Escondido, CA

So sure they are morally right

It’s gone from, “Hey, let’s do lunch and talk politics” to “I disagree with you, so you can’t HAVE lunch!”
It is obvious to me that liberals and conservatives have different world views. Which creates problems when they clash on base principles rather than questions of policy. There is a widening spectrum of policy questions that in some quarters are non-negotiable in terms of morality. Blame this on the fact that government sticks its nose in every aspect of our lives. Everything becomes political. Not only do we disagree with our political opponents, we think they should be driven from their jobs and not allowed to exist in “polite” society, or even to eat lunch in peace.
There is no longer “polite” society. Those who don’t live in our “world” must be hounded.
As a journalist I have learned that the best way to understand someone is to argue from his viewpoint in a philosophically coherent manner. If you can’t without sounding hollow, you are incapable of being fair.
At its core, liberalism values equality (of outcome—obviously we all agree in equality before the law) more than freedom, the collective more than the individual. Conservatives, or libertarians, value freedom over equality. Liberals believe Man is perfectible and must be protected from himself, and Utopia is possible; conservatives believe that at his core Man is weak and foolish but requires the freedom to make mistakes and achieve great things. Both value freedom, equality and progress but in different proportions.
Recently in terms of human history Catholics and Protestants killed each other over interpretations of the sacraments. We’ve come a long way in tolerating differing beliefs. But it took devastating Europe with fire and sword to reach that accommodation of religious beliefs. In the mid-20th century people committed mass murder over ideology rather than religion.
Today our political debates are rising to an almost religious intensity. No heresy is allowed.
I’ve had fellow conservative friends insist that liberal politicians know they are “wrong” and that their policies are harmful but insist on pursuing them because they want power —not because they think those policies will actually improve the country. Many liberals believe the same about conservatives.
I’ve argued with radicals who believe that “freedom of speech” doesn’t extend to some people because, “Well, they’re just WRONG!” Readers of both political stripes routinely demand that we not print writers they disagree with in this newspaper.
I have an old friend (liberal enough that he took part in those demonstrations after Trump’s inauguration) who must explain to his liberal friends how he can stand “being around THAT David Ross.” I enjoy diversity of opinion, and the cut and thrust of argument. But I won’t tolerate someone calling immoral and evil because I hold opposing political beliefs. If someone insists that I’m a “Nazi” because I don’t believe in universal health care or I don’t think the border should be open to anyone who wants to cross it, or because I won’t give up my guns, I’m not interested in engaging that person.
Glenn Reynolds (The “Instapundit”) wrote: “Americans, who used to know how to disagree with one another without being mutually contemptuous, seem to be forgetting this. And the news media, which promote shrieking outrage in pursuit of ratings and page views, are making the problem worse.”
Reynolds was commenting on recent cases where a café owner in Lexington, Virginia refused service to the President’s press secretary, and a restaurant where a liberal spotted the Secretary of Homeland Security, and using social media, ginned up a mob and ran her out of the restaurant. Later a similar mob showed up at her home.
Rep. Maxine Waters urged followers “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
To a degree President Trump brought this on by his crass, in your face style of campaigning, and tolerance for thuggery at his rallies. But it predates him. Liberals have called every Republican presidential candidate since Reagan a Nazi and sometimes threaten speakers or politicians they don’t like.
It’s easy for some people to declare that they are doing “what’s right” and harder to remember that’s why we have courts, legislatures, philosophers and religious leaders—because deciding what’s right isn’t always easy. People disagree on the main principles. Not everyone has access to a burning bush.
In arguing that liberals and conservatives have different world views, I don’t cut liberals slack for being wrong-headed and willfully ignoring history and facts. Bernie Sanders famously honeymooned in Moscow, and during his career before the fall of the Berlin Wall defended the Soviet Union. He still believes in socialism (and only ran for president as a Democrat because it’s hard to get a national audience as an independent socialist!) He willfully ignores the evils Communism and Socialism have wrought in the world (a butchers’ bill of more than 100 million dead in the 20th century) in his zest for arguing how rotten America is. But I’m convinced that he’s misguided, and not morally reprehensible. He has a different world view from mine. I’m happy to tolerate that world view, freely debate it and have a ham sandwich with him.
For a civil discussion of the issues, it helps to have that same courtesy extended to my views. But increasingly, we are not allowed to have different views, and our only freedom is how closely we adhere to a certain ideology. Which is no freedom at all.
Liberals tolerated a policy Barack Obama pursued as president, i.e. separating children from parents when families cross the border illegally, when he did it, but now call it morally indefensible when Trump does exactly the same thing. If something is wrong, it’s wrong, no matter who does it.
When Obama ran for president he opposed gay marriage. In 2008 he said “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage,” and in 2012 said, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” Fair enough. People evolve. What is not allowed, I think, is to term people who don’t go along as morally repugnant.
I don’t favor of abortion, in general. I think the more people look at sonograms of unborn children at three or four months, the more they will see human beings. But I’m not willing to put my beliefs into action. Society will evolve to where, in a hundred years, people will look back on abortions as we look back on slavery. I’ll wait for technology and universal birth control to get us there. Does that make me a Nazi? In some peoples’ eyes, yes.
Reynolds’s point is people of differing politics once had other forums where they associated: churches, service clubs, sports, schools and community events. They worshipped together, played together, and raised funds together. You don’t regard people you share a pew with or watch a ballgame with as minions of evil or even “deplorable.”
Before the Fifth District Board of Supervisors primary I interviewed candidate Jacqueline Arsivaud. In Elfin Forest/Harmony Grove Republicans and Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives share common land use goals. “Democrats and Republicans worked together,” she said. They range “from tree huggers to Trump supporters. We work together, we attend those hearings together. It doesn’t matter what the party affiliation is if it’s the peoples’ business.”
If they can work together to fight developers, Republicans and Democrats can stand to eat in the same building.
Jesus Christ talked to everybody, and associated with all. His last dinner included a disciple who later betrayed him; he engaged in philosophical repartee with the Roman who condemned him to death. If the greatest man who ever lived could do that, then us conservative and liberal knuckleheads can dine with people we normally can’t stand.
No issues are so big that civility should be tossed aside.
Instead of driving people you profoundly disagree with out of public diners, invite them to eat. Pick up the tab and engage. You probably won’t change his or her mind, and you won’t be converted either, but you might learn something.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

2 responses to “So sure they are morally right”

  1. Mick Hurst says:

    One of your ever so many insightful articles. Thanks David for having the fortitude to be fair and balanced and always seeking to seek out and state truth.

  2. Rick Elkin says:

    Extremely well crafted. Thank David.

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