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11:26 am: Politics Part Two – Seeing With Eyes Unclouded By Hate

Enough frivolities...here is the promised conclusion to: The Ones Who Walk Away From Washington.


At the end of part one, you may recall, I decided to withdraw from politics, to no longer throw my weight with one side, argue the issues, etc.
 
Once I did this, a funny thing happened…

Some (or all) of you may be familiar with the movie Princess Mononoke, from the fabulous Japanese animator Miyazaki. In it, a young man is sent by his tribe to observe a struggle between humans and nature (represented in the movie by huge beast-gods who inhabited the forest the humans need to cut down if they are to mine the iron ore they need to survive.) The young man, Ashitaka, is told to go and observe the struggle “with eyes unclouded by  hate.”  To look and see the needs and shortcomings of both sides without prejudice.
 
Well, this is what began to happen to me.

I began to listen more closely to both the Liberals and Conservatives I knew, and I discovered something astonishing: they were not even talking about the same subjects!
 
Oh, they were certainly arguing about conflicting conclusions, but those conclusions stemmed from entirely different premises. The result of this was that nothing either side said to their opponents was persuasive, because they were never addressing the issue that caused their opponent to take his stance in the first place.

Let me use an example:
 
Let’s take war. Say a war is brewing and there are some good arguments for going forward and some good arguments for holding back.
 
The Conservative looks at the world, and he sees a challenge that needs facing. Something daunting is on the horizon, but he knows that sometimes you need to take a stand for Right. You need to be brave and willing to face the fire to protect what it is that you value in life. Sometime violence is necessary. You’ve got to punch the bully back, or he will just keep bullying you.
 
What is called for in this situation, then is courage. Only those who lack this quality would not be willing to do what needs to be done.

Liberals must be cowards.
 
 
The Liberal looks at the world, and he sees how often violence is misplaced. How applying force can damage or break something that would flourish so much better with an application of patience and hard work. True violence tends to produce a quicker outcome, but the long term effects are often messy and much worse than the problem was to begin with.
 
All this is so clear, if one merely takes the time to look at it. Only those who are too slow-witted to comprehend these simple truths could think otherwise.
 
Conservatives must be stupid.
 
 
And, if you listen to the two sides, that’s just what they say. The Conservatives I know call the Liberals cowards. The Liberals in the press call the Conservatives stupid. (The Liberals I know personally are mainly too polite to go in for this kind of name calling, but it is done often enough by their fellows.)
 
I could give other examples. (Clinton’s impeachment – the sanctity of the law (no perjury) vs. the right to privacy (i.e. “they should not have asked that question to begin with.”) In each case, the concern of the Left differs from the concern of the Right.
 
All this reminded me of an experience I had years ago. Back in high school – junior year Social Studies, we were studying American History. Each time a new time period came up, I had a lot to say about what was happening at the time did another member of the class, a young man known as Misha the Commie.
 
Now, Misha was known as a Commie, not because of his politics, but because he had a Russian name and a red mailbox. As far as his politics went, Misha was to the right of Archie Bunker.
 
What happened that year has always fascinated me. Back then, I was a Liberal, and no matter what subject came up, Misha and I were on opposite sides. Banking, slaves, immigration; we were always instantly at loggerheads. Even when the subject was completely different from what we had discussed before – a subject I had never encountered before. Never had an opinion about before – Misha and I were still on opposite sides.
 
We lived in a rather conservative area, so the class divided with my best friend on my side, and everyone else on Misha’s side. (This did not dim my enjoyment of the process – but it did make it so that I was rather surprised when I later moved to places that weighted more heavily to the Liberal side and discovered I was not always alone. )
 
Seventeen-year-old me found this mind-boggling. Since I was only aware of my individual opinions, not of the principles that informed my beliefs, I kept expecting that sooner or later, Misha and I would agree on something.
 
We never did.
 
That was my first introduction to the idea that our opinions are colored by a world view that has a logic to it. If you want to convince someone of your position – or even to bring them around to being sympathetic to your position, even if they don’t agree – you need to approach the premises of these world views, not the rhetoric that is the conclusion. (As John did when he slowly pointed out how my goals were not in keeping with some of the premises of the Liberal position.)
 
