How To Tame A Republican (And Then Piss Him Off Again)
I do get some interesting emails in response to my writing, most nice, some a bit disagreeable and occasionally downright venomous. Last week I received an email from a very angry man who was irate at something I had written. This is all it said:
Your politics and ideas stink so much I am thanking God you are not the thing next door to me. I pity your neighbor. I can smell you all the way in Florida.To which I relied:
And I'm glad you're in Florida as well. See, there's always room for agreement.He quickly fired back with:
Gosh I hope the NSA reads your emails and keeps you in check when needs be. I will not read any more of your BS because I don't want to end up disliking you as much as I do your compatriot in hate mongering Ms Maureen Dowd. It wouldn't take much of your junk to lump you together with that, that, well never mind. Bye, bye toots. I leave you in the hands of the Dowdy Ms Maureen before I learn to dislike you too. Good luck in your little world of hate.At this point I considered not responding, but I was so flattered to be lumped in with such great company that I simply couldn’t resist. So, for a day and a half, my new friend and I exchanged emails about random topics and areas of concern for us both. The last email I received from him that day expressed a much different sentiment from the day before:
I know we ended up doing alright. I wish that all liberals were as good as you are. You set an example for them to look up to by not being entirely closed minded about everything a conservative says. I have now come to like you and will now not completely ignore your writings because I have a small insight into you as a person. Even though we may disagree politically your soul is pure and you come by your beliefs honestly. That's good no matter how you believe.
Quite a difference, no? I realized that so much of the political conversation that takes place in this country occurs much like it does during election season, with short sound bites, angry responses and harsh attacks, it’s no wonder we are in such a mess. It’s like the chicken and the egg, I don’t know if how politicians choose to campaign has caused the degeneration of the public dialogue, or if their style of campaign is a result of the public’s short attention span and inability to dissect and retain information. Either way, we are living in a very toxic political environment.
I wish I could report that my new friend and I parted ways on that happy note, but it was not meant to be. Ignoring my plea to steer clear of my writing, he went in search of older articles I had published and so the debate rages on, but we have reached a point where the conversation isn’t marred by rhetoric and hostility, so it no longer feels like a waste of time. We don’t agree on most things, but the disagreement centers mostly on how to achieve what we both want, a better country, a government that behaves morally, prosperity and religious tolerance, all worthy things to strive for.
What I have learned most from this exchange is that religious differences often form the basis of how we view the role of government and how we approach the world, and because of that, it is very difficult to break through the emotion and get to the real debate. I suggested he read an essay, that I enjoyed very much, and that provided some insight into why some people view the role of government as the enforcer of morality and why some of us think that morality is internal, and therefore efforts to enforce morality from the outside is unnecessary and often an infringement on our rights as free citizens. The essay is titled, “Moral Endo-skeletons and Exo-skeletons: A Perspective on America’s Cultural Divide and Current Crisis”, posted at See No Evil, The Blinding of America and in it the author describes those who need strict social rules as having a moral Exo-skeleton, and those of us who do not as having moral Endo-Skeletons. It is a very interesting read and may provide some insight into why those who vote for the interests of the religious right, often do so out of fear of their own weakness, at least that was my reading of it.
Results from another study recently released were published in the Journal of Research Into Personality. Jack and Jeanne Block began tracking 100 pre-school children over 20 years ago and through follow-up interviews, Mr. Block has determined that whiny and insecure children tend to choose conservative ideologies as adults. This study will, no doubt, draw fire from the right, but it seems to confirm what those of us on the left know intuitively, that fear is what is likely behind rigid morality and a desire for rigid social constraints. Liberals want more freedom while conservatives fear it. Liberals strive for tolerance while conservatives view tolerance as the slippery slope toward moral decline.
My new conservative friend described the Endo/Exo-skeleton idea as "hogwash" and if I send him this latest article, I'm sure he'll say the same. It is difficult to accept criticism of one's point of view, especially when it concludes that it was reached by way of fear and weakness. Perhaps there are studies that purport to prove that liberals are weak and fearful as well. If you find one, let me know. What I do know, is that the neo-conservative answer to solving this problem is to create a social cage for us to live inside that will provide the external check on our impulses that they believe are necessary for social order (although they also provide for gaps in the cage that only the elite have access to). With their track record of policy failures abroad, most of us are not interested in testing their theories here at home.
Perhaps we should strive for the liberal ideal instead, enlightenment and the alleviation of the fears that plague the more conservative among us. They may think they'd prefer to live in a social cage where there are fewer decisions to make, but visit any zoo, look into the eyes of the adult animals there, and it is clear that a part of them has already died. The little ones can still run and play and have a good time, but it's only a matter of time before they, too, realize that there is an artificial boundary that limits their potential. There is no excuse for willfully subjecting our children to the same, we all deserve better than that.