The Benefits of Mutual Respect and Civility vs. Hate and “Partyism”

A New York Times feature from October 3 tells the inspiring tale of a friendship between two scholars, one a Christian, the other an atheist. Their friendship does not thrive in spite of the conflict between their core beliefs, but rather because of it.

Prof. David Skeel, the Christian, recently published  a book, “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.”  His atheist friend, Patrick Arsenault,  is  acknowledged in the book and quoted as well, and the Times notes that “True Paradox” “might not have existed at all, or certainly would not exist in its present shape and voice, without the secular scientist as its midwife. And that odd reality is testament to a rare brand of mutual civility in the culture wars, with their countervailing trends of religious fundamentalism and dogmatic atheism.” Says Skeel:

“One of the things we talked about was whether it matters if we persuade each other. I long to have Patrick converted to my perspective. So how can we have a friendship? I see it as toleration in the deepest meaning. We don’t just ‘put up’ with each other’s beliefs. We interrogate them.”

Arsenault tells the Times that “in the culture wars, the rhetoric is acerbic on both sides. On the humanist side, there’s this tendency to view people of faith as not rational. And David is clearly rational. He’s just looked at the same evidence as me and come to a different conclusion.”

Contrast this attitude—rational, respectful, practical, fair, constructive and profoundly ethical, with the “partyism” and bigotry being practiced with increasing intensity as the mid-term elections approach. There is Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in the video clip above, for example,  not merely accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, but suggesting that their criticism of the Secret Service is insincere:

“They’re even making a campaign issue of the Secret Service,” The Post columnist said on MSNBC, emphasizing the supposed irony, “saying things are so bad that even the President of the United States, the President of the United States we would like to remove from office by the way, is not being adequately protected by the Secret Service.”

This is really despicable, only partially because Democrats are in the process of using scaremongering as a prime tactic as well, just not regarding dangers exacerbated by the Democratic administration’s missteps and incompetence. Milbank’s paper’s “In the Loop” column recently noted the hysterical pitch of Democratic funding appeals this cycle:

“If you are a recipient of Democrats’ campaign donation solicitation e-mails you’d be right to assume the world is nearing its end. But no, it’s just the end of the last quarter before Election Day. With Democrats incapable of taking back the House and at risk of losing the Senate, the campaign committees have adopted a Chicken Little approach to fundraising. One message from the Democratic Governors Association even threatened a “Dem-pocalypse.” E-mail after e-mail foretells terrible outcomes that can only be avoided if you open up your checkbook immediately.”

For Democrats, the falling sky is racist Republicans obliterating civil rights, every white citizen carrying an assault weapon to hunt down unarmed black teens,  women being sent back to the kitchen barefoot and pregnant, mass deportations of hard-working Americans who are mysteriously unable to find any documentation of their citizenship, the end of the world by boiling, and the Koch brothers and other obscenely rich conservatives using their ill-gotten gains to hypnotize voters into voting their way. Milbank’s claim that fearmongering is a one-sided phenomenon is just biased reporting, but sadly, that’s not new, with him, the Post, or most of the news media. Where he crosses into sick partyism, however, is his suggestion that political opponents of the President are not sincere when they say they want him and his family protected.

I doubt that this is how Democrats regarded the shooting of Ronald Reagan—“Boy, wouldn’t it be great if he died!”  I’ve lived through the assassination of a President, as have many members of Congress and the media: I cannot imagine any greater trauma to the nation, or anything more vile than wishing such a tragedy would happen. Yet this is exactly the sentiment Milbank and MSNBC—and they are not the only ones—are projecting onto Republicans.

Of course the dsyfunction of yet another Federal agency, especially one charged with protecting our elected leaders, is a legitimate campaign issue: it is called the lack of competence….the same issue that makes the CDC’s handling of Ebola legitimate territory for inquiry without being dismissed as “fearmongering.” Yet no enlightened discourse, exchange of ideas, compromise or new approaches to problems can arise out of a political process when the message is being broadcast that one party isn’t sincere when it expresses concern for the nation’s leader’s physical safety. We all know conservatives want the President dead, right? They’re racists—traitors—monsters. If they get elected, who knows what horrible things they’ll do?

You can tell, because they are fearmongering.


Pointer: Fred, Hot Air

Facts: New York Times

Sources: Washington Post, Hot Air, New York Times 2

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Mutual Respect and Civility vs. Hate and “Partyism”

  1. So fed up with this sort of thing, on television, radio, facebook. It’s like a person you disagree with can’t just be a person with whom you disagree.. they are evil incarnate or suffering from a mental defect and deserve to have abuse hurled at them and their humanity called into question. Where is the generosity of spirit? Just in the last hour I’ve read on my newsfeed Tories being called ‘evil scum’, ‘toxic scum’ and ‘f***wits’. What do they call truly evil people I wonder

  2. This is where generosity of spirit went.
    Instead of the second great commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
    We have:
    “RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)” Alinsky Rules for Radicals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.