I look around today and I see many of my friends are filled with hatred toward members of their political opposition – as if these people are robbing all the good from the world and about to bring about the fall of civilization. Conservatives bemoan that all the decency of Western Christian culture has been lost, and we are assuredly heading for a godless and lawless tomorrow, while Liberals assure me that the Fundamentalist Christians have won and we are on the verge of being forced to live in a totalitarian religious state.

Both of these people cannot be right.
 
The reason for it, of course, is that each side sees the success of the other side as a sign of the triumph of the vice they abhor. Conservatives think that cowards are taking over and ruling the country, while Liberals think that we are now under the thumb of the ignorant and hateful.
 
Like Ashitaka, who had little power to sway either side of the struggle he was observing, there is not a great deal I can currently do with these observations. I try to gently share the opinion of the other side with those around me, but often they are too bitter or too fearful to listen clearly.

My one hope is that some of what I have learned will someday trickle into my writing, to help me better shape the characters I write about, and maybe through that medium, some reader might be led to have a better and more compassionate understanding of his fellow man.
 




Comments

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From:facetiae
Date:September 27th, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC)
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fascinating. true. frustrating. and incomprehensible.

if you have not already run across it, you might want to take a peek at Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant. it's not terribly long, it's engaging and a pretty easy read, and it kind of touches on what you just wrote here, though indirectly. I haven't finished it yet. in fact I'm only in chapter 2, but so far it has been enlightening, if somewhat baffling.
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From:kalquessa
Date:September 27th, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
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I made this same discovery a few years ago (I thought of it as a kind of language barrier at the time, and I still think the metaphor is apt). You make some very insightful points here that I never really noticed myself. Thanks for posting this. I've gotten to the point where I either just avoid political debate altogether or I play devil's advocate and argue for the position that is least represented in the company. Not difficult, since as you say, both sides of every debate are usually informed by admirable views, it's just that we're human and so we kind of stink at actually doing our own ideals justice most of the time.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 27th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Your description of what you do is much like what I do.

By the way, it was partially your enthusiasm part one that pushed me to finally sit down and finish this. ;-) Just thought you should know. We so seldom know what affect we have on those around us.
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From:kalquessa
Date:September 27th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
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Well I'm glad I inspired you to post this, since it was well worth posting (and reading!) and I enjoy hearing your thoughts on this subject.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 27th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)

Fastest comments ever!

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Boy, you guys are fast! The smoke had not yet lifted from the posting and you've already visited!

I'm honored!!!
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From:cjmr
Date:September 27th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
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I agree.

I see this a lot on the homeschooling forums I frequent. There's always this huge disconnect in world-views between the people there (mostly women) who hold to one side of the political spectrum and the people who hold to the other--but it isn't a real disconnect. All of us want the pretty much the same outcome for any given situation, but we disagree fairly furiously (and with great verbosity) on the method.

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From:juliet_winters
Date:September 27th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
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I used to try to take a middle ground. I would never voice an opinion without carefully considering all sides. In religion, I suppose you could have called me a Unitarian. I marched for abortion rights. I thought everybody on the other side was deluded and sucking down an opiate for the masses. I thought Jesus was a very wonderful man.

I still think that Jesus is wonderful, but you would never find me at a pro-choice march these days. I occasionally make risky statements to old friends if I think it will help them. I am more confidant in my faith.

I realize that America is composed of lots of people with different views, but the conservatives and the liberals are at loggerheads. There is a culture war going on, and I've chosen a side.

What happened to change me?

September 11
That day my husband and I were driving home our unconscious child from the hospital in Baltimore. The world went crazy, but we hung together in good, dull, conservative fashion. Wherever we went, people were doing the same. We Americans are a people together. Or we were. For a time.

Activation days
Consciously choosing to give my children cochlear implants--thus bucking the Deaf enclave--and teach them cued speech instead of signing opened up a world of opportunity for direct confrontation that required more courage than I had needed previously.

Becoming Christian
It was a process for me. At first I went to church because I realized my teen needed a counterbalance to all the depravity in the world. Then I discovered this really beautiful gift--it was as though I had brought my child to be introduced to Christ and along the way he took me in, too. It hasn't always been easy socially. I've grown closer to some friends and have drawn away from others.

