Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Fandom of Bernie Sanders

I like Bernie Sanders. He's bucking the system in ways I'd never expect from a politician, and he's made integrity a core part of this election's conversation. He's liberal, but not a Democrat, which makes him relatable to me personally. And though his plans for the country may be difficult to pass given the current makeup of Congress (heck, even with a Democratic majority), I believe the direction he would take the country is inevitable if this country is to survive the coming era.

So, yes, I'm an out-and-out Sanders supporter. I needed to make that clear, because I'm about to talk about how embarrassing Sanders supporters are.

Sanders himself is conducting himself very well so far, as far as criticism is concerned. To me, at least, he's come off as respectful to his detractors: willing to discuss issues civilly when possible, and ready to walk away from vitriol rather than engage in it.

Further, yes, the odds are stacked against him for the Democratic nomination. The DNC isn't even really pretending to not play favorites in this primary. Yet, Bernie has not called them out. He seems determined not to whine about fairness; he chose to play by the DNC's rules, so there's no sense complaining about it. He believes he can beat their system, and he's probably right that doing so is his only chance to win.

Sanders fans aren't so forgiving, though.

They're quite fanatical in their defense of Sanders, bristling at every perceived slight. Even NPR, mocked by conservatives as definitive liberal media, gets constant criticism every time they post an article about the campaign: they didn't mention Bernie enough, or they framed a report in a vaguely Clinton-biased way, or (God forbid) they point out an inconsistency in Bernie's statements. Everything's an attack, and each one is a personal insult.

I don't think that fanaticism should ruin things that are otherwise good, but for many that's exactly what happens. Sanders fanaticism is hardly alone in that regard: Undertale, Steven Universe, and even Christianity are a few of the things I like that nonetheless suffer from this problem.

Many people have legitimate reasons to dislike all of these things, but still more are turned away simply because the fanatics seem to miss the point of the very things they claim to love: Undertale and Steven Universe are about the joy of friendship, Bernie's campaign is about dignity, and Christianity is about redemption and unconditional love. Yet, somewhere along the way it becomes more important for people to defend these ideas than to live them. It reminds me of that (unconfirmed) Gandhi quote: "I love your Christ, but dislike your Christianity."

I won't attempt to explain hypocrisy. It exists in all followings, and in my experience it can be the bane of the best.

All I can do is urge people to look past the fanatics to the core of ideas, and judge them on their merits rather than their reactionaries. Ideas don't choose their followers.

No comments:

Post a Comment