The “Other” Politics

An introduction Jerry Seinfeld would appreciate: What’s the deal with facebook “Political Views”? I mean, come on, this is college; not the United States Senate.

As some of you well know, I’ve parted ways with Carolina Review as a staff writer, content to fire away digital mortars from the safe confines of Bloggerland.

A big part of the reason why I left was that I didn’t feel all that conservative anymore. Liberal shoes didn’t seem to fit (two sizes too small). Neither did moderate (four sizes too big). So what was I left to do? I know I’m not apathetic, even if I do tend toward the fatalistic from time to time. So I just changed it to “Other” and decided to be done with it. Let everyone else figure out what it means, because I sure as hell don’t know.

Facebook has quietly trivialized our social lives to an extent most of us aren’t even aware of anymore. Think about what it is on its surface: a categorical listing of your friends organized by geography, institutions of higher learning, and most recently, by employment in the dreaded “real world” (which is not to be confused with the MTV show by the same name). On certain levels, adding up your friends like you would assets on an expense report seems pretty sick, like a desire for social acceptance and validation gone horribly wrong.

But the worst was when they added a feature that lets you track exactly how you met each of your friends. Two problems. First, how do you know when someone becomes your friend? Where is that metaphysical line in the sand drawn? Second, assuming you could draw such a line, what’s the protocol for noticing every time someone crosses it? Good friends don’t arrive on your doorstep like movies from Netflix. They just show up one day unannounced, because all of a sudden you realize they’re there, and it’s no longer important how they got there, in fact you can’t remember how, but you just know you’d give your left leg for them, if they ever needed that sort of thing.

Wait, wait; so you’re saying you met him in your economics class, talked to him three times (only so you could copy notes come exams), but then saw him at a party, shared a beer and some love for Carolina basketball, and then hungover-ly decided to add them? Sounds like facebook “friends” would be more aptly titled “acquaintances,” or my personal favorite: “negligibly less than strangers.”

Facebook dummied down our social lives to the lowest common denominator (starts with alc-, ends with -ohol), and the “political views” are no different. I can understand Brian’s frustration with the “Conservative On Facebook Only” faction (COFOs, for short); especially when the girl pictured in pearls, residency: Granville Towers, political status: Very Conservative; and yet, she has two photo albums of kegstands, empty Busch Light cans, all wonderfully captioned with nuggets like “omigod we were wasted!!1” and “look! passed out, te he” (And this isn’t even covering her extensive memberships in groups such as “I fall down on the p2p” and “Oh gah, what did I do last night?”)

“Relationship Status”: this was the worst idea in the long, sordid history of bad ideas going back to the Spanish Inquisition (okay, so there might be a couple worse, like on-line basketball ticket distribution, or American Idol). Breaking up over the phone was pretty bad. By email was borderline sinful. But to break-up over facebook ought to earn a public shaming, stockade style, in the Pit in front of your peers. Oh, and you and your best friend from high school are not funny when you post your inter-campus open lesbian relationship as an ironic inside joke, remembering secretly that one night when, omigod, we were wasted!

But, as the more astute among you will notice, I still haven’t answered the “Why Other?” question. The bottomline is this: I don’t take the political status of anyone on facebook seriously (because I don’t take anything on facebook seriously), and Other seems to cover all manners of sin. I’m philosophically and morally opposed to abortion (if there’s even a chance it’s life, even an impossibly small one, we owe it to ourselves not to allow this ever to happen); but I do have a little sister, and an overactive imagination, however I don’t want to know, not in the slightest, what the actual severity of that decision would feel like (and biologically speaking, I never will).

In theory, I think corporal punishment in public schools is a bad idea. Too many wacko high school teachers—come on, we all had them—would (and did) abuse an otherwise good system; but from a practical standpoint, I wouldn’t mind if it came back because it would give teachers the means they need to reel in this nation’s most dilapidated schools. Physical pain leads to fear, which leads to respect, which leads to control, which just might allow someone to learn something.

I’ll take the lesser of two evils any day.

I don’t think the government’s purpose should ever be to provide for everyone, a la the European model of a welfare state. But I do understand that when you’ve got an 11 percent unemployment rate (like our beloved friends, the French), large-scale national welfare makes practical, even if unfortunate, sense.

Universal healthcare is too strong, treating colds in emergency rooms (the current reality) is too weak. Some middle ground (like a hybrid car with gas AND electric engines) needs to be found in a hurry.

But back to the welfare thing. *cues the predictable but belated Fourth of July sentimentalism* In America, a self-described Land of Opportunity, our government should, and often does, focus on creating jobs for people, and in doing so, breaking down the barriers of social mobility via education and creative (although complicated) tax structures. Everyone ought to be able to flourish (and I mean that in the ancient Greek eudaimonia sense) according to their ability. Because even though we are all equal in the eyes of God (or whoever’s pulling the strings up there), that very well might be where it stops. Some people are smarter, more attractive, more ambitious, better public speakers, more charismatic, and so on. For government to be a cookie-cutter service, the same package deal of economic security for everyone, would be an unintended disservice to its people.

I would be a libertarian, if it weren’t for the fact that I still believe somewhat in the idea of a “public good.” Man is a social creature. Retracting into a political model centered on absolute individual freedom denies this in many ways, placing serious and unnecessary limits on our potential as human beans. Sometimes we squish each other, sure; but sometimes we wave from such great heights.

There’s a lot more, but I didn’t mean for this to be a political fringe theory rant (at least not all of it). What I meant was this: out of all those things listed above, how do I simplify them into a seven-option drop-down box on facebook? Even if they let you input your own label—Blue Dog Democrat, NASCAR mom (which thankfully, none of us probably are yet), neo-Marxist, practicing pragmatist, morally deficient liberal, morally self-righteous conservative—would any of them cover it all?

In my idealistically envisioned perfect world of free-thinking, charismatic, caring individuals: no. But we’ll keep subscribing to the labels so long as they keep giving us a sense of having found all the answers. So my politics are Other. You’re more than welcome to explain to me what that means. I’d love to hear it, actually, because I’m just too tired and stupid to claim to know what my politics really are.


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