I like your posting, Jagi. It is very gentle. I wish I were such a gentle person. But I am by nature a fighter, and I choose to fight for God. Funny how that came out, but there it is.
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From:headnoises
Date:September 28th, 2007 03:54 am (UTC)
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A slight side question-- cochlear implants help you hear?

And cued speech-- is that like the folks who are mostly deaf but learn to figure out what folks are saying, either by reading lips or by hearing a tiny bit and figuring it from there?

If I am understanding correctly, those would mean your kids can have a more normal life-- making their lives easier. For this, you're willing to face down the folks who feel betrayed, right?

I think you're a heck of a mom.

PS- she does phrase stuff very nicely, no? Somebody's a peacemaker. ;^)
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From:juliet_winters
Date:September 28th, 2007 09:16 am (UTC)
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Yes, cochlear implants help hearing in most cases. Our kids' hearing is improved. They enjoy music and will not dash out into traffic, but discrimination is poorer than if they were implanted at a younger age when the brain development was more plastic. Unfortunately that was not the protocol at the time, and a lot of that had to do with not causing a fuss in the Deaf community by being extremely conservative at implantation dates. It's changed now.
Kids implanted early enough usually are indiscernable from the hearing population.

If you want to see a great video about it, check out Sound and Fury. It was nominated for an Academy Award.

Cued speech is for anybody with a comprehension problem who would like to be able to see exactly what people are saying but need visual cues to clarify. It's a very clever code figured out by a dr. at Gallaudet w/ an engineering background. They pretty much disowned him for that, but we are grateful. Off to a cued speech camp (where people learn it--it's fast to learn) today actually. (Will send pictures, Jagi!)

You can learn more about that here:
www.cuedspeech.org

Thanks for your kind comment. There's a "difficult to work with" note in my kids' school file from early on. : )

Jagi is a great peacemaker, yes, indeed!
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From:headnoises
Date:September 28th, 2007 12:21 pm (UTC)
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*shrug* No complement, needfully-- just the way I see it.

There's enough folks that won't fight for their kids that I feel a need to mention when someone does. Lord knows my mom and dad did and would, in a heartbeat.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 28th, 2007 11:31 am (UTC)

Heck of a Mom!

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Yes! She is!

She once shared with me a website called Mom's From Hell, a support group for moms who want to stand up to get the support they need for their children.

Thank God, I've never needed it, as the schools here have been pretty supportive -- but I felt it tippified her fearless devotion to her wonderful children!

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From:arhyalon
Date:September 28th, 2007 11:54 am (UTC)
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What I think is neat is the progression we have both undergone. I went from being a loud-mouthed opinionated person who spouted off about policits at a moments notice, to someone who remembers to listen once in a while. (I do still spout off on occasion, when I temporarily forget my new stance...but these slips are getting rarer. ;-)

While you went from being a quieter person to one who is willing to take a stand for what you believe in.

I think that sounds like progress for both of us!
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From:kokorognosis
Date:September 28th, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
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Very astute; I'll have to try to remember your words as I find that I am actually developing political beliefs of my own.... Lol. Not that I have a very big camp. A Libertarian viewpoint balanced with Christian beliefs seems to be relatively rare.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 28th, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
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Before I withdrew I was a Libertarian Christian, too. ;-) There must be more.
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From:carbonelle
Date:October 3rd, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
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**raises a hand from the peanut gallery**

I aver that Christians make the best libertarians, actually :-)
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 3rd, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)

Libertarian Christians

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That does make sense to me...since trusting to God rather than government goes hand in hand with Libertarian philosophy.
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From:carbonelle
Date:October 3rd, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Libertarian Christians

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Lib political philosophy leaves a lot of gaps and holes with respect of non-rational or non-competent actors. But since, for Christians, no polical philsophy ever needs to be the primary one, those gaps are all filled in by the Best Possible Thing.
From:8bitbard
Date:September 30th, 2007 05:30 am (UTC)
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I can relate to this - I find typical political discussion to be full of mudslinging, with personal insults all too common. Additionally, I have pretty strong disagreements with both major U.S. parties, so I'm more or less an "outsider" in politics as I am in most areas of life. So, while I'm not without opinions, I tend to avoid talking politics as much as possible.
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