Walking a mile . . . anthropology and American politics

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Frank Boas, often called the father of American anthropology, believed that cultures should be studied on their own terms. What does this mean? Oh, this is so very important to understanding. Understanding. But do people want to understand? Most do not. Most want everyone to agree with how they view the world, adapt and conform. Conservatives are out to convert the rest of the world to their religious beliefs and liberals are out to turn the world blue. Most want their world just the way they want it, and you dare not even think about throwing a contrary idea, a different perception, or a thought that is not theirs into that world or all hell will break loose; they might have a nervous breakdown. I have witnessed this over and over and over with friends and family. I have seen logical, mature, educated adults become emotional, raging crazy people when their worldviews were questioned.
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What does this have to do with anything? Here in the United States we have a massive war raging of ideals, philosophies, religious and political dogma, occurring mostly in our biased media. This fight must happen or there will never be change, but most people are not handling it well at all. Dogmatic liberals believe everyone must embrace their perception of social change, and if everyone does not they are racist and ignorant or must be a part of the Duck Dynasty family. Dogmatic conservatives, especially Tea Party people, believe that the very foundation of this country is at risk of being ripped apart if we even talk about changing immigration policies or “allowing” gay marriage. God’s wrath will be poured out upon us if we don’t fight the evils of liberalism. I have news for both camps: unless you can study and understand other cultures, as Frank Boas would recommend, or walk a mile in the other’s shoes, you do not have a good point of view or understanding of the other side. I think if we were perfectly honest we would acknowledge the fact that we don’t want to know where our political, philosophical, ideological and religious opponents are coming from or why they believe the way they do. It is much easier to label them, categorize them, criticize them, and put them aside as irrelevant. The danger with this practice is that we now have the people who really care, the ones with hearts that are still flesh (not the money-grabbing, power-hungry politicians and their corporate puppet masters) angry and hating the other people who really care, whose motives are truly not merely seeking power and control but want real change, a happy, prosperous America with everyone given the same opportunities. The people who care are the pawns in a power play that has occurred many times in our history.

If there is not an attempt by conservatives to understand that those who believe gays should have the same rights as heterosexuals just want freedom and opportunity, then there will continue to be a massive disconnect. If there is no effort made to understand that most Tea Party members just want a smaller, more manageable government, one that taxpayers can afford (and I am going to lump libertarians in this group because their belief that deregulation is necessary for a free America is just what the big corporations want to hear) then failure to effect change will continue. It is funny to me that both sides of this political war really want the same things: opportunity for all without someone else telling them what they can and can’t do in the privacy of their own homes and with their bodies.

But conservatives are the enemy! They just want everyone to pray to their God and follow the Bible. They hate gays!!!

But liberals want to take our guns away! They want to take away our religious freedoms and make nuns pay for abortion pills. They hate Christians!!!

As long as one group is telling the other group that their culture and beliefs are wrong they are not going to effect change. As long as conservatives refuse to consider gay marriage and immigration reform and think anyone who is receiving federal aid (such as SNAP) is a freeloader they will not effect change. As long as liberals believe that the gun culture is all the same, lumping hunters and gun collectors in with violent gang bangers, they will not effect change.

One cultural group cannot force their cultural beliefs upon another cultural group without causing harm (remember, this is what you were taught in college about how the white Europeans conquered and destroyed the cultures of indigenous peoples). And I have news for all of you: your beliefs are NOT superior to another group’s beliefs. Unless you study a culture on their own terms you will not gain understanding. So we are back to my first premise: most people do not want to understand, they want to convert. And so the war rages on. And the media, who have forgotten that they are supposed to be objective witnesses reporting the facts just feed the frenzy with endless op-eds.

I think it is time to walk a mile . . .

Inviting all guest bloggers: I invite anyone to share their personal story of why they believe the way they believe, and why their political beliefs, especially, are very important to them. I will not allow unmoderated comments on these guest posts. I dare you to share and I dare you to try to understand.

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