Monday, January 18, 2010

Liberals Are Ruining America! (Read Before You Judge) Submission by Mr. B

Did that title grab your eye? How did you feel about me when you read it? Maybe you are liberal and it made you angry. Maybe you are a conservative and were enticed to read my sermon because it will embolden your fight against the wretched left. I live in Utah, and I am LDS. That is my community, and in my community I often hear broad generalizations along the following lines, "Liberals are ruining America." Liberals are not ruining America, and I challenge anybody to a debate who disagrees with me. I can agree that there are some aspects of the "liberal" (and I use that term loosely and with much trepidation because it tends to perpetuate ignorance) movement that are inappropriate, intolerant, and counterproductive. But ruining America? What does ruining America mean? Who really knows, and who cares- just another nonspecific and time-wasting generalization for a whole host of problems. I don't want to debate that issue because it is many issues, and not the objective of my post. However, one thing is for certain: if we continue to blindly demean those individuals who's beliefs lie on the opposite side of the political, economic, and social belief spectrum from our own, then as a nation we risk losing some processes that are fundamental to our society. Maybe then we can see what a "ruined America" really looks like. One of these vital processes is public, civil dialogue. When dialogue ceases, the end of progress is not far off.

Ceased Dialogue, Ceased Progress

Few people want to have a civil dialogue with someone who villianizes them. For example, some people I know very well and hold a dear place in my heart have labeled individuals who identify as pro-life and Christian as  bigots, misogynists, close-minded, and ignorant. Did you know that I am pro-life, and I am a christian? Would you label me with mean-spirited epithets if we were having a conversation and now had a face to go with your stereotype? I know that abortion rights are an important issue to many, and I want to discuss them in the public arena. I believe that a growing fetus has rights that must be protected because he or she cannot speak for himself or herself, but that a woman's health must be taken into consideration first and foremost. When do you believe life starts? How do you define a woman's health in terms of justification for abortion? I want to know! Let's come together. But we cannot if you label me as a bigot and shut the door to your mind and heart. Progress on the issue ceases. Let me turn the table a bit. I often hear members of my own community say that believers of climate change are ignorant, liberal, politically motivated, and liars. Did you know that I believe in global warming? I have read the the peer-reviewed literature on the subject, and the same scientific principles, processes, and philosophies that are employed to diagnose your family member with a complex disease, or engineer the infrastructure on which your life depends, have been used to determine that the climate is warming, that we are partially responsible for it, and there is possibly a way to reverse our course. You disagree with the hundreds of non-partisan scientists who have drawn these conclusions? Why? If we should avoid doing anything drastic to address climate change, how do you propose we start? I know that your business and commerce interests are vital to your family and community's well-being, so what are some changes we can make on a local level that will still allow you to maintain your enterprise? But if you want to call me an ignorant and confused liberal and defer to a politician's opinion rather than the body of scientific research on the subject, then we cannot have this discussion. We then potentially face some devastating future consequences for not acting sooner towards becoming better stewards of the earth. Ceased dialogue and ceased progress.

Health Care Reform Efforts and Extremism

I am saddened when we cannot have these discussions appropriately in the public arena. The following observation is purely anecdotal, but I have noticed over the course of my life how extreme ideologies have affected the performance of congress. One example of this is the inevitable passage of a massively overhauling health care bill. There is nothing bipartisan about this process. The senate leadership plans to bypass republican opposition and obtain the 60 votes necessary to approve the new law. This means that we are passing an epic bill that 40% of the senate opposes. That is definitely not a democratic process, and the Democratic leadership in congress should be ashamed of themselves. But the shame must be shared equally across the aisle. Many congressional Republicans have not proposed any better solutions, and would never concede on a health care reform bill merely out of opposition to President Obama. It is hard to dispute that the health care process in our country needs to be reformed. However, how to accomplish it can and should be disputed, argued, debated, fought over, and wrestled with. Unfortunately, prideful bickering has dominated this debate in congress. Both sides have dug in their heels and now we are going to end up with a hasty, problematic bill that haphazardly addresses one of the most important issues facing our country.

An Invitation to Join My Movement

I invite you to consider the things I have proposed in this spiel. I am not asking you to abandon your moral convictions, because I refuse to abandon mine. Rather, foster understanding in your life. Consider the impact that your broad generalizations have on the intellect and reasoning abilities of you, your family, and your community. We will never agree, nor need we give concessions to "the other side," on every issue. There are many questions and issues that will be bitterly debated until we all die because the climate has become too frickin' hot (just joking!), but there are so many problems that can be solved if we use the reasoning ability given to us by God, or organic evolution, or whatever you believe, and avoid the common human tendency to generalize, villainize, and become just plain stubborn.

Mr. B and I have had this conversation on many different nights. I hope that you read through his words carefully, he is so eloquent in defining our thoughts.


  1. I was looking for a transcript that I had found last week and now cannot find online. It is from the season four finale of the television show The West Wing. The president - a liberal - invokes the 25th amendment and John Goodman - who plays a Republican Speaker of the House - becomes president. The vice president had resigned and a replacement had not yet been found.

