Thursday, March 24, 2005

More on Being Reasonable

I write this as a response to a thoughtful comment on althippo. Bill Coughlan wrote (and I paraphrase, hopefully with accuracy) that it was tough for him to be patient and reasonable and anything but "negative" when so much invective, "intolerant" Right-wing rhetoric is out there, in blogs, in the media, and in the culture.

(As an aside, I think there's as much trash talk on the liberal side, at least in blogland.)

He paraphrased Andrew Sullivan on Real Time with Bill Maher saying that one cannot convert red-staters by calling them morons. I remember Sullivan on Real Time. He made a number of good points that night, especially that one.

But I think it's less about "converting" than finding common ground and mutual respect. That's where convincing other people that your ideas have merit starts. With listening to them. Listening honestly and being open to what they're saying. And you might find out that their ideas have merit.

I think it's fair to say that if there are problems with the government, culture, whatever, then what may be perceived as "negative" responses to those problems are really--or at least should be--catches, "gotchas," or otherwise constructively forceful watchdog comments. In that way they are positive, not negative.

The negativity comes from the folks who see everything in black-and-white and are too insecure to leave their comfortable fraternities and hornet nests full of "commentators" (If you can actually call them that. It seems like more often they are more concerned with putting down anyone who doesn't sound as clever as they do), cynics, and group-thinkers.

Those people *do* consider all Bush supporters "evil," or all liberals "evil," and if you disagree, then you are "troll," too. (I was called a member of the "left-of-center fascist thought police" this morning by someone with too much time on his hands and not enough ideas. All for trying to intelligently make the point I'm making here.)

Well, I'll have none of it.

One of my good friends, AJM, is a Conservative Evangelical Orthodox Christian Republican. In months of in-depth, strip-down-all-the-assumptions conversations we realized we had a lot in common other than hair color. The main thing is that we both care more about Truth than anything else when it comes to Big Issues/politics. It takes work to find common ground. Though he and I don't agree on everything, we have a great amount of respect for each other. And, frankly, I've learned a heck of a lot about "Evangelicals" and Republicans that is NOTHING like many of the "liberal" portrayals of them out there.

So, I'm not seeing things in terms of red or blue. Just what makes sense. If we can start from there, we can be a whole lot more constructive.

Bill mentioned his disdain for those who he called "willfully ignorant." Here's my take on them. Have mercy on them. Consider them lost and try to help them find their way. Try to educate and listen and be patient.

That is, until they keep talking trash and their intractability makes you so nuts that you have to beat them down intellectually. Then just run circles around them until you can't stand it anymore.

I know it sounds harsh. But anyone who offers their opinions without any support, ignores evidence, brushes aside good logic and reason, adheres to zero social graces, and expects less than that shouldn't have opened his mouth anyway.

And the "willfully ignorant" don't exist only in one political party either. They're everywhere. Red, blue, and purple.


Blogger ajmac said...

Good advice. We all would do well to heed it... on both sides of the red-blue divide.

As an aside, the word "intolerant" is often used to describe anyone who does not agree with the relativist epistemological pressupositions of so-called "liberals," who really are not at all liberal in the traditional sense but rather are irrationally committed to the religion of Secularism at all costs.

In other words, if I defend a categorical truth claim -- abortion is murder, rape is wrong, marriage is between a man and a woman -- then I am being "intolerant." The label impedes, rather than fosters, genuine discussion and the search for truth. That is extremely illiberal.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Bill Coughlan said...

I read the abbreviated version of your post in the althippo comments, and really like this extended version.

One of the most enlightening interviews I ever saw was on The Daily Show, and was with professed evangelical Jim Wallis. It made me realized that religion and arch-conservatism do not go hand-in-hand.

When so many parade their religion around as if it were synonymous with their extremist agenda, it's easy to forget that they do not represent all Christians, or even all evangelical Christians. Not even a majority of them -- just a very vocal subgroup.

I enjoy having readers of varied political stripes, since it forces me to think twice before jumping to generalizations in my posts. I don't censor myself so much as think before I comment. Not that I'm perfect, but I try. And when I do screw up, my readers will let me know.

But I find the "intolerance" label more aptly (and frequently) applied not when one attempts to defend a "non-liberal" position, but when one refuses to acknowledge that others have different opinions; when one expects to speak, but refuses to permit others to.

I'm perfectly willing to entertain -- rational -- arguments for so-called "categorical truths." The "abortion is murder" argument has completely legitimate facets; but to imply that the debate is closed is intolerant. The "no gay marriage" argument may have rational basis, though -- at least in terms of the government's role -- I have yet to see one. Still, so long as you proceed from the assumption that your view is not the be-all and end-all of the argument, I am completely willing to listen.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'but rather are irrationally committed to the religion of Secularism at all costs.'

This is the type of sillness people rail against. Secularism is not a religion. It's not, saying it again really does make one seem unintelligent.

Being committed to a secular society is a rational position. It doesn't require any faith in the supernatural or superstition.

' if I defend a categorical truth claim -- abortion is murder, rape is wrong, marriage is between a man and a woman -- then I am being "intolerant." '

Because you are only stating what is true for you:
1. abortion is not considered murder in the USA-so your statement is false-untrue.

2. Rape is wrong- ok there
3. Marriage is between a man and a woman- ok for you, but not for others. Your 'truth' doesn't negate their truth. These are subjective.

it's easy to forget that they do not represent all Christians, or even all evangelical Christians. Not even a majority of them -- just a very vocal subgroup.'

The same can be said for Muslims,Hindus, Buddists, et al. All groups have their good and their bad and we should not condemn an entire group based on specific individuals.

Hitler was roman catholic for goodness sakes.

12:02 PM  

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