People Tell Me the Darndest Things
In the last week, I have had people tell me some political notions that really too me aback as well as surprised, and dismayed me.
"Obama is a threat to our country because of his Muslim beliefs," a man told me.
"Muslim beliefs?" I said.
The man went on to say, "Obama's wife is a racist. It's coming out -- you'll see."
I didn't know how to respond.
I was speaking with an older faculty member about how students have changed over the years. We talked about the intensity on campus in the Vietnam era, and how nowadays college is more expensive and most students work during school.
Talking about US wars over the years, I pointed out that Korea, Vietnam, and the current Iraq War have all been unpopular, essentially pointless wars (I don't remember my exact language, but it wasn't extreme). I said LBJ was one of the worst presidents.
"People don't understand that people get hurt and die in wars. But we're not seeing it [the wars] from the past -- presidents act on what they know right then."
I thought this was kind of ironic to hear from someone who almost got drafted, and also too forgiving of George W. Bush, whose Iraq War was only successful in its "marketing campaign" for war and the first two weeks of "shock and awe." Since then, it has been one disaster after the next, with American soldiers dying, children dying, and suffering all around -- and for what? I've never heard a straight, comprehensive answer from someone in power about the Iraq War in its five-plus year history.
At work, I said "Have you heard the news?" referring to Tim Russert's recent death.
"You mean Tim Russert?" he said. I'd mentioned it because I knew he was politically conscious. He made a comment about the political ignorance of our fellow coworkers (at Best Buy). I shook my head, as if saying, "Yeah."
Then we talked about Russert's career. I said that he was objective compared to the rest of the mainstream media, and my interlocutor agreed. It's better to not speak ill of the dead (Richard Milhous Nixon excepted).
This brought us to a discussion of journalism, which is where the conversation got interesting. "The media's all so left," he said. "Even Fox News has moved to the left -- I can't watch it anymore."
"I don't watch any 24-hour cable news at all," I said. "I just read." True enough, I haven't even seen Fox News in years, so do not know its political bent. What I have seen hasn't been good: one of their female anchors offered a non-apology for calling a knuckle-touch between Obama and his wife a "terrorist fist jab." She said that she was referring to what someone else said. Now that's journalism.
Yesterday, I saw a Fox News producer "ambush" Bill Moyers with weird accusations of him "playing games" for not appearing on the Bill O'Reilly Show. The affair makes the producer look like a fool.
Those are my thoughts about Fox News, but somehow the man started talking about the oil crisis. "The oil's not going to run out," he said.
"The 'peak oil' thing?" I said.
"If we'd just drill Alaska and South Dakota and in the United States, we could have $20 a barrel oil," he said.
"It'd only be cheap if the government drilled it. Why would ExxonMobil lower the price of gas?" I said.
"It would be supply and demand," he said.
"But there's not much oil in the United States -- Alaska, coast of Massachusetts or Texas, South Dakota -- compared to what's in Venezuela, Mexico, and the Persian Gulf, where there's a different kind of oil -- it doesn't need processing the way it does here. They just turn the knob -- it comes out as light sweet crude oil," I said.
For some reason I was in the mood to debate. "Why would ExxonMobil lower prices? They're a corporation, legally bound to maximize shareholder value -- profit. And Rupert Murdoch predicted $20 a barrel oil right before the Iraq war?"
"You mean $120 a barrel oil?" he misheard me.
"No, $20," I said.
"What does Rupert Murdoch know about oil?" he said.
"He's the owner of Fox News," I referenced back to what we'd talked about a moment earlier.
"The point is that people have been predicting cheap oil for a long time," I said, insinuating that such predictions were inaccurate.
"Yeah," he didn't really respond to this, and seemed to kind of think about what I had said. "I'm going to get back to my post."
That was it. Reflecting on these interactions, the first one disappointed me, and made the think that some people "shut off their minds when talking about politics and religion." I considered that maybe people use a different part of their brain when thinking about politics and religion -- as if reason gets blocked somehow.
The second interaction surprised me and what my coworker said wasn't actually very radical, although I would've liked to have said, "I'm just anti-war."
The third interaction followed the previous discussions, and kind of made me refuse to keep my tongue shut. I don't know if much was gained by the debate, although I thought it weird that the man had parked in a handicapped spot, which I saw as we both left work.
Usually I pass over these kinds of debates and leave my thoughts on politics in the space of this blog. I think I'll continue that -- peoples' political notions don't teach me much except for giving me a sliver into their character. And most people are not Jesus.