    Goodman, in speaking with the press secretary, says - and I am paraphrasing: I am not the enemy. There are more things that we have in common than that divide us.

    Civil discussion of polarizing issues is difficult. I have tried to have them on my blog, though not recently. The biggest problem is that people, rather than discussing issues, want to make the stance on an issue personal. It is personal but do not attack the person, discuss the issue.

  2. I try to never be one of those people who spot a difference and leap on it with claws and fangs bared -- because that's how it feels when others do it to me and it's a horrible experience.

    I am fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and registered independent. My mother comes from a long line of Southern Democrats and my father comes from a long line of Catholic Republicans. I believe you could say I truly understand both sides of the aisle, and it's ridiculous that people can't see how much they have in common.

    Just imagine how powerful and amazing our country could be again if we didn't home in on how we're different and instead celebrated what makes us similar (and tried to understand why we aren't and shouldn't be carbon copies of each other).

  3. Bravo! I think one of the worst things we face in America is the growing lack of civility and willingness to just shut up and listen to each other, even if we don't agree.

  4. A big NO to generalizations.
    A big YES to shutting up and listening, really listening, to the other guy.
    In addition to listening, paying attention to how a person actually leads their life; words are one thing, actions quite another.

    And a big round of APPLAUSE to Mr. B, for his articulate and well-reasoned stand.

  5. I am always surprised how quickly the arguments go personal when political stances are debated. My daughter came home with a worksheet on prejudice and bias today. We had disagreements with some of the conclusions they wanted her to draw and we discussed them, I just hope she isn't excoriated for bringing up concerns in class. We have taught her that as soon as someone personally attacks you, you've won the debate because they can no longer fight you in the arena of ideas.

    There are people I would seriously like to discuss differing ideological stands with so I can better understand where they are coming from but I can't because they are unwilling to do so nicely.

  6. Amen!

    I fear that too many of our countrymen and women spend far more time thinking about ideology than about ideas. Whether the issue be abortion rights, health care, or global warming, I wish people would speak from their hearts and minds rather than from the talking points put into their heads by their chosen media.

    I think this community - with its diversity of backgrounds and opinions - is testament to the power of open-minded discussion.

  7. As someone who probably listens TOO much and voices my opinion too little... I have to say that just in my friendship circles, there have been instances of such strong, closed-minded opinions thrown out with no thought of listening to the other side. Friendships have been strained, even LOST, because of this "abuse" of opinion making. I've never said that people are not entitled to a strong belief but to not listen to the other side is not just rude but ignorant.

    Bravo to this post!

  8. Hi Mr. B,

    I read your post and found it interesting to say the least. I am not going to get into a debate with you, because I don't disagree with most of what you said.

    I do differ on the global warming issue, just because I have read lots of data, from scientists on the opposite side of the issue that totally disagree with the scientists that say that there is global warming. The other reason I disagree is that global warming has become a totally new industry in and of itself and those that are spear heading the cause are motivated by one thing only - money. Green is a high commodity and lots of money is being made in the name of "Saving the planet". I truly think that the original intent has been lost and has been replaced by greed, plain and simple.

    As far as liberalism, I am not sure what that word really means, at least in the context that it is currently used. It seems to me, that it all comes down to labels, that truthfully are very inaccurate. To put it in perspective, in the mid 1800's, those who opposed slavery, would have been labeled as liberals, as well as those who opposed segregation, not too many years ago. My point is that most people who use the word liberal are simply wrong in their use of the word. So I agree with you totally on that. Do I think the liberals (democrats) are going to ruin the country? Not any more than the conservatives (republicans) will. Both parties have been given a chance to make a difference and have failed miserably. Both parties are corrupt, and have proven that over and over again. Where are the honest politicians? Where are the true liberals and true conservatives? Where are the politicians who go to Washington DC, pass laws that they truly believe in and then go home to live among the laws they helped create? Instead we have a bunch of career politicians who are totally corrupt and are only concerned about power, and will do anything it takes to stay in power.

    Thanks for stimulating this discussion, it is something that needs to happen. I fear that if these politicians are continually re-elected, and that if we keep sending the same people back east, we will see the country destroyed. Greed has got to stop. The lust for power has to be stopped. The only way to do that is to be proactive and elect those who represent your views, and if they disappoint you, don't re-elect them.

  9. What an incredible, well-balanced post Mr. B has written.

    What's interesting for me is that I normally don't feel "black and white" about these issues either; normally my opinion falls somewhere on a continuum, but continuums don't make the news.

    This post makes me remember that there's a human voice behind every opinion and voices deserve to be heard.

  10. Wow. Thanks Mr. B. for the post. While I sense that we would probably debate (and hopefully civilly) some of your positions here, but the point of the post is spot ON. My greatest disappointment is that I don't see it changing. In fact, people are becoming more polarizing and rigid in large part due to the ridiculous incivility by TV pundits and congresspersons. As noted by many here, even within families these conversations are difficult to have without full on fights. I, personally, love a good debate. But I am disturbed by the fake political bi-partisanship commitments & concerned that important things do NOT get done in this country because of political entrenchment (for the purposes of entrenchment, not beliefs). Anyway, thanks for starting a little conversation with big intentions!


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