One of the more unpleasant developments I've noted of the past few years is the ever-increasing amount of subjectivism in politics. The idea that the individual takes precedence over objective reality is growing more and more pervasive, and taking many forms -- and I do not believe it bodes well for the future.
One form was demonstrated last week, with the discussion between Senator Boxer and Secretary of State Rice. Senator Boxer disagrees with Secretary Rice, but chose not to base her disagreement on matters of policy, philosophy, or to find fault in Secretary Rice's education or professional qualifications. Rather, Secretary Rice's personal decisions and lifestyle choices (she is unmarried and has no children) were cited as the reasons why Senator Boxer disagrees with Secretary Rice.
It came up yet again with the 13 zillionth invocation of the "chickenhawk" argument on Thursday, when I tried to bring up the "big picture" on the story of Iraq. In response to that piece, "nogo postal" decided that the matter of whether or not the US mission in Iraq was appropriate was far less significant than the earth-shattering matter of whether or not I have ever served in the military. (The appropriate answer, of course, is "none of your fucking business." A closing "asswipe" is optional.)
There's an old saying -- "don't shoot the messenger." These days, it seems a hell of a lot easier to do just that. Why bother mustering arguments and facts and positions and ideas when, instead, you can simply attack the messenger and turn the issue to the perceived failings of that person? It's so much simpler, and human nature will be your able assistant -- nearly everyone, when attacked, wants to defend themselves, and that just furthers the move away from the topic at hand.
It's a seductively easy tactic, one I've fallen for on more than one occasion -- and, shamefully, engaged in it myself. (Whenever I talk about Senator Ted Kennedy, for example, I am utterly unable to resist at least one gratuitous cheap shot.)
It's bad. It's wrong. It's shameful. It's corrosive. And we should do what we can to call out those who use it, even when it's each other.