Now that the World Series is over and the Cubs are World Champions for the first time in over a century (as if you didn’t already know that), I can be more open about my lack of enthusiasm about their achievement. You see, I’m a White Sox fan and have been my entire life. I won’t get into all the slights we Sox fans have suffered over the years, nor will I attempt to sway anyone who prefers the Cubs to join us on the Southside—the futility of that, especially now, is obvious to everyone; even the White Sox general manager has characterized my team as “mired in mediocrity.”
But, neither the Cubs’ recent success nor the Sox’s poor play makes the slightest difference to me: I’m with the Sox forever, and there’s nothing anyone can say to change my prejudice in their favor. And I know with just as much certainty that even if the Cubs had lost (which they almost did), it wouldn’t have made any difference to die-hard Cubs fans. The kind of bias we’re dealing with here is one that is learned early in our lives and has absolutely nothing to do with objective data or reasons or anything remotely factual or logical. In my case, my grandfather infected me with the Sox virus; some of my most precious memories involve going to Comiskey Park with him. And yes, he also taught me to root against the Cubs. Again, it’s not like some Cub player stole his woman or cheated him out of his fortune (he didn’t have one). Basically, that another baseball team was garnering any of Chicago’s attention, much less often getting the bulk of it, irked him, just as the hoopla currently surrounding the Cubs irks me. I understand that the “lovable losers” are more popular than my Sox (although it will be interesting to see how this emotional sympathy holds up now that it’s no longer applicable), but that only makes my irrational emotions toward the two teams even more extreme.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this kind of fandom. We humans are prone to emotional, baseless decisions. You prefer the color red, while I favor blue. You absolutely love Beyoncé’s music, while I’m much more interested in lesser-known bands like Marsheaux (a Greek synthpop band that is really good-check out “Inside” for a sample). You’re a cat person, but I won’t consider any pet that isn’t a dog. And on and on. We can get irritated with one another every once in a while over our prejudices—stupid though that is—but when we’re not being overly emotional, we recognize all humans are entitled to their irrational likes and dislikes. We might not understand why someone feels so strongly about snow globes, but hey, if you get chills shaking a glass dome filled with plastic particles, go for it! (If you could try to keep your rhapsodic monologues on their wonder to less than fifteen minutes, though, we would all appreciate it.)
But there should be limits to how far we let this “fan” mentality infect other, more significant choices we have to make. Specifically, when it comes to our political elections, we should drop the red/blue nonsense and evaluate the candidates based on who will do a better job. Of course that’s still a subjective judgement, but at the very least we should consider as much objective information as we can before voting. This election cycle has been especially ugly, mainly because one of the antagonists has adopted an approach more appropriate for professional wrestling than Presidential elections. While which team millions of us will line up to watch drive by after a world championship is a harmless personal choice, the impact of who our next President is matters to every human being, not only in the United States, but also to billions of other Earth dwellers. When we’re picking the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military that has ever existed, believe me, Europeans, South Americans, Africans, North Americans, and Asians have a real interest in what kind of person we select.
And this election has fostered the baseless team loyalty view to the point where it’s entirely about personality, presentation, and image; discussion of the issues has faded to the point where one candidate’s health insurance proposal is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something terrific.”
There’s no question that the Internet has fostered this way of choosing a candidate. Most of us were raised to favor one political party over the other; since my parents were Democrats, I am too. My daughters also would label themselves as such: The bias is built into our upbringing, just as my White Sox fervor was an accident of birth. Enter the web where anybody can post anything about the candidates regardless of bothersome things like facts, which leads to our being bombarded with half-truths and conspiracy theories designed to help us continue our tendencies to favor one side over the other, regardless of reality. In fact, it seems truer every day that “reality” is an ever-changing, malleable thing. Lying no longer seems to matter to anyone since we see supposed experts on every news channel taking diametrically opposed positions—always based on their version of the facts—each trying to dominate the other—not with discourse or reasonable dialoguing—but by increasing their volume. The standard has become for political debate to degenerate into several people yelling at each other indecipherably, while an ineffectual moderator cuts them off only for commercial breaks.
