Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How About How Liberals Feel, For A Change?

Once again, it's the Left that's being asked to consider the Right's feelings. It's the Left that is, as usual, being asked to do all the compromising for the sake of moving past gridlock. It's the Left that's accused of not respecting the opinions of the Right.

In the wake of the horrific and tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shootings, the ever-temperate and moderate bothsiderist David Brooks tells us that "The people who defend gun rights believe that snobbish elites look down on their morals and want to destroy their culture."

His answer, of course, is that "(i)t’s necessary to let people from Red America lead the way, and to show respect to gun owners at all points." After all, if we snobbish liberal elites would just get off our high horses for a minute and try to understand how the Real Americans of the Heartland™ feel, and not just be hating and thinking we're so superior all the time, then maybe we can all move forward.

And of course, we always do.

Cue the tsunami of articles about Trump voters and how they feel and why they feel and why they're so downtrodden and ignored by the arrogant Left. How, they bemoan, can we understand the Red Staters better? What can we say to them to show them we're not haters? When are we going to show them some respect and stop telling them "who they are and what they think" from our lofty elitist towers?

Oddly, enough, this always seems to be a one-way street.

Have you ever gone to any right-wing sites or read any right-wing Facebook posts asking each other to consider the left-wing point of view? To try to put themselves in a liberal's shoes? To wonder why liberals think the way they do, and maybe understand them better?

Go ahead; I'll wait.

No. I haven't, either.

I can tell you that I have spent a LOT of time 'trying to see the other side's point of view'. In fact, I wrote a whole book trying to figure it out. Before I stopped posting my political viewpoint on Facebook, even in my most angry rants, I tried to show respect for those who believed differently than I did and to acknowledge that they (some, anyway) were trying to be the best people they could be and believed in the righteousness of their position as much as I believe in mine. I asked for those people to have an honest and respectful dialogue with me to see where our beliefs connected and did not connect without insults or attacks.

I can count on one hand the people who were actually willing to have that discussion. There were a few people that would, but they were very much the exception. And it was at my invitation, not theirs.

And I never saw, from those on the right, requests for liberals to explain why they believe as they do. I never saw someone from the right reach out to the left asking for respectful dialogue with an open mind to hear an opposing viewpoint with the approach that we are both people of goodwill trying to understand one another. That doesn't mean that it never happens, of course, but I never saw it and I have looked.

We are both - right and left - accused of operating within our own bubbles, more comfortable with surrounding ourselves with those who share and reinforce our own point of view. And this is pretty much true. But I can tell you that, at least with my own experience, when I try to engage the other side, most of the time I am not met with respect.

There are some people who thrive on argument and conflict and do well with confrontation, and they will go out there and give as good as they get. But I have yet to see an argument on Facebook that has resulted in "Gee, you're right! I need to change my point of view to yours!"

In any political conflict where there are diametrically opposed positions, it is always the left that is asked to capitulate for the sake of breaking a stalemate. It is always the left asked to make concessions to their beliefs. When Republicans are in power, Democrats are expected to compromise - and they do. As opposed as Dems were to George W. Bush's agenda, they gave him most of what he wanted, including a disastrous, unnecessary war. They cannot bear to be seen as 'obstructionist'. They believe that you have to give in order to get - you know, the way that the government worked back in the good old days when Dems and Repubs would argue bitterly on the floor, and then go out for drinks afterwards. But when Democrats are in power, they are treated as illegitimate by the Republican party (thanks to good ol' Newt) so that obstructing the Democratic agenda is seen as a virtue, and to compromise at all is to abandon conservative principles. And, of course, we can't be faulted for standing up for our principles, can we?

We're supposed to feel for the Red-Staters who Brooks quotes as "offended by the lawn signs that said, “Hate Has No Home Here.” The implication: Hate has no home in my house, but it does in yours." It's understandable, even justifiable, for them to be offended by the slights that they see themselves subjected to by the thoughtless and uncharitable Left - but at the same time, they deride liberals who feel offended by their treatment by the right as being "special snowflakes". The Left are always the 'real racists' if they point out racism, and intolerant if they object to being discriminated against because of religious objections. They are 'haters' if they object to being hated.

