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November 13, 2004

The View

spd sent me this short WSJ column, and it fit right in with something that's been running through my mind anyway for the past few days.

The other day I had lunch with a childhood best friend who is a very liberal Democrat. We've remained close over the years, though we see each other only sporadically.  We talked for hours, mostly about politics, often about the silliness of this election season: the bitterness and rancor on both sides of the aisle.

I was mostly of the opinion that what we saw this time out was not entirely a bad thing.  This was the first election in my lifetime where people were passionate about politics.

They cared madly, truly, deeply about what was going on in Washington, in Iraq, in Afghanistan.  The followed the news.  They followed the polls.  They turned out - in record numbers - on election day to cast their votes. 

They weren't always well-informed votes, but I'd wager they were better-informed votes than we've seen in past elections.  People turned off their TVs.  They got on the Internet and looked for alternate sources of information.  They discussed the issues with friends, neighbors, and people half a country or even half a continent or a world away.  That's amazing when you stop and think about it.

That's the way democracy is supposed to work. Pull out all the stops, get down in the mud and wrestle with the pigs if necessary.  Sweat, and bleed, and work for your candidate up until the last minute and until the last voting booth closes.

We just need to remember not to hate each other when it's all over.

Reading the WSJ article, I had a few thoughts on the irony of liberals (who preach the value of tolerance) showing nothing but intolerance and even outright hatred and contempt for those who disagree with their political views:

...with liberals, there is a difference. For starters, they are liberal: that is, "tolerant," "open-minded," "not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values," "having views or policies advocating individual freedom of action and expression," to mention some of the dictionary definitions. Sure, rabbis, priests and politicians earn their living by making distinctions between Us and Them. But liberals speak for all mankind: Their decencies are human decencies, not group ones, supposedly. And while human decency shouldn't connote limitless toleration for aberrant behavior, surely the liberal "at least" would be notched a couple inches below whatever level of human debasement John Ashcroft is supposed to have reached.

Yet, to paraphrase Bruce Hornsby, that's not the way it is. Not long ago, the New York Sun, a conservative broadsheet, dispatched six brave souls to traipse around Manhattan donning conspicuous Bush-Cheney campaign paraphernalia. One reporter, Roderick Boyd, encountered a woman in Union Square who "spat on the ground at his feet and proceeded to deliver a lecture on alleged Republican fascism and 'blood for oil.' " Another reporter, Maura Yates, "received a more personal greeting from a fellow pedestrian: He walked up and stuck his middle finger in her face."

What gave this story particular interest was that it was inspired by a similar stunt by Slate reporter Richard Rushfield, who spent some time in Republican and Democratic districts wearing paraphernalia of the opposing candidate. "In my Kerry-Edwards shirt," he writes, "I enter Red America certain that I am on the verge of inciting to rage a gang of angry yachtsmen. . . . Instead I encounter only shades of indifference."

Growing up in the 60's and 70's, intolerance was associated with the religious Right, with some justification.  Memories of people being shunned or ostracized for straying from what was considered "correct" behavior, while almost unthinkable today, were still fresh in people's minds then.

Now the opposite is true.  In academia, conservative students and faculty are afraid to speak up for fear of being fired, shouted down, spit upon, and even physically attacked.  The supposedly tolerant Left thinks nothing of demonizing Christians and Jews for worshipping God, but venerates Muslims, a culture in which women are still sometimes physically mutilated against their will, beaten, and kept from getting an education or leaving the house.  It seems to defy all logic.

The Right rightfully decries hypocrisy on the Left.  But in doing so, I think we fail to recognize that they are only doing what we did 30 or 40 years ago.  The dominant culture is merely asserting itself against a culture in decline. The prevailing culture then was one of morality and religion, and so the 'moral majority' felt comfortable asserting its sway over those who stepped out of line.

In today's 'if it feels good, do it' culture, the only sin is to believe in something. If you take a stand or make an assertion, you are saying that you are right (and therefore, someone else must be wrong).  This is inherently elitist and 'bad' and you must be brought to heel.  The weight of numbers is on the side of the Tolerance Brigade - with the comforting presence of the prevailing culture behind them, they feel justified in hammering the offending nail until it is the same height as all the others.

But is this really an exclusive property of the Left?  Or is it just human nature?  And are we just angry because the worm has turned?  True, the fact that the Left preaches tolerance, but practices bigotry and hatred towards conservatives, Christians, white males, and Jews is both disturbing and ironic, but it should not surprise us any more than the fact that some of the religious Right failed to love their neighbors as theirselves.

Human nature never changes - it is just the view that varies.  Especially if you're no longer the lead dog in the culture sled.

- Cassandra

November 13, 2004 at 12:25 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The "moral majority" and their fellow-travelers never controlled American institutions (academia, the media, etc.) the way the so-called liberals control those things today. You have to go back 50 years, during the McCarthy era, to find a time when the Left may have had some reason to feel intimidated.

Posted by: George at Nov 13, 2004 1:34:00 PM

Cassandra, Cassandra, Cassandra,

There is a difference in Liberalism and Conservatism which goes far deeper than the period of time you live in. In fact, when you really look at things, it is nothing more than a name game - a game, I might add, the Left plays far better than the rest of us. Of course, controlling the major media might have something to do with that.

