First, I’d like to use my lunch break to remind my readers in Los Angeles that there is an election tomorrow, March 9, and your vote is very important. I’ve done two posts with my thoughts on the elections and the contests on the Sample Ballot. You can find my analysis of the mayor’s race here; a separate post covered all the other municipal and special district posts, as well as the two local measures. As always, I would like your thoughts on my thoughts.
While eating lunch was was reading about the kerfluffle about a Veterans Monument near Orcutt. As always, I’m reading the comments, and I’m seeing the usual vitriol against liberals. This is something that was bothering me all weekend on Facebook, where I constantly see ad hominem attacks on liberal spokescritters (i.e., attacking the person, not what they way), and liberals targeted in a blanket way (e.g,. “blood-sucking liberals”). Before you say anything, I also seem similar rhetoric from my politically-active liberal friends against the conservative side, and it also bothers me.
As a result, a plea to my friends who want to have political discussions (this is primarily targeted at the American political spectrum; adapt as necessary):
First, remember the people who disagree with you are not anti-America, anti-American, or hell-bent on destroying this country. On the liberal side, they are not socialists (socialism is, as they say in Princess Bride, something different than you think). On the conservative side, they are not bible-belt thumpers who want to introduce a theocracy. They are people with whom you have honest disagreements, but who are working for the same goal: a strong, united, Nation.
Second, remember that using ad hominem attacks and broad-brush name calling will only serve to further the partisanship, and shut people down from hearing what you say. It may be fun, and it may bring you comments from your side, but it does nothing to help your cause, whichever side you are on.
Third, remember that the goal in our discussions is not to sway the person to your side. The goal for any discussion must be to understand from where the other side is coming.* That doesn’t mean we have to agree with the conclusion, mind you. It means that we must respect the other side enough to listen, understand their chain of reasoning, and recognize that they see it as a valid solution to whatever problem is being discussed. By understanding each other, we can move closer to finding solutions.
[*: What, you have some other goal? What is it? To preach to the converted; to post articles to people already convinced of your view simply to drag the other side through the mud? That’s just being mean and childish. Grow up! I’ll challenge your views, and you challenge mine.]
Fourth, remember that this country was built on compromise, not rigidity. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are all the results of compromises from different factions. The current hyper-partisanship of “my way or the highway” is not within the American tradition. American tradition means that each side understands and respects each other, and each side gives some to end up with a result that neither is comfortable with, but that both can live with. America doesn’t instantly find the best solution to problems; we wander back and forth from side to side, like a pendulum, slowly closing in on the right answer. We often forget that, especially in the “I want it now!” generation.
Lastly, remember that our political problems were not caused solely by one party or another. It is very rare that both houses of Congress and the President are the same party, and that there are supermajorities in both houses. This means that both parties have been involved in making whatever decisions are problematic. Take the sequester (please!). Last year, there was almost a moderate grand compromise between the Administration, the Republican house leadership, and the Democratic senate leadership. Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor talked John Boehner out of supporting the compromise (this is on the record), and so the sequester was created to establish a game of chicken that neither side would want to lose. Both houses had to pass the sequester legislation, and the President had to sign it. Then, as opposed to solving the problem before the sequester kicked in, neither congressional side was willing to find a compromise the other could accept. Every one shares in the fault. Except, of course, my congresscritter. My congresscritter is doing a great job (and, by the way, that’s the problem: everyone likes their congresscritter; it is the other ones that are scum).
Music: As Day Follows Night (Sarah Blasko): “Sleeper Awake”