September 12, 2009

Comment Transfer

Blogger was giving me a hard time entering this comment from my previous post, Political Mind, so I decided to simply transfer it below:

Okay let me see if I can wrangle this discussion back to something that resembles a civilized discourse, as is often the case, it may already be too late.

In order to do that, let me give up some ground and accept when you have said something correct and commend you on making a valid claim.

@Corrie said:
It's amusing how so many who claim to be "free thinkers" and "open-minded" and "tolerant" can use such derogatory, insulting, and abusive language towards people that they themselves admit they don't really understand!
I can really appreciate this. I will admit that often times when arguments get heated we tend to polarize ourselves and are not able to be open-minded. This obviously happens on both sides, so let me say that here, for the sake of this argument, I am giving each of your points as unbiased and as open interpretation as my mental frames will allow. It is just as difficult for me to believe that there is a god in heaven as it is for you to believe we have evolved over millions of years. I can appreciate that. But let’s see where we can go from here, in order to try and influence each other’s realities in a productive enjoining manner.

I love and am pleasantly surprised that you were somewhat of a progressive, I mean reading Mother Jones, what’s next Edward Said (insert humor to soften the mood, not to slander your views )

But this good, because Lakoff actually recommends that we, both sides, try to engage each other in areas where we have things in common. Since our brains are ultimately bi-conceptual, we have more in common than we think. All we have to do is force ourselves to break from the frames that have been built around us. While the rest of this comment will focus on the difference, in the future it may behoove us to focus on areas where we have similarities. (Actually I will try and do that though out this rebuttal.)

You mentioned the idea of a utopian leftist reality in regards to a coke commercial. The typical hippie, Kum Bah Yah cartoon that many conservatives like to frame progressive ideology in, and for the sake of time in this argument, I will accept the metaphor you have created.

You said:
Let's all hold hands on a mountaintop and sing together "in perfect harmony" just like in that Coke commercial. Let's celebrate humanity and our inherent goodness as the epitome of existence.
Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the basic teachings of Jesus. I mean at he end of the day if you go back to the original post and look at the two family models, wasn’t Jesus more of a Nurturing parent than a strict father. Forget the god of the Old Testament for a second and look at the basic tenets of Christianity. Love Thy Enemy. Take care of the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Sounds a bit progressive to me. So I was surprised to hear you say that you lost faith in those ideas:

You said:
I ultimately found those ideas, those promises, to be false and empty.
I guess, I have chosen to keep faith in humanity. I still believe in Jesus’ message and I am not even a Christian. I feel your frustration when you say:
There are people who will never join hands and sing on that mountaintop. They would quite literally rather die, especially if they can kill you in the process.
But these are the people who need love the most. These are the people Jesus was teaching his disciples to love. Progressive ideology is not only about politics or policy, or even about creating utopian mountaintops, it is about our ability to evolve into caring, social, communal, families- on larger and larger scales: family, community, nation, world. But perhaps we lost the thread at nation and need to go backwards and see where we got lost.I hope that you can regain your faith in humanity. Perhaps a closer reading of what Jesus actually preached would be helpful.Insert the words Islamic terrorist, or Gays, or immigrants, or Howard Zinn, or Obama everywhere he used the word enemy and see what happens.


I appreciate your passion and frustration in this argument, but getting angry and calling names will get us nowhere. We should have all learned that lesson in Kindergarten.

For the sake of argument you said:
The repubs are masters at framing everything as a "narrative"

george bush: the straight shooter.
obama: the black man your mom always warned you about.
islam: religious extremism.
wall street: the wealth creators.
god: the source of ultimate morals.
gays: anti-family values
minorities: the reason your taxes are so high
sarah palin: the hockey mom with common sense
fox news: the antidote to the liberal media
But could we say the same thing about progressive narratives:

george bush: lying imbecile
obama: Savior of liberalism
islam: religion of peace.
wall street: the wealth horders.
god: opiate of the people.
gays: (Don’t know what to put for this one.)
minorities: (Don’t know what to put for this one.)
sarah palin: moron
fox news: what stupid red staters watch

If we want to understand the other side we have to see that they view us as caricatures too. We have to find common ground and work from there. If not, we will constantly be arguing about ideological frames that serve no purpose.

Just curious Corrie what did you mean when you said:
After all, many conservatives struggle with their perception of liberal "ignorance and cruelty."
What exactly about the progressive agenda is cruel? I can accept the idea of progressive ignorance, many of us elitist urban folk do not really know what it means to be struggling to feed a family in middle know NASCAR, Wal-Mart stereotypes, but I am curious what you find cruel about our ideas that we need to help each other.

Here are some “off the cuff” cruelties I see in conservative ideology:

  • Might is right! Start with Iraq and research every other American adventure that has been fought in the name of freedom.
  • Racism. Don’t give me we have a black president. Instead take a tour of any school district in any urban area.
  • Homophobia- Need I say anything.
  • Classism- The concentration of wealth to less than 1% of the population and corporate control of almost every aspect of American life.
  • Health Care- Profit over people…etc you get the point. So what is cruel about progressives?
I said: "I often found myself thinking that all human beings must have an intrinsic need for peace and community."