The most radical Leftist movement ever to hit the world was Communism. An ultra-liberal, I guess. Still, when the excesses of Communism came to light, despite everything the Left in this country did to cover it up, well, those Communist, the ones running the show, became known as Conservatives. In other words, a "nut case" in a Communist country is equal to a "nut case" in ours. We see the same thing with the War on Terror. It is the "Fundamentalist" Muslims causing all the trouble in the world with their incoherence. Why, they're no different than the "Fundamentalists" in the good ol' USA.

Still, if they want to play the name game, I am all for it. After all, it is the liberal agenda in the public school systems which has given us a nation full of kids who can barely read and write. As a boy, I learned that we were a Western Civilization. As a man, I learned that Western Civilization is bad. I suppose that butchering people and starving them to death is just different way of looking at things. While we are at it, let's accept stoning women for committing adultery. Why learn from the activities of Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan.

By the way, Nazi Germany, by any standards, would have to be considered - dare I say it - Liberal. It was, after all, led by the National SOCIALIST Party.

Posted by: RIslander at Nov 13, 2004 1:39:21 PM

It is the "Fundamentalist" Muslims causing all the trouble in the world with their incoherence. Why, they're no different than the "Fundamentalists" in the good ol' USA.

Speaking of "nut cases" ...

Posted by: George at Nov 13, 2004 1:44:56 PM

I will agree with that, up to a point, but I am still suspicious of the nutjobs in both parties, RIslander.

In the Middle Ages we had the darned control freaks trying to convert everyone and telling them what to do and it's taken us centuries to get over that - we still instinctively fear religion (and it's not religion, but fanaticism that is evil) to this day.

I think my point was that any movement tends to moonbattery at the fringes, and when the herd instinct takes over, people become intolerant. What they are intolerant of, whether it is blacks, Jews, Catholics, Commies, or homosexuals in the Fifties or white males, Jews, Christians, and conservatives in the 21st century, only depends on where the center of gravity lies in the court of public opinion.

The only truism I've been able to find in all of this is God help you if you're a Jew.

Posted by: Cassandra at Nov 13, 2004 1:47:32 PM

I think my point was that any movement tends to moonbattery at the fringes...

That's probably true, roughly speaking. But the moonbattiness of some movements is acted out by handling snakes or speaking in tongues, while for other movements it might involve flying hijacked airliners into skyscrapers. The two fringe movements, in this example, are not equally dangerous or appalling.

Posted by: George at Nov 13, 2004 2:02:31 PM

Putting in my two cents (ching! ching!, pennies bouncing off the monitor).
What differentiates the two predominant opposing viewpoints is their beliefs as totalized in a worldview.
To an American consevative, the world is changing too much, old values are being discarded or challenged. Standing astride the road of history and shouting 'STOP!'. It's been this way all our lives, so most conservatives realize that change is not going to be stopped. Some people hope for a religious 'apocalypse' to right all past wrongs and make the world the ideal place we (they) wish it could be. But no one really believes that politcal change is going to bring this about.
Most American liberals don't expect some kind of religious 'apocalypse', but expect, programmatically (politically), that by and by, things will change in their favor. For most of the twentieth century, this was the case (to a degree).
But as all things change (the more they remain the same), the social and political pendulum MIGHT be swinging in a direction which is not conducive to their (liberal/left) long term programm. Intellectually, some on the left are starting to perceive that the world is not moving in their direction anymore (or at least at the same pace).
The end of the USSR ended the last hopes of leftists of a successful 'Western' nation implementing 'socialism' (with a human face). In halting ways, the social democracies of Western Europe) use parts of the socialist program, but those pesky 'free enterprise' types keep popping up and changing the game.
So in this country, the left-wing 'political apocalypse' that would transform the US into a social paradise, appears to be further away than ever. (the change of many entitlements, elimination of others, and how about private Social Security accounts)
They feel the tides of history turning away from them, and they rage in the growing darkness.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at Nov 13, 2004 5:40:36 PM

Good post, Don. You obviously aren't "nobody" (you probably should have your own blog).

Anyway, here's my take: The stridency of the so-call liberals in America is tied directly to their sensing that they're losing their political power and their social significance. And the more desperate they are about that, the more vociferous they become in the "public square."

But that's a positive feedback loop (as systems analysts would put it). They might learn to "mind their manners" (as my grandma would have said). But that doesn't seen to be in their bag of tricks, so they can only hope that the Right somehow self-destructs. That, of course, is always a possibility.

Posted by: George at Nov 13, 2004 6:19:27 PM

...they can only hope that the Right somehow self-destructs. That, of course, is always a possibility.

If you tune into the smarter of the liberal commentators right now, that is exactly what they are hoping for. And with the Bush administration (not known for caution or moderation) just re-elected for a 2nd term and the Republiscums in control of both houses of Congress, that is indeed a distinct possibility.

Should be a very entertaining two years before the next Congressional election.

Posted by: Cassandra at Nov 13, 2004 7:05:41 PM

You do understand that this is not what I want to happen.

