One of the consequences of publishing a blog is that people send you information–sometimes to share, sometimes requesting comment, often just to commiserate about a particularly depressing bit of news.
The other day, a friend shared a particularly offensive comment by one of our less-enlightened politicians, and asked the recurring question: what is wrong with people like that? It is a question I am totally unable to answer.
I can understand differences of opinion among people trying to solve problems (people of good will trying to improve education can argue over the school reforms most likely to achieve that goal; people all of whom genuinely want to see the economy improve may disagree on the role of government debt, etc. ), but I simply can’t fathom what drives the naysayers and haters–the people who simply oppose efforts to provide healthcare to the uninsured, or reduce poverty, or insure that citizens are treated equally. It’s one thing to argue about the wisdom of the means being chosen, it’s another thing entirely to reject the legitimacy of the effort, to insist that nothing should be done.
It’s sort of like theft and vandalism: I “get” theft—it’s unacceptable, but I can understand the thief’s motive; he wants something he doesn’t have, so he steals it. It’s comprehensible. What I can’t understand, and have never understood, is vandalism—destruction for destruction’s sake.
Right now, we have people of good will who are arguing–as people have always done–over the best way to conduct the nation’s business. Citizens can and do disagree about policy, and are often disagreeable about it, but that sort of political conflict is unavoidable. And comprehensible.
What isn’t comprehensible (at least to me) is another contemporary phenomenon–one that is different in kind from the normal political fights of the past: behavior that can appropriately be described as civic vandalism. It’s as though a significant percentage of our political class is throwing a prolonged tantrum, with no purpose other than expressing rage and preventing the rest of us from conducting the nation’s business.
It’s beyond troubling–and beyond my feeble attempts at understanding.