So it’s understandable that many of us refuse to deal with this maelstrom of contradictory gibberish and simply vote the way we always have. Maybe we’re uncomfortable with some of the things being said about those on our “team,” but then again, there are plenty of nasty things out there about our party’s opponents, being screamed just as shrilly.
But we’re dealing with important things like laws, wars, and the environment; we have an obligation to our fellow humans to rise above trivial factors to find that which will benefit us all. I’ve been struck this campaign, however, by the number of seemingly rational people who are willing to ignore the overwhelming amount of evidence that Donald Trump is completely unfit to govern this country. Millions of voters will vote (or already have voted) for him just because they identify themselves as Republicans. The mental gymnastics necessary to justify this boggle my mind. Remember that some of these very same people, Republican leaders all, characterized Trump as “cancer” and “poison.”
I know; I know: You have all kinds of stuff that shows Hillary is just as bad, but the self-delusion necessary for this false equivalency shouldn’t be tolerated by rational people. From racism to misogyny to religious intolerance to advocating torture to denigration of war heroes to bragging about sexual assault to…well, you’ve heard it all before. And unlike the attacks on Clinton, you don’t have to rely on emails released from someone holed up in the London Ecuadorian embassy using material obtained from Russian hackers—you can hear Donald say all that stuff himself. (For a humorous explanation of the difference between the two, check out Seth Meyer’s “The Polls Tighten with Six Days Left: A Closer Look” at about the 6m 20s mark.)
Then there is the historic amount of lying Trump has done. No matter how clear the evidence has been on some issues—whether it be comments he has made while being recorded or his own tweets—he denies it as if it can’t be checked out. Daniel Dale, a reporter for the Toronto Sun (I told you our Presidential elections matter to everybody) has cataloged all the “false claims” Trump has made throughout the campaign (here is an interview with Dale on CNN). Just one statistic from that interview: During the three debates, he found that Clinton said four, five, and four false things, but Trump’s count was thirty-three, thirty-four, and thirty-seven, an 8-1 ratio. You cannot believe anything he says; in the last couple of days he has repeatedly quoted a Fox News story that Hillary was about to be indicted by the FBI, long after Fox had retracted the story as false. (For another humorous take on Trump’s lying, take a look at The Daily Show’s “What the Actual Fact” based on the second debate.)
Yes, Hillary is not popular and there are definitely negatives in her résumé which could easily cause voters to select a qualified Republican candidate over her—I’d have no problem with your picking Mitt Romney, John McCain, or even George W. Bush (not one of my faves, for sure) over her. All those men had government experience, a clear plan for what they would do once in office, and the temperament to represent those who did not agree with them. Trump, in comparison, has threatened to imprison his political rivals, encouraged everyone to “check out a sex tape,” refused to state he will accept the election’s outcome, and cannot stop himself from engaging in petty attacks on anyone who challenges any of his nonsense, typically at 3:30 A.M., via Twitter. And that’s not even taking into account his foolish, expensive plan to build a wall on America’s southern border, his proposed ban on Muslims entering the country, or his huge tax breaks for fellow billionaires. We don’t know his financial situation since he won’t release his tax returns nor explain what business dealings he’s had with Russians affiliated with Putin, who he seems to admire “bigly.” In every way, Trump’s candidacy has been nothing but red flags both on his character and his ability to lead our country. The only way reasonable people can vote for him is to retreat to blind allegiance, exactly the same kind of irrational support we heap on our favorite TV show or rock star. They retreat to that lame rational of supporting Trump because he’s a Republican and so are they. That’s not a good enough explanation to elect someone as unqualified as Donald.
So you Cub fans enjoy your moment while we Sox stalwarts fester in our own dour depths. It’s not rational, but we humans are entitled to that kind of lunacy with regards to our sports teams, desserts, and vocal patterns in others that drive us crazy. But when it comes to choosing the President of the most powerful country in the world? In the words of a pretty well-known White Sox fan, C’mon, man!