To which you replied:
Conservatives agree, absolutely.
Can you show examples of this in government policy from let’s say the Bush or Regan eras? Taking people shopping doesn’t count in this case. Can you show how conservative leaders have helped build communities that are open to new ideas, change and working toward trying to connect insular communities with those around the nation and/or the world?

You said:
Conservatives tend to believe in *equality of opportunity* - let's level the playing field, so everyone has an equal chance at success.
Really? Level the playing field! So is that why major agri-businesses are subsidized so as to ensure profits, while small farmers are forced into bankruptcy? Is that their way of giving small farmers a chance?

Is that why poor urban and rural areas have failing schools forcing entire population into jail, crime, military, or death? While more affluent areas continually send their kids to “good” schools.

How is it possible to be a conservative and believe in equal opportunity and leveling of the playing field while opposing any programs that are aimed at doing just that?

I am re-quoting Lakoff here:
Competition is crucial. It builds discipline. Without competition, without the desire to win, no one would have the incentive to be disciplined, and morality would suffer, as well as prosperity. Not everyone can win in a competition, only the most disciplined people, who are also the most morally worthy. Winning is thus a sign of being deserving, of being a good person.
Do you not believe that these are conservative ideas?

I am sorry but I will disregard this comment: Leftists tend to believe in *equality of outcome* - no one has any more than anyone else, regardless of their willingness to better themselves or to contribute to the betterment of the group.

This is blatant red baiting and claiming that all liberals want some sort of Stalinist state, which is far from the truth. I am also ignoring this line: The leftist says, "I need, and you have. Give me what you have. That's fair."

Let us agree that progressive also want: *equality of opportunity* - let's level the playing field, so everyone has an equal chance at success. (This could be our common ground. How can we work toward making sure everyone has equal opportunities?)

You also said:
The conservative says, "I work, so I get to keep the results of my labor. That's fair."
This is the most communist thing I have ever heard you say. Workers valuing their labor and wanting to be paid for their labor. A more accurate description would be

"YOU work, so I (capitalist class) get to keep the results of your labor. That's fair."

You said:
Look at the statistics of which group gives a larger percentage of income to charity - it's conservatives by a landslide.
I do not see charity as a valuable form of public policy. The act of charity implies a hierarchy of status. One group has more and helps/donates to the other, again this smacks of distribution of wealth, I am simply pushing for an agenda that we create equal opportunities, not through charity, but of active public run (not government per se) programs that work to provide people with opportunities that are just and fair and based on their needs, not on profit.

Conservatives tend to believe that taking care of the less-fortunate an individual responsibility - it's my job. Leftists tend to believe that taking care of the less-fortunate is a collective responsibility - it's the government's job.

I see it more like this:

Progressive are striving to collectively eliminate the idea of less fortunate.

I hope that was productive and not insulting. For the sake of growth, I did everything in my power to be civil.

You said:

Conservatives tend to believe that taking care of the less-fortunate an individual responsibility - it's my job. Leftists tend to believe that taking care of the less-fortunate is a collective responsibility - it's the government's job.

I see it more like this:

Progressive are striving to collectively eliminate the idea of less fortunate.

I hope that was productive and not insulting. For the sake of growth, I did everything in my power to be civil.


  1. Maybe against my better judgment, I feel compelled to join in. There is way more than I have time to digest or comment on.

    I'll just ask this, then:

    Have you read Jonathan Haidt's take on moral foundations theory regarding the differences in liberal and conservative moral codes?

    Haidt is also a liberal, but I think he has presented his theory in a more neutral way. Asserting moral superiority will never bring us together. What I like about this theory is the ability to see our belief systems as inherently different while allowing us to take some of the judgmental attitudes out of the discussion.

    Obviously, I think my moral code is correct, but I recognize that other moral codes have value and that it is possible that I am, in fact, wrong.

    Corrie, I'm particularly curious what you think of Haidt's theory.

    I had a handful of other points, but I realized that my arguments were too diffuse on too many different topics, so I'll stop here.

  2. This TED talk by Jonathan Haidt on the moral foundation theory is fascinating.

    Corrie argues that freedom is a key value to conservatives, but I say again that I don't really know what that means. To me, conservative social values are very restrictive and not free at all. (Unless you're more of a libertarian than a conservative, Corrie.) Haidt doesn't address where libertarians fall on the moral scales--any thoughts?

  3. I am glad you jumped in Cathy. These topics often crowd out quieter voices, by us blowhards, when really we could all do with a bit more listening and less talking.

    I will follow up on the links you have shared and comment in the future.

    I hope you come back regularly and become a part of these discussions.

    Curious to see what Corrie says...

  4. I just read the link. I love it and hope to write on it soon.