The Akron Beacon Journal juxtaposed two editorials today, originally printed in The LA Times, that illustrate as well as anything I have seen the hopeless impasse that exists between the dominant political paradigms in this country. As one who does not fit easily into either camp- for I am prolife, prolabor, antiwar, anticapitalist, and a moral traditionalist ( but without the rancor)- I can only shake my head in despair.
The first of these is by Charlotte Allen, whom I sort of knew in the early 90s, when I lived around Washington. She is a fine writer, one who once wrote for the National Catholic Register, back when that paper was a lively read, before it was bought by the (since disgraced) Legionnaires of Christ. Ms Allen also wrote, incongruously, for DC’s local free paper; you know the kind with the kinky ads in the back.
But like a lot of people I haven’t spoken to in a long time, she seems to have taken leave of her senses.
Ms Allen’s essay is called “You Can’t Talk to a Liberal”, and by the third paragraph she lets loose this zinger: ” The problem is this: We conservatives think liberals are silly; they think we’re evil. ”
Huh? What planet does she live on? Does she never listen to talk radio? Does that describe the attitude of Rush Limbaugh? Or Quinn and Rose, who make Limbaugh look reasonable? Or ( God help us) the weasel-voiced Mark Levin? Does she get out much?
The rest of the article follows suit: conservatives are reasonable and never conflate the political with the personal, never introduce divisive political topics in social settings. Liberals, on the other hand, are Manicheans who lack social graces, and every conservative to them is evil, a fascist, racist no goodnik.
This screed, the one that makes broad and nasty characterizations about liberals making broad and nasty characterization about conservatives, is presented without a hint of irony.
You can read the whole sorry mess here: http://www.ohio.com/editorial/charlotte-allen-you-can-t-talk-to-a-liberal-1.266529
Below this, The Beacon ran another editorial, cleverly titled “…or to a conservative”, by one Diana Wagman.
She recounts how a casual social gathering with likeable new neighbors went horribly wrong (after imbibing a good bit of Scotch) when one new friend opened his mouth and said, out of the blue, “the tea party is not racist.” After realizing that this was not a joke (and the man had an African American wife, so she may be excused for thinking the comment in jest) the evening devolved into a shouting match. Her account of this, and the subsequent morning after apologies that did not dispel the bad feelings, is as self-justifying and unsympathetic and unimaginative as Charlotte Allen’s ode to self deception. Instead of learning a valuable lesson about drinking with people one does not know well, she decides that this experience confirms every stereotype about the right that she ever held. But see for yourself: http://www.ohio.com/editorial/diana-wagman-you-can-t-talk-to-a-conservative-1.266518
Subsequent comments indicate that Ms Wagman is not so young, which is puzzling, unless (as I suspect) she has rarely ever met a conservative. As for me, however prone I may once have been to falling into fruitless political or religious arguments, somewhere along the line I learned to avoid them at nearly every cost. I limit my controversies to the written word.
Ms Wagman does indicate that she had a better example growing up: “My mother had Republican friends. She was a lifelong Democrat, worked with the Adlai Stevenson for president campaign and was a precinct chairman for Hubert Humphrey. She was ashamed of Richard Nixon and thought Ronald Reagan was misguided. Still, she didn’t hate Republicans. She disagreed with their politics and they with hers, but she believed people, no matter how they vote, are basically all the same.I don’t agree. I don’t want to be friends with someone who is a member of the tea party or is a Newt Gingrich Republican. We are not the same. I equate their political views with thoughtlessness, intolerance and narcissism. I think they are not kind or empathetic.”
This is very sad.
At one time in this country people could disagree- and disgree vehemently- without impugning the good will or right intention of their enemies. Those of us who still find truth here and there on both sides of the divide can sometimes still do this, but to a broad spectrum of the public, there is only the tribalism of partisan politics, only us vs them.
God only knows where this will end.