I have lots of arguments against conservatism. But however misguided I think much of conservatism is, that has nothing to do with respecting conservatives as people.
We have a long political history of calling each other names in legislative bodies, part of a venerable worldwide tradition of raucous debate. The accounts of our earlier years are full of it. The Arabs, I understand, are world-class masters. Heated argument seems to be part of the lifeblood of legislative bodies, which all over the world routinely erupt into fistfights and sometimes outright riots. But this is face to face (fist to fist?).
We have a venerable worldwide
tradition of raucous debate.
I question how much good comes from all this acerbic bickering, but this is not quite what I’m talking about. I’m talking about nasty words from people who won’t show their faces, and never propose anything positive.
The internet has given us a cloak of invisibility, behind which we can use every ugly word we can imagine and make vile and slanderous claims, allowing us to rage and curse in complete anonymity without ever suggesting anything worthwhile. This is ugly. Online commenters fill their diatribes with simplistic name calling using base language—libtards, assholes—and virtually never offer reasons for their opinion, let alone data or suggestions for a better way.
It’s not necessary to be insulting and ugly. Name calling from deep inside your magic robe does not prove your point, or even why the other person is wrong. No one will ever come around to your way of seeing things if all you do is call them names and insult them.
The internet has given us a cloak of invisibility.
My purpose here is not to berate conservatives who rag on liberals, or vice versa, but to ask liberals in particular to act in every instance as if you were seated with the person you are describing, face to face. You can make your point without lapsing into a barrage of swear words and unfounded claims about your opponent’s presumed sexual preferences or intellect, from safety inside your hidey-hole.
There are a great many things that conservatives and liberals can agree on. There are many institutions that are worth preserving, which is one of the core principles of conservatism, and we should not be hasty lest we jettison something important. These include our Constitution, how we are educated, and our duty to care for those who cannot care for themselves. But there are other parts of the conservative ethic I believe are flawed and lead to moral problems that remain unresolved. Moreover, conservatives themselves have abandoned some of their own principles.
It’s not necessary to be insulting and ugly.
The conservative platform of a half century ago could easily be the liberal platform of today. But conservatives since then have turned from believing their way was the best way to serve the people. Now they are interested only in those things that help the rich.
The presumed excessive crime among minority groups is a valid topic of discussion, but conservatives have abandoned any pretense of impartiality by blaming virtually all crime on the supposed inferiority of non-whites. Such a claim makes moot any attempt at improvement of the social setting because it assumes that the problems cannot ever be improved.
Name calling prevents useful dialogue.
But the flaws I see in conservative thinking don’t mean that all conservatives are stupid fools deserving of name calling. Even when beliefs are deeply held, they can be altered. Take climate change. In the recent past it was a (misguided) Republican requirement to claim that climate change did not exist. But once enough people found themselves ankle deep in seawater, or saw that the reservoirs were empty for the third straight year, and the world’s glaciers were going fast, they began to question what had seemed to be iron-bound, religious dogma.
It is far more important to show someone whose opinions differ from ours why they are wrong than it is to lambast them for their presumed faulty intellect. Name calling is worse than mere bad manners, because it prevents useful dialogue and improvement of the social situation.