I'm just something of a cynic, and also a believer that things always balance themselves out in the long run.

Posted by: Cassandra at Nov 13, 2004 7:06:47 PM

To put in my one cent, I have spent alot of time on political forums, as well as blogs, and the intolerance of the left has been amazing. Obviously, most of the folks are more passionate then your standard voter. But the hatred the comes in places like the DU is amazing.

Posted by: William Teach at Nov 13, 2004 7:28:56 PM

I'm easy here. All I ask is for people to just step back a few feet and evaluate their own damned arguments before shouting them to the world. There's a curse associated with being "right" all of the time. Think: Spanish Inquisition; Final Solution, Culteral Revolution. "Right" my ass. We don't have a clue. Screw the Kool-aid, pass the freakin' bourbon.

Everybody is wrong, it's about the majority.

Posted by: spd rdr at Nov 13, 2004 7:52:47 PM

Don't even bring up my typos...
Bring guns or don't come.

Posted by: spd rdr at Nov 13, 2004 7:55:46 PM

There are fringes and there are FRINGES. Some are miniscule and others are, if not the controlling feature, massive.

The Inquisition is mentioned as a period of intolerance, and well it should be. It began in the Fifteenth Century, and hopefully, we learned a few things since then.

Conservatism might be seen, by some, as those opposing change. By others, it might be seen as, why fix it if it ain't broke? Why change just for the sake of changing?

By the way, I think somebody completely misunderstood what I was saying, but that would not be the first time.

Islam, by its very teachings, is a religion of conquest. Two thirds of the Christians living were killed or forced to conversion during the first four hundred years or so of Islam. The answer of Europe - the Crusades. The answer of Spain, once Islam was pushed out - the Inquisition. Again, most of these events took place hundreds of years ago. 9/11 took place three years ago. Somebody, it seems, has failed to learn from history.

In closing, my sympathies go out to poor Mrs. Arafat who will now be forced to get by on a mere 22 million a year.

Posted by: RIslander at Nov 13, 2004 9:33:47 PM

Conflict between Christianity and Islam was inevitable because they are evangelical... a $5 word meaning they actively seek converts. They are also the only two religions I'm aware of that do. Judaism doesn't; Bhuddhism doesn't; AFAIK Hinduism doesn't. All other religions allow people to join them, but you'll never see a Wiccan Crusade for the Goddess in a major city near you.

Posted by: SDN at Nov 13, 2004 10:03:02 PM

SDN,

Well, that isn't true. They don't "actively seek" conversion, but they promote themselves all the time. And they seek recognition and school clubs and tollerence (not from persecution, but in public acceptance) with the hope of growth and popularity.

As for the conversion angle, and I say this as a Christian, if you have the answer in your religion, then why the heck aren't you seeking converts. You think the right thing to do is stash away your little secret to the meaning of life?

Sure, Christianity had its black times in history. News flash: those positions are not representative of even a serious percentage of todays Christian nutjobs. The Islamic nutjobs, OTOH, are actually a significant percetage of their religion, more so in certain parts of the world. Their major mosques are run by these nutjobs in some instances. I don't say this to justify any condemnation of Islam or Islamists, but the facts are in the open. Their nutjobs run their major media instituion, recruit thousands upon thousands of "soldiers."

My point is this: the religious right in this country isn't dangerous. It isn't dangerous for a couple reasons: (1) their goals, while annoying (I can't buy liquor on Sunday or kill fetuses), are either merely inconvienent or removed from the discussion by the Courts; or (2) their worst positions are just not that popular and thus won't pass a popularly elected legislature.

In Islamic countries, and Islamic jihadists in this country, neither limitiation exists. The goals are serious and deadly and, in their countries, quite popular.

With respect to the left right comments by Cassandra, there are so many ways to carry that discusion. The Left loves to slam on the right's hypocrites -- preachers of values that fall short of their proclaimed goals. Well, isn't that special. Here is the problem: the right's hypocrites usually admit their mistake (maybe after being caught, but still more than the left does) and request forgiveness. The right then denies it and kicks them out of office, at least for a while. You see, you can't be a hypocrite unless you espouse certain values. If nothing is wrong, there is no opportunity for hypocricy.

The left only holds religious belief and slurs about certain types of people to be wrong, then it forgives the latter if the speaker was already considered a liberal (eg, KKK-Byrd).

The right needs to continue to police themselves and keep the tone tollerable if possible. We shoud continue to expect the same from the left. But it is disheartening to see any concession attacked as weakness as the left tried and hoped to do with Bush with the whole appology thing. When is the last time a leftish politician appologized for anything other than the "N" word? The politicians on the right seem to do it all the time, even though identical sins on the left are ignored.

Posted by: KJ at Nov 13, 2004 10:41:08 PM

What I have noticed is that once there is an apology from the Left, that ends all conversation regarding the subject at hand. Somewhat akin to the "buck stops here" line. The buck may stop here but don't even think of dishing out any sort of punishment.

We went through a semi-grownup Presidency where the teachings of Benjamin Spock were taken very seriously.

Posted by: RIslander at Nov 14, 2004 12:48:44 PM