Cambrian: Opinion

In politics and life, step away from the kitchen sink

Step away from the dirty dishes and practice restraint if you get the urge to throw everything at your opponent — including the kitchen sink.
Step away from the dirty dishes and practice restraint if you get the urge to throw everything at your opponent — including the kitchen sink.

It’s been referred to as “kitchen sink dumping” — the practice of throwing every last bit of ammunition you have, including the kitchen sink, into an argument.

Are you angry at Aunt Gertrude for spilling grapefruit juice on the remote control while she was house sitting? Accuse her of always ruining your stuff and bring up that time about 40 years ago that she ran over a nail when she dropped your Davy Crockett souvenir knife in the garbage disposal or “loaned” your Spectacular Spider-Man No. 68 to that bully down the block, not realizing he meant to smear it with cod liver oil before returning it.

Conveniently forget the fact that she was watching your house for free. That she picked up your mail. That she didn’t give away any spoilers to the “Game of Thrones” episode she was watching when she jumped out of her seat in shock that George R.R. Martin had killed off (fill in the blank) and spilled the aforementioned grapefruit juice. None of that matters. All you can think about is the fact that she ruined your remote control.

If kitchen sink dumping is a common practice at home, it’s rampant in politics. To be frank, much of this is the politicians’ doing. They’ve become so dependent on negative campaigning that the smear tactics they use make cod liver oil on a Spidey comic book smell like Chanel No. 5. I got so tired of seeing Katcho Achadjian raked through the mud on TV, I had to change the channel. All I wanted to do was watch the Warriors game (and, thankfully, I don’t have an Aunt Gertrude who spilled grapefruit juice on my remote).

For the record, I have nothing particularly for or against Achadjian. He simply seemed to be taking the brunt of the criticism in the commercials I saw.

Why are so many kitchen sinks being dumped on us?

One reason is it’s tempting to pile on (another term for kitchen sink dumping) when your initial criticisms aren’t gaining traction. Politicians do this all the time. If one scandal isn’t sticking to an opponent, they try something else. Pretty soon, though, it becomes apparent that they’re more interested in discrediting the person across the aisle than they are in offering legitimate criticism or — heaven forbid — an actual solution to the problem they’re raising.

On the other side of the coin, politicians have become so skilled at spinning things in their favor that we in the public have become increasingly skeptical of their positive messages — to the point that we view most of what they say with suspicion. And don’t we have a reason to be wary? Don’t many candidates and officeholders routinely change their tunes when public opinion dances off in some new direction?

Politicians, to be blunt, set a terrible example. Too many of them are great role models for self-promotion and horrible examples when it comes to public service. But before we blame them for how full of dirty dishes (pun intended) our kitchen sink has become, it might be time to clean out some of our own cupboards.

It’s never all bad

How often do we look at those people across the aisle and see only the bad? And how often do we load up our unwelcome wagons with dubious accusations in an attempt to bolster our legitimate complaints? Be honest. Would you even care about half of the criticisms you have of Mr. or Ms. (fill in the blank), if that candidate or public official weren’t a Republican? Or a Democrat? Or a socialist? Or a Muslim? Or a Christian?

Or are you piling on in an attempt to convince yourself and others that everything about the person is rotten and each of his/her ideas is unworthy of consideration?

Do me a favor and try this exercise: Try to come up with at least one thing you like about someone whose politics or actions, on the whole, you disagree with. It might be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders. It might be Cambria Community Services General Manager Jerry Gruber or LandWatch attorney Cynthia Hawley. If you don’t know them well enough to think of anything, do a little research. It doesn’t mean you have to end up liking the person; it just means you’re open to seeing the good in people with whom you might disagree.

Employ the scientific method. It’s great to start with a hypothesis, but go searching only for evidence that will prove it; be open to evidence that might give you a different perspective on things.

And step away from the kitchen sink. There’s a lot more to life than dirty dishes.