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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

with 2 comments

I know when I’ve been away from the blog for a longer time than usual, because the program suddenly starts to demand that I sign in. 

And then, of course, I start to worry that I can’t remember my password.

This appeared as a link on Arts and Letters Daily this morning:

http://www.tnr.com/book/review/thats-offensive-stefan-collini

What it actually is is a book review from The New Republic.

As a book review from The New Republic, it is what I think of as a hopeful sign, even if it does announce–as though it’s an insight–that “cultural relativism” is rarely actually relativistic.

And it does that thing, common in certain publications, about talking about “progressives” as if they’re the only ones in the room.

But the book, although short, sounds good–and it occurs to me that if you could have really cheap paperback copies of it printed up,  you could buy it in bulk to hand out to people who are taking umbrage at whatever this morning.

The idea of being able to handle it out to Germans who lecture you on how all things American are evil and wrong…well, I guess it would be more constructive than my usual habit of telling them that, for obvious reasons, I don’t take moral criticism from the descendants of the Reich.

In the meantime, though, I found myself in the curious position of having something I say frequently clarified for me–that is, I now know how to say it better.

It’s been my theme, and not only on this blog, but in a lot of places for a very long time, to tell fellow Democrats that they are never going to be able to get the votes to get what they want if they don’t learn to respect the people who do the voting.

Specifically, if they can’t learn to respect the Christians, fundamentalist and otherwise, or the NASCAR guys, or the Tea Party people.

Every once in a while, when I go into one of those rants, I get responses that say things like:  how am I supposed to respect stupid people who believe in Creationism?

Or things of that kind.

And I finally figured out how to say what I was trying to say.

When I say that you need to respect your opponents, including the ones who really, really, really don’t agree with you, I don’t mean that you should think that their ideas are just as good as your ideas, or that they’re not wrong about the things they think.

It means that you should do them the courtesy of actually believing that they think them.

Too much of what I see of liberal/progressive/left criticism of political ideas on the right comes down to:  this isn’t what they really think, they’re just duped by big corporations and evil establishment Republicans; this isn’t what they really think, they’ve just been fed a lot of lies by Fox News so they don’t get it;  they say they think this, but it is really just a cover for something else.

That last one is the staple of abortion arguments–the pro-life people aren’t actually opposed to abortion because they think it’s infanticide, they’re opposed to it because they’re afraid of women’s sexuality, or they want to oppress and control women on all fronts, or because…

The net result of this is that the abortion-is-infanticide argument doesn’t ever get countered directly, and to the extent that it gets encountered at all it does so sort of flippantly and dismissively in ways that do not address the core issue at all.

What’s more, bits and pieces of the pro-choice argument are left floating around in ways in which even their proponents wouldn’t like if they actually realized what they were saying.

Saying, for instance, that one of the reasons abortion should be legal is that some fetuses are badly malformed and the child when eventually born (if born) will be severely disabled leaves you open to the argument that, if it is such a horrendous thing to be disabled, possibly we should terminate the lives of born individuals who are disabled in that way.

And the first step in that argument has, in fact, been made, by our old friend Peter Singer, who has argued that parents should be allowed to decide to terminate the lives of their newborn children in the first 28 days after birth if they decide that that birth will “negatively impact” the “quality of life” of the rest of the family over time.

Most people, of course, don’t want to go there, but they also don’t know that they’re setting themselves up for that as a destination. 

One of the positive results of taking the other side’s arguments seriously–that is, assuming they mean what they say, learning to understand what it is they say, and then engaging it–is learning to refine your own arguments so that you get out of that kind of hole. 

Of course, the conservatives do this kind of thing as well–but I’m not particularly interested in conservatives, since I’m not one.    If they want to do self destructive things that kick themselves in the foot, that’s their problem.

All that said, I’m still waiting for a real conversation about policy–one in which everybody is actually talking about the same subject. 

It’s one of those things that would be nice for a change.

Written by janeh

March 22nd, 2011 at 9:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T'

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  1. Welcome back. It’s good to see that there is starting to be some sort of backlash against the obnoxious self-righteous arrogance of the so-called “progressives”. However, I doubt it will happen quickly or strongly enough to save our western democracies and at this stage it looks as if Israel is doomed.

    Mique

    22 Mar 11 at 11:52 pm

  2. Watts Up With That linked to this which may explain what’s been happening:

    http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/03/wordpress-com-suffers-major-ddos-attack/

    Mique

    22 Mar 11 at 11:55 pm

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