Hey, all you conservatives, listen up! How long are you going to demonize the opposition with purple epithets, unrestrained invective, and undisguised hatred? Not that this same opposition doesn’t aim its own big guns – spewing epithets, invective, and hatred – at you, and in calibers even larger than your own.
Just stop for a minute and consider. Howling at the moon in the middle of a pack of friends and like-thinking buddies is comforting. It cements relationships, bonds the pack, and consolidates the base. But that’s not all it does; it also tells the opposing pack that everything they stand for is wrong, that their intentions are evil, and that they are forever excluded from the circle of the brethren.
Do we really want to do this? Are we playing the right game? Is the kill-kill mentality our only gambit, or is there another, more productive way to go? Is venting our spleens doing any real good for anyone or anything – other than relieving our spleens? Not likely.
Is it possible that the game-play might be re-directed from the “damn you” plan to another that offers a chance to specifically debate defined issues? After all, it takes a lot of “spleen relief” to equal one single converted member of the opposition. So how much gorge must a conservative, or for that matter, a liberal, swallow in order to make such an approach possible? Is it necessary to bow down to the repugnant positions of our enemies and to abandon our heartfelt views? Not really, but first we should stop calling the opposition “enemies”; look at them as potential, if unlikely, friends. Nor do we need to give up our honest convictions, but those convictions ought to be exposed in such a way as to offer our adversaries some framework within which the rationale for what we believe – and the why – can be freely scrutinized and hopefully compared favorably with their own.
The way toward such an objective, in a game of win-win and not kill-kill, is to set up some specific criteria that can be mutually accepted. In doing so, we need to abandon the casuistry that pervades typical issue arguments (both the “in your face” and the “behind your back” kind.) This rather reprehensible technique has been used both politically and religiously over the centuries to carry points of view on the back of questionable and impenetrable reasoning – especially in regard to moral issues – so as to smother the opposition. Today’s issue debates are loaded, on both sides, with this kind of baggage. The Jesuits were once accused of such tactics, with their critics characterizing some of their arguments as esoteric, convoluted, and purposely ambiguous – like how to calculate the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. We have our own current version of this kind of argument as some moderns try to prove how many human beings can dance on the face of the earth. The spinning out of unending details, conditions, eccentricities, and tortuous logic is as popular an approach to arguing issues today as it was yesterday.
The idea of comparing simply-stated political points of view with an eye toward reconciling them seems at first blush to be a bit “pollyannish”, and so it would be if the exercise was expected to produce anything more than just a smidgeon of doubt about one’s own position. Yet, honest doubt is the first step in a conversion of any sort.
Which brings us to a suggested framework on which each of us may hang out our political and cultural arguments. The first step is to cite those issues we consider most important – in the order of their importance. The second step requires a sentence or two (no more) explaining the party position on each issue – as each of us understands that position – and that’s all there is to it. The favored position is starred * (the absence of a star on a given issue indicating support for neither party); and finally, the individual’s presidential voting preference concludes the expository. This latter step may not follow from a simple summary of favored party positions since each issue will vary in its estimated “importance”. Of course, that estimate along with the interpretations of party planks for each issue will be subject to adversarial critiques. Clearly, much room will be left for disagreement; but just as clearly, enough data will be available to allow for a common base for further argument.
The following example sets out my own personal opinions concerning the major issues of the day: my interpretation of party platform planks dealing with those issues, my disposition toward each, and finally, my intended presidential vote in November.
To paraphrase the boy scout oath: “On my honor I will do my best to happily debate with those who disagree with me, will patiently entertain contrary opinions, and finally, will not howl in the moonlight to keep the opposition at bay but will debate in daylight to encourage their agreement.”
ABORTION *(Rep) Must be limited and discouraged; need to abolish abortion funding.
(Dem) Must be totally accepted as a “woman’s right to choose”; must expand abortion funding to advance female “reproductive health” programs.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH *(Rep) Must be limited by traditional ethical consideration for human life, including that of a fetus and/or an embryo.
(Dem) Must be unrestrained except by the application of the new standard for ethics as approved by the government.
GENDER/FAMILY *(Rep) Pro-traditional family; anti-same-sex marriage.
(Dem) Pro-LGBT normalization in society; pro-same-sex marriage.
RELIGIOUS RIGHTS *(Rep) Recognize religion’s right to act in the public square: recognize religious conscience rights.
(Dem) Confine religion to the act of worship within the private sector; trump religious conscience rights by legal mandate.
JOB CREATION/ECONOMY *(Rep) No tax increases; no government cash infusions or bailouts.
(Dem) Increase taxes on the well-to-do; government assistance for the economy and for the individual through cash subsidizations.
FEDERAL SPENDING *(Rep) Limit all categories of spending, including entitlements.
(Dem) Limit only military spending; increase other program spending , including deeper “safety nets” for the poor and jobless.
ENERGY *(Rep) Pro-carbon fuel expansion; pro-alternative fuel research.
(Dem) Anti-carbon fuel expansion; pro-immediate production of alternative fuels.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT *(Rep) SMALL: safeguard life, liberty, and property rights.
(Dem) LARGE: level the playing field for all citizens in all areas of civil activity to assure no one has an advantage over another.
IMMIGRATION (Rep) Strengthen border crossings; no amnesty; state control of immigration policy; “guest worker” program to soften illegal penalties.
*(Dem) Strengthen border crossings; federal control of immigration policy; partial amnesty for certain illegals.
GUN CONTROL (Rep) Official support of the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms; offers a variety of weak restrictions on gun possession.
(Dem) Official support of 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms; offers a variety of weak restrictions on gun possession.
MY VOTE FOR PRESIDENT Mitt Romney
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