As the bleeding-heart, open-minded liberal I am, I am willing - more than willing - to consider or even embrace an opposite point of view if you could empirically prove it to me. If you could really show me that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations truly make the economy better for everyone, I would change my position on tax cuts. I'm not married to them ideologically - I want results. But of course, it has never been shown to me to work  - but if you had proof to show me, I would not ignore it.

So far, though, I have not been met with either respect, good faith, willingness to listen or empirical truth from the right. Until we get some sort of reciprocity (see what I did there?) from the other side, I am not especially interested in continuing the same dynamic where one side does all the reaching out, all the understanding, all the capitulating. Because it will continue exactly like that as long as we allow it to.

And I am not willing to roll over on a matter of principle as important as preventing mass murder.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Evangelicals Approve of Trump - No Surprise!

Everyone seems to be surprised that far-right evangelicals and fundamentalists, who are so very critical of American society’s immorality and sinfulness, are completely embracing Trump, possibly the least-Christian President ever - venal, profane, vain, envious, greedy, a liar, a cheat, a thief, an adulterer, a glutton - when they howled at the perfidy of a Bill Clinton or even attacked the Christianity of a Barack Obama, surely one of the most scandal-free, family-values men ever to occupy the White House.

It is not so surprising if you know the history of the relationship between evangelicals and Big Business Republicans.

Evangelicals took a drubbing during the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. Even though William Jennings Bryan prevailed against celeb lawyer Clarence Darrow and obtained a conviction against John Scopes for teaching evolution, the evangelical community were ridiculed in the press and painted as ignorant and backward. As a result, they retreated from public life and developed their own commmunity apart from the mainstream culture.

In the 60s, the Republican Party was essentially a business-oriented party, not especially concerned with religion. And the religious right was not interested in engaging in politics, which they considered ‘worldly’ and sinful. But when a 1964 Supreme Court decision removed prayer from public schools, a man named Paul Weyrich envisioned a Christian Right with political power.

It took him some time to convince both Republicans and Christians that they could empower each other. In 1978 the IRS threatened to revoke tax-exempt status from private schools that were not sufficiently integrated, and at this point the evangelicals decided that their isolation could no longer protect them, and decided to accept the help of the Republicans. Paul Weyrich convinced a Baptist minister to organize a Christian protest against the IRS called Christian School Action. Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell Sr. (who donated his massive direct-mail list) got on board, and Christian School Action was successful in getting the IRS to drop the desegregation plan.

This led to the birth of the Moral Majority, and the joining of the religious right and the Republican Party.

Up to this point, the Big Business Republicans did not have, by itself, the means to dominate the political landscape. And the religious right had no recourse to government power, especially with the separation of church and state. But together, they became a juggernaut, with Republicans utilizing a disciplined, organized and obedient religious voting bloc to achieve their secular ends.

In return, the evangelicals were promised that their religious goals would be prioritized.

Disappointed by the liberal bent of one they considered one of their own, born-again Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter, the religious right mobilized to elect the divorced ex-movie star Ronald Reagan, who although not particularly religious himself, wooed them ardently.

However, although the Repubs talked a good game, the religious right didn’t always get a lot of bang for their buck. The evangelicals always delivered their vote and held up their end of the bargain, but once their guy was in office, the big promises did not materialize. Few evangelicals were appointed to top positions and their issues were not paid much attention to.

Even during the George W. Bush era, who was a genuine born-again Christian, the religious right was not given the legislation and policies they felt their support entitled them to.

The lesson learned for the evangelicals was that a President who was truly religious or who talked the good game was not necessarily going to outlaw abortion or same-sex marriage. Sunday-school teacher Jimmy Carter didn’t. Their beloved patriotic Ronald Reagan didn’t. Their born-again Dubya didn’t.

So - when someone comes along who does pay real attention to what they want, no matter how personally vile and licentious, they could not care less. Their saintly candidates didn’t do squat. So maybe it takes God utilizing an ‘imperfect’ man to produce Godly ends, like King David or King Solomon.

They will embrace and adhere to the one who gives them power - and Trump has done more than any other president to support their agenda.

So don’t expect the hypocrisy to end anytime soon. That will have to wait till the next Democratic president, when they will once again rail at and condemn his or her awful sinfulness.