Monday, January 16, 2006

Blame Them!

"Blame the liberals!" echoes from the walls of conservative strongholds. "The liberals have ripped the moral fabric of America to shreds. It's their fault that we have all this rampant homosexuality, divorce, abortion, crime, teenage pregnancy, unwanted and abandoned children, dysfunctional families,.... Blame the liberals!"

The conservatives regularly decry the breakdown of morality in America. It would be nice to just say that they're wrong on everything, nice but intellectually dishonest. There has been a breakdown in "morality," although we liberals prefer the term "social stability." So many things are more common now in an increasingly destabilized America, not all of them negative despite the conservative rhetoric.

The easy finger-pointing at the opposition, however, is where conservative "logic" becomes detached from reality and burgeons into insane, dogmatic high drama. It would be nice to acquit my fellow liberals of the petty psychodrama of this bizarre "blame game," nice but intellectually disonest. We've all had a role in the insane struggle to get all the social ills game pieces on our opponent's side of the board. Somehow, this is how we've come to measure victory, not on the strength of our own positive accomplishments but in ensuring that all the negatives are viewed solely as the other guy's fault.

Intellectual dishonesty and cowardice are the orders of the day. We spin and spin until the poll numbers turn out in our favor, until our side has the upper hand in the battle to win minds and votes. Real progress becomes a political strategy, not a goal.

We push for what sells, not for what works. Finding what works would require an honest assessment of our own failures as well as our opponent's. Sadly, few have enough commitment to honesty and courage to admit their own faults and limitations in the name of progress. Even fewer are willing to make the sacrifices that justice, freedom, and progress demand. Doing is far harder than selling, too hard for most.

Restabilizing our society will require both sides to face the inadequacies of the status quo. We have to abandon the easy rhetoric and sound bite mentality that make us popular, but can never make us right. We must reinject logic, reason, honesty, courage, and unvarnished self-reflection into the ways that we assess and address the problems of our society.

So, let's begin with just a few things we can all do with a little less of, shall we?

For my fellow liberals: Stop pretending that how someone says something is nearly as important as what they're saying. Political correctness and mastery of the euphemism of the day are supposed to demonstrate respect for human dignity. They can neither create nor replace it. A bigot can use the "right" word just as well as you. On the other hand, a lot of people who truly respect other human beings just aren't up on their p.c. vocabulary. Applauding those who only use the correct words grants refuge to ignorance and condescension. Marginalizing those who have the right thoughts but not the correct words can only harm our pursuit of a better world.

In the same vein, drop the jargon. Using big words doesn't make you intelligent or right. In communication, this obsessive focus on demonstrating your intellectual "superiority" in order to prove the value of your ideas is just noise and nonsense. Let's try communicating instead of masturbating, okay? We have to be able to talk clearly and realistically with the people we fight for, because we need their input to succeed. Clear, realistic, and often simple language is the only means to both clarity of thought and successful communication.

For my conservative opponents: Stop pretending that holding something as an ideal is the same as having it in reality. Yes, pure egalitarianism and meritocracy are very nice things to believe in, but they don't exist. It would be nice to say that everything is just personal responsibility because everyone has the same chance, but it just is not true. Until it is, individualism without restraint is disastrous, injust, un-American, and unholy.

For everyone: Stop the demonizing. Yes, true evil exists. Some people will simply never be decent human beings. But painting the opposition with that old "the worst/weakest amongst you is you" brush doesn't get us anywhere. Ignore the extremists and their complete detachment from reality and total lack of reason and/or compassion. It's too easy to knock down straw men to make yourself feel and look better, but your fantasy of superiority will never create real and lasting change. Face your opponent as he is, yourself as you are, and watch the world change before your very eyes.

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