talking about. Of course, given the generally more heavily religious views of the Republican party, this one is well-known and unsurprising. Honestly, I fully support gay marriage. Additionally, I think that on a purely political level divorced from religious views, allowing same-sex marriage falls in line with the general conservative "keep the government out of my business" type of thinking. The big issue here is with the morality and/or naturalness of homosexuality as seen by the Republican party, along with the questions of how same-sex couples will manage raising children, and how this shift will affect marriage as an institution.

1) Whether homosexuality is moral or not is nobody's business unless they are being directly affected by it. Even if it is immoral, which I'm not willing to concede, so are a lot of other things, like lying to your wife or being racist, which are perfectly legal. That's because you can't legislate morality. The general basis for this claim is a couple quotes from the Bible, which is a whole separate issue ("If it's that big of a deal, why is it mentioned so rarely, almost exclusively in the largely-ignored Old Testament sections of Jewish law, and under such hazily-translated circumstances? Why doesn't it come up in the Ten Commandments or in anything Jesus says?" And so on and so forth.) Religion has no place in dictating government policy, though, so all that ought to be a moot point anyway.

2) The fact that thousands of animals exhibit homosexual behavior in the wild is a pretty clear demonstration that is does, in fact, occur naturally. But even if it didn't, since when do humans only do "natural" things? I know it's trite, but driving cars, wearing shoes, and keeping food in refrigerators are "unnatural" activities that I don't see many people abandoning. Of course homosexual intercourse does not produce offspring, which is usually at the crux of this argument, but given that the planet's population went from 1 billion in 1900 to 7 billion in 2011, is anybody really going to argue that we as a species need more reproduction?

3) Numerous psychological studies have shown that kids with two parents caring for them, regardless of gender, are more likely to be well-adjusted than kids with one or zero parents as caregivers. Thus, single women are, by all evidence, more likely to have child-rearing issues than gay couples, yet quite rightly nobody tries to stop them from raising their kids alone. An additional point is that gay couples have to go out of their way to have a child, so it's not likely to happen unless they feel ready and willing to raise one. Straight couples accidentally have kids all the time, and unwanted children are much worse off than wanted kids with two mommies or two daddies.

4) If anybody feels that another couple getting married will in any way devalue their own relationship, that's just sad. Marriage is already pretty watered down by five-time divorcees and week-long celebrity couplings, so if you're worried about gay marriages ruining the overall institution, I think your fears might be misplaced.

So yeah, I agree on this one. Republicans, on the whole, oppose gay marriage and I think that that opposition is dumb. If it bothers someone on a private level because of their own religious convictions, fine. I'm not here to tell anybody what to think. But personal dislike is not a basis for legal action.

Item #3: Republicans oppose gun control despite the fact that countries with tight gun control have less violence.

Ah, this old chestnut. Here is a Harvard study debunking the claim that banning guns reduces violence, though I'd think a little common sense would go a long way on this issue. Setting aside little quibbles like the fact that the nation with the highest murder rate on earth (Honduras) doesn't allow open carry and has tighter gun control laws that the US, let's pretend for a second that reducing or eliminating guns actually would reduce violent crime. With that assumption, here are a few simple questions. Will the type of bans or tight firearm controls that have largely eliminated guns in small European countries actually be viable in a nation this size, that contains over 300,000,000 privately-owned firearms by even the more conservative estimates? Given that the majority of mass shootings occur in areas like schools where it's already illegal to carry guns, do we honestly think that the same violent criminals who break those laws will be more inclined to follow broader gun control laws? Does anybody proposing bans on different types of guns really think those weapons can be kept off the black market? If your answer to any of those questions was "yes" then, to put it very kindly, you are being unrealistic.

So yes, Republicans by and large oppose gun control laws. I don't think having a few light restrictions is unreasonable, but tightening gun control in any significant way would be both crushingly expensive and largely ineffective. It may or may not be for the right reasons, I'll leave that for you to decide, but on this issue I think the Republican party is adopting the far more realistic stance. Oh, and Democrats, here's a quick PSA: a semi-automatic rifle without a fully automatic option is, by definition, not an assualt rifle.

Item #4: Republicans thought it was a good idea to have Sarah Palin as the vice president.

While I do think she gets dumped on more than she deserves, I have a hard time really arguing with this one. She isn't the worst or most annoying politician to emerge in recent years, but the overwhelming feeling that her public addresses evoked was that she was an unintelligent rube who was chosen to lock down ultra-conservative voters and hopefully appeal to women who wanted to see somebody besides another white male in high political office. Clearly that strategy backfired, but that's not really the point. Most high-profile politicians these days are just different varieties of shit, so I'm not going to waste too much time talking about either her or the alternatives to her. Nonetheless, I agree that putting Sarah Palin in the White House doesn't sound like a brilliant plan to me.

Item #5: Republicans were responsible for the Iraq War.

While it's true that the Republican party was more aggressively behind that invasion, here's a fun fact that many youngsters may not be old enough to remember: in the wake of 9/11 most Americans supported US military involvement in the Middle-East. Republicans, Democrats, everybody. Yes George W. Bush was the president running the show, but in late 2001 his approval rating hit over 90%. In case you weren't sure, that required more than just Republicans. "That's Afghanistan, not Iraq," I hear you say. Okay, how about this: the resolution to invade Iraq could not have passed the US Senate on Republican votes alone. In fact, the majority of Democrats in the US Senate voted in favor of invading Iraq. As those charts will show you, the House of Representatives carried largely on the Republican vote, and in the senate the Democrats were far more split than the Republicans. I'm not arguing against the obvious fact that Republicans were the driving force behind involving us in that shit-storm. What I am saying is that Democrats aren't guiltless either, so stop pretending like the big, bad Republican party did it all and the innocent Democrats couldn't do anything to stop them.


Okay, so that's my response. In summation, as with most things, I agree with Republicans in some ways, I agree with Democrats in others, and I think they're both idiots in their own special ways. There are still other commonly contended issues like immigration, environmentalism, and health care that I could get into, but for now I think I've said enough. To close, I'll quote comedian Lewis Black, who said "I don't know if you've noticed, but our two-party system is a bowl of shit looking in the mirror at itself."

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