When we turn on the news, are we attending an informal in-home briefing, or are we attending a soap opera?
Too often it feels like we — and I mean a collective, non-partisan “we” here — are too quick to criticize politicians, not because we disagree with the particular decisions they make, but because we see them as akin to the celebrities whose music or style of dress we disagree with.
Unlike with musicians and actors, however, it is dangerous to cancel politicians simply because of something we might see flashing by on the screen.
There are those of us who adore certain politicians in a similar way. For example, they may share one’s stance on immigration, or they may find their voters’ favor simply by not being their opponent.
In both of these cases, we are choosing see lawmakers and those seeking to become lawmakers as an idea of who or what they represent, instead of as people who have families and people who love them.
We find ourselves wishing harm or success on them not because of the kind of person they are but because of the idea of them we have built up in our minds.
An example of this can be seen in the reaction to the Capitol riots led by those who wanted to see the implementation of another four years of former President Donald Trump.
For them, they were not ransacking the Capitol in favor of a man but in devotion to an idea, the flags bearing his name no different from the Confederate battle flags also in attendance. They were not there to argue against a “rigged election” but against what they perceived to be a dramatic change to their basic way of life.
On the other hand, many who loathed the former president were delighted by the news of his COVID-19 diagnosis late last year. Many believed he was getting his just desserts for denying and belittling the severity of the pandemic, and some still wanted him to die of his illness to serve as a reminder of what happens to those who deny the dangers of COVID-19.
These people also were not thinking of the former president as a person when they wished him to die: they saw him only as a figurehead of the mask-less, racist and uber-patriotic mob they see as the far-right. They don’t see him as a father and husband whose family would miss him if he were dead.
When Trump left the White House, I rejoiced at first, thinking that we could now return to a time where one’s love or hate of a politician wasn’t determined by sensationalist news stories aimed at convincing targeted audiences that said a politician was for or against them.
However, as soon as Joe Biden had been sworn in as the 46 president of the United States, many people, remembering the constant daily scandal of the last administration, took to social media to insist that we as a collective nation hold the new president “accountable”.
Many of the people demanding us to hold President Biden accountable — the same who said they wouldn't vote for Vice President Kamala Harris because of her background as attorney general. in the Democratic primaries, come from privileged backgrounds; they will never be victims of the things they wish to hold Biden “accountable” for.
These people just want to be critical for criticism’s sake.
We must remember that the people we see are just that — people. They are more than their supporters or fanbases: we must see their families and loved ones as well. No politician should be viewed as an angel or a devil because of the people who listen to them, but because of the actions they themselves are solely responsible for.
In this nascent era, let’s choose to hold ourselves accountable for not only the people we believe in, but why and how we believe in them.