Namecalling and Political Dialogue

A disturbing phenomenon seems to be creeping into the national political dialogue with increasing frequency, and in the process undermining intelligent debate.  My personal experience is that more and more liberals, outspoken about their opinions, shut down completely when presented with evidence contrary to what they’ve always believed.  It’s as though they’ve never been aware that intelligence existed on the other side of the political spectrum.  This phenomenon has been noticed, and written about, by Gerard Alexander in the Washington Post back in February 2010 in an article entitled, Why are liberals so condescending?

I don’t expect that we’ll all agree with each other all the time, and I don’t think absolute agreement would be good for our republic.  The interplay of different thoughts and ideas, founded upon our Constitution, is healthy.  The founders didn’t all agree all the time, and from their debates and conversations emerged the most stable, prosperous, opportunity-granting nation the world has ever seen.  Not bad.

That is why the direction in which we’re moving is so disturbing; if we don’t actually listen to each other and acknowledge the good intentions and ideas coming from those who disagree with us, it’s over.

One of the most consistent ways this intolerance is manifest is in statements such as, “Don’t quote Fox News or The Heritage Foundation.”  Didn’t President Obama just try claiming that a centerpiece of his health care reform originated from Heritage?  And didn’t the Heritage president have to come out and tell him to stop misrepresenting their work?  This is beside the point of course, but apparently a Democrat president finds their work legitimate enough to claim he’s incorporating their ideas into his legislation when it suits his purposes.

I seldom use Fox news as a source; not because they don’t present the facts accurately most of the time, but simply to avoid outright dismissal of the truth by those who are convinced that not slanting to the left means favoring the right.  I even had somebody once say, “I won’t use the NY Times or MSNBC if you don’t use Fox News or the Wall Street Journal.”

My response was, “Go ahead and use any source you want.  I’ll even avoid the ones you want me to avoid, and I can still make my case.”

I was recently told that since some particular research was cited and published by a conservative think tank, it was a total waste to even read.  Of course, this deep-thinking liberal hadn’t even done the requisite research necessary to discover that though it was published by a conservative source, it was a compilation of 20 years of research by various organizations – liberal, conservative, nonpartisan – and was quite comprehensive.  When that was pointed out to him, he had absolutely nothing to respond.  See, he couldn’t counter the information; he could only dismiss the source.

Truth is not relative and its legitimacy is not dependent on its source.  The last refuge of those without truth or knowledge on their side is a dismissal of facts simply based on who’s uttering them, even when faced with overwhelming evidence of their soundness.

Why the fear?  If the source is illegitimate, no problem countering the untruths it generates; on the other hand, facing truths one would rather not can be quite painful.

I was recently personally attacked by a liberal newspaper reporter who, instead of responding to well-reasoned comments based on recognized news sources (and sources much more prestigious than his paper), commented that I should get back to the kitchen and bake cookies for the PTA, and then went on to denigrate what he assumed was my religion.  What?  (Incidentally, his hate-filled, religiously-bigoted diatribe proved his complete ignorance about the religion he attempted to denigrate.  The only thing he got right is his assumption about what my religion is.)

Not once did he attempt to prove false a single point or counter a single argument, but I was told, “It’s cute that you try to have an opinion,” and “Watching Fox News doesn’t make you a pundit.”  Again, huh?  (By the way, I try to read at least as many liberal sources as conservative – I’m not afraid of what they may teach me.)

Personal attacks, namecalling, and denigration come from a place of fear, ignorance, and hate.  Let’s not go there, rather let’s work together as Americans who sometimes agree, sometimes disagree, but always seek after truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

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