YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=l4-kItwN71c
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Dislikes:309
Comments:2,364
Duration:03:42
Uploaded:2016-03-11
Last sync:2018-11-19 00:20
I fully expect that this video won't resonate with a lot of people, and I get that. For one thing, some of the issues we face and the rhetoric we hear are legitimate and unsupportable attacks on groups of people in the U.S. and the world. It is difficult (and often seems unnecessary) to look past those attacks to see the humanity of the people waging them (especially when the attacks seem inhumane).

Additionally, many people will say that this kind of moderation will only weaken "our side." That we need energized, angry people because that energy and anger (and fear) translates to votes, which is how change happens. But frankly, I'm not sure if I should worry more about the hatred or the politics at this point.

I'm trying to do my best to remember that other people feel attacked as well...even if it seems totally irrational to me. And that both I and they are getting the most negative, distorted, evil-looking version of their opposition in their feeds.

I do not see a country-wide solution to this though...and that terrifies me. Leslie and Ron, though fictional, give me hope.

Music: Wallpaper - Kevin McLeod - Incompetech.com

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Good morning, John.

Parks and Rec was an extremely special television program. Not only was it hilarious, it was also friendly and kind and thoughtful and full of people who disagreed but enjoyed each other. And this is highlighted in a relationship between two main characters who could not disagree more politically.

Leslie (mocking): Government is bad, business is good, free market, huhduhduhduhduduh.

Ron (mocking): Hmmumum me want more pointless social programs, yummy yummy yum.

They disagree a lot. They disagree on politics and on friendship...

Ron: I'm not interested in caring about people.

...and weapons at work...

Leslie: Think fast!

Ron: Literally everything is a weapon, son.

...and marriage...

Ron: The reception will be held in each of our individual houses, alone.

Leslie: Pretend this is rice!

...and they fight lots. But Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson do not hate each other.

Leslie: Hello former strange person I used to friend.

Okay, they did for a little while, but mostly they don't. They have very different world-views, but they are both (and this is important and recognized by everyone who watches the show) good people. And they recognize each other's goodness. This is not House of Cards, in which, as far as I can tell, there are no good people.

The thing about Ron and Leslie is that their politics are far enough outside of the poisoned political discourse that they don't ever disagree about the classically politically charged issues of the day. Ron Swanson isn't a member of the NRA, probably, because he wouldn't give them his address.

Donna: Are you sure you want me to cut up this card? It gets you into the parking garage.

Ron: I'll be taking the bus now, and I'll be paying in cash.

This is a nice dramatic device because of course Ron doesn't believe the government should regulate guns, but he also probably doesn't believe that government should regulate abortion or gay marriage because he doesn't believe the government should regulate anything.

Ron: My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he's allowed to decide is who to nuke.

Likewise, Leslie is in the trenches of local government and though she is clearly deeply progressive and liberal and a huge fan of Joe Biden...

Joe Biden: You must be Leslie Knope. Welcome!

Leslie: (nervous laughter)

...she isn't talking about gun control or immigration; she's just trying to make the parks department work. Which means that the politics of the show, while clearly liberal, are also disconnected from these extremely tense and seemingly intractable political debates, which makes it more believable that two people with such different belief systems could come to be close friends.

Leslie: Are we gonna hate each other some day?

Ron: I don't think so. I think we're gonna be fine.

But it says something about the discourse in the U.S. right now that this distance from reality needs to be created in order to build a believable friendship between two people with different politics, even in a sitcom.

It helps us believe that beneath it all, there's something that works here, and that thing I think is just respect. They value each other's convictions even though they don't always share the same goals and they almost never share the same opinions... except about breakfast food.

Leslie: Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?

Ron: People are idiots, Leslie.

Nowadays there's so much more to the issues than the issues. An attack on a government policy, or an enaction of a new policy can feel like an attack on our identity, an attack on us. But Ron and Leslie are able to move beyond that and share the world with each other, and they shared it respectfully and with kindness and the ability to value each other despite their differences.

In the U.S. we're finding that harder and harder to do, and the deeper we get into this election season, the harder it's gonna get. We see the opposition more than ever both monolithically and negatively. You can live your entire life without knowing a single person who would even consider voting for the other side. We stay inside our bias-affirming filter and think that anyone who disagrees with us must either be ignorant or evil.

It would be nice if we could all be a little bit more like Leslie and Ron: caring passionately about what we believe in without demonizing those who disagree with us. And never, never in my life has that been more difficult.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.

(Loud saxophone note)