There is a deep rot in our politics and in our culture, and I am not sure our country can survive it. Far too many of us are so morally cocksure that we not only cannot see that someone who disagrees with us may have a legitimate perspective, but even those who agree with us are morally tainted if they are not 100% totally all in with “the cause.” We badly need to get some perspective.
In response to the nationwide riots that followed the killing of George Floyd, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about the dangers of firebombing a business. Someone could be inside and be harmed or killed by the fire, or someone in a neighboring building could be hurt or killed if the fire spreads. A comment on his post: “I get it, property is more important to you than black lives.”
My friend posted a reasonable argument about the danger to human lives that arsonists create – and that obviously includes black people. Plus, my friend has been very vocal about police brutality and individual rights. But because he was not 100% all in with “the cause,” he was defamed with the false accusation that he thinks property matters more than human beings.
People, this is not what normal, healthy political discourse looks like. This is what a cult looks like. This is what happens when you lose all sense of proportion and demand 100% total loyalty to a cause, a party or a political figure. Any dissent or any criticism of specific tactics or rhetoric means you are a heretic. This is not an ideology that cares about people. It is fanaticism.
But there is a deeper problem here. The problem is that we cannot see those who disagree with us as people of good will. Many times, we cannot see them as people at all. They are the “deep state” or anarchists or thugs or Communists or gun nuts or homophobes or racists or whatever you want to call them, but they are not men and women made in the image of God. They are the enemy.
Now look: Obviously there are bad actors. Obviously there are people motivated solely by greed or malice or some other immoral thing. But absent evidence to the contrary, we should assume that those who disagree with us are not bad people and actually want what is best for our society, or nation, our state and our community. People who agree with us generally but are not as strident in their beliefs are not wimps or sellouts.
We need more compassion and we need a whole lot more humility. Maybe we do not have all the answers. Maybe someone else has a perspective we have not considered. Maybe there actually are competing priorities and maybe we could actually be wrong! I know I have been, many times.