Whatever You Do, Don’t Read the Comments: Why I Don’t Argue About Politics

Here, during my fifty-first year on earth, I’ve come to understand something everyone around me knew long ago: I’m not a born team player.

Those who know me are underwhelmed by this revelation. Others, please read on.

Really, all the evidence is there. I don’t like sports, and I loathed high school pep rallies. Churches have always freaked me out with their abundance of members who harbor an inexplicable interest in knowing what I’m thinking and doing. As far as the place of my birth, I feel no real loyalty to that, either. After all, I didn’t choose to be born there, so acting as if I planned the whole thing and was pleased with the result would be disingenuous.

This isn’t to say I can’t be a team player, because I can. Okay, I tend to be a solitary kind of guy, but as long as I know what’s expected of me in a group situation, I’ll work like a champ and make the team look good. Usually, I get along with the members of my team, too, unless they’re jerks. Given the choice, though, I’ll most often go it alone, and in many cases, I don’t have a problem giving my team due credit. My teams like me for that.

Recently, a new insight came to me: My aversion to team behavior is also a large part of why I don’t argue about politics. Yes, I may discuss political issues, with friends or colleagues or with others who want to participate in interesting and honest debates, folks who aren’t afraid to check facts or say things like “I don’t know.” But arguing on social media, with meme-warriors, conspiracy theorists who don’t read past the headline, and citizens who never passed a high school civics course? I’ll pass.

For one thing, I don’t feel loyalty to any group, party, or ideology. There’s no “we” for me in politics, any more than there would be if I were talking about  a school I never attended or a team I never played for. Also, I find it difficult to believe that anything meaningful will ever happen in a venue where civility takes a backseat to loudness, where rational discourse comes in a distant tenth behind fists of righteous fury (in the virtual world, these are random exclamation marks and all caps). And whatever you do, don’t read the comments sections. They’re like something out of the movie Idiocracy, only the online folks are less reasonable and have fewer basic spelling and grammar skills.

These free-for-alls almost always come down to teams, team thinking, and team loyalty, whether they be political, religious, sports-related, or, in some bizarre cases, all three.

Here’s how they go down:

  • We won because we worked hard. They won because they cheated. (The bastards.)
  • Bad things happen to us because we’re persecuted. Bad things happen to them because they’re bad people and, naturally, deserve bad things. (The bastards.)
  • Good things happen to us because we deserve good things. Good things happen to them because, well, the Lord—or the American political machine, the Southeastern Conference, or World Wrestling Entertainment—works in mysterious ways. (More complicated, obviously. Someone’s still a bastard, though.)
  • The things we supposedly did were not bad, but on the off chance they did happen, they weren’t bad because they were warranted. The things they did were bad, of course, and unwarranted. (Bastards.)

That’s the way the world works, according to these gleaming rays of virtue and uprightness who never tire of sharing their rightness with the world. And who am I to argue? Nobody, that’s who. Time spent engaging with that kind of nonsense is time I’ll never get back, time I could spend doing other important things, like taking naps or tuning my guitar.

Of course I care about what happens to this country, and of course I care about others. Despite not being team-oriented, I do like other human beings. My friends will tell you I’m a fierce ally, and I’m also a staunch advocate for the underdog. Instead of arguing, I try to affect change in the way I live my life, the way I treat others, and sure, even with my vote. I don’t choose to rent out a virtual billboard to prove it, though. If you do, that’s more than fine. Go ahead and do it. Have fun with it, too.

Not long ago, a friend suggested my lack of team spirit might be a result of growing up in a home with no siblings. It’s possible. Our house was quiet, and I had my own room, so most of the time in my wee years was spent reading, writing, and playing guitar. Because of that, I’m used to doing my own things, and I don’t respond well to yelling of any kind. I can deal with it, but if it’s not required, I tend to find more interesting pursuits, like napping again or double-checking the recent tuning of my guitar.

So maybe my solitary-child status is the reason I don’t join teams or engage with blowhards. I can live with that, especially since others have assured me I don’t act like an only kid in other, more important ways. What they’re getting at, I think, is that I don’t throw tantrums, hold my breath melodramatically, or threaten to take my ball and go home. That makes me happy, since these are all good things to avoid.

Helpful Tip: If you do ever see me with a ball, you’re more than welcome to it.

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