Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Civility as a fruit of maturity

posted by Rod Dreher

Michael Gerson:

My political friendships and sympathies are increasingly determined not by ideology but by methodology. One of the most significant divisions in American public life is not between the Democrats and the Republicans; it is between the Ugly Party and the Grown-Up Party.

More:

The rhetoric of the Ugly Party shares some common themes: urging the death or sexual humiliation of opponents or comparing a political enemy to vermin or diseases. It is not merely an adolescent form of political discourse; it encourages a certain political philosophy — a belief that rivals are somehow less than human, which undermines the idea of equality and the possibility of common purposes.

And:

The alternative to the Ugly Party is the Grown-Up Party — less edgy and less hip. It is sometimes depicted on the left and on the right as an all-powerful media establishment, stifling creativity, freedom and dissent. The Grown-Up Party, in my experience, is more like a seminar at the Aspen Institute — presentation by David Broder, responses from E.J. Dionne Jr. and David Brooks — on the electoral implications of the energy debate. I am more comfortable in this party for a few reasons: because it is more responsible, more reliable and less likely to wish its opponents would die.

That last paragraph made me snicker, because it’s almost a parody of Broderism. Yet, as someone who reads both Dionne and Brooks, and who has spent time in conversation with both men, I have to agree, mostly, with Gerson. Dionne and Brooks have their distinct views, but the impression you get in talking with them is that they respect other people, and don’t dismiss or dehumanize those who disagree with them. They invite thought, and thoughtful exchange. That can seem too mushy-moderate to partisans, but as longtime readers of this blog will have observed over the past four years, I have grown weary of shrill partisanship. It’s not because I don’t have strong views; it’s because

1) I have discovered how wrong I was about important issues in the past, and that makes me eager to hear what the other side has to say, for the sake of better informing my judgment;
2) I really do hate the tribal, Ugly Party mode of discourse, which, as Gerson says, delights in humiliating and dehumanizing opponents; where do people think this sort of thing is going to lead, anyway?; and
3) Shrill, personalized attack discourse is like pornography: initially exciting, but ultimately flat-out boring. Every now and then I’ll listen to talk radio in the car, and above all, it’s dull in its frantic kvetching. There are exceptions (e.g., Dennis Prager), but mostly if you want to learn something true and important about the world, talk radio makes you stupider, but angrier. We need less stupid and angry in this country.

Broderism — the worship of bipartisanship for its own sake — is a flawed political epistemology, because it is incapable of considering the radical nature of certain problems, which is to say, that particular challenges do not admit to chummy, bipartisan solutions. Broderists would have a difficult time dealing with the thought, for example, that the relationship between government and finance needs radical reform. In its degenerate form, Broderism rejects passion as vulgar and destructive — even if the particulars of an issue justify it to some degree. Nevertheless, the attractive thing about Broderism is that it values civility and intellection (what, you think Olbermannism or Beckism is superior?), qualities that I believe we are going to need a lot more of in the days to come.
The ideas that rage is a sign of authenticity, and the Cause relieves us of our obligation to respect the basic humanity of our opponents, are poisonous ones. People can be wrong without being evil; that’s a truth we’re losing sight of in our political culture, and it’s going to cost us plenty.



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My Name

posted June 30, 2010 at 8:17 am


With the first paragraph that you included from Gerson, I thought Rod was going to talk a little about what you do when confronted by Ugly Party friends. I don’t mean here in the comments, where ugly can often just be trolling (i.e. someone just trying to be outrageous in anonymity). I mean friends and acquaintances who say really terrible things about people with whom they have political disagreements in casual conversations. I have friends across the political spectrum, and people of all political stripes have spewed such venom on occasion, even moderates, who just spew in an unprincipled manner. How do we discourage this kind of incivility in others, who seem to perceive a lack of hate for a lack of conviction?
captcha: “control wombs” seriously?!



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Andrea

posted June 30, 2010 at 8:42 am


My relationship with some of my family members improved when I made it a rule not to discuss politics with them any longer, even when they bated me. It hasn’t changed the way I vote but it does make family visits a lot more peaceful.



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Indy

posted June 30, 2010 at 9:08 am


Yes, the Daily Kos folks often mock Broder. I can’t always tell what he means by bipartisanship, even though I read a lot about political processes. Ted Kennedy was both a partisan — someone who held strong views on certain issues — yet a person who was able to act in a bipartisan manner because that was how a lot of legislation was crafted. Horsetrading, give and take, we’ll take a little off that if you will take a little off the other. That’s why he had so many friendships across the aisle (Orrin Hatch being a notable example) and why he worked so effectively with people such as Bob Dole. People who haven’t read about such things (don’t know if the Kos bloggers have) may be disdaining something they really don’t understand. Yet we all compromise in some (not all) areas within our marriages and in our workplaces. You have to discern where that works and moves things forward and where it is undoable. So too with politics.



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Ken

posted June 30, 2010 at 9:34 am


What a refreshing post, Rod. Thank you. Joe Scarborough has been saying the same thing for awhile, and way back in 1998 Stephen L. Carter wrote “Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy.” Shrill arguments don’t solve problems, they preclude solving them.



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Cannoneo

posted June 30, 2010 at 10:06 am


I’ll take the Uglies, thanks very much, because I’m “grown up” enough to analyze arguments without being overly influenced by style. And even the Uglies I disagree with are always more honest about their motives and values anyway. Here’s a good example of an Ugly vs. the Grown-Ups, in the form of Glen Greenwald vs. Jeffrey Goldberg and Joe Klein. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/06/29/war/index.html
Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” comes to mind. Unpleasant things require unpleasant language.
The claim that the choice is between Brooks-Broderism, and people who wish rape and death on their opponents, is completely bogus, by the way. (Probably justified by Wiegel’s stupid semi-private comment about Drudge.) The people who are castigated and belittled as Uglies tend just to be those who write with passion and directness.
It’s a really sleazy trick, come to think about it, to try to push those people out of the discourse by obsessing about their style.



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Cannoneo

posted June 30, 2010 at 10:07 am


And more importantly, the goal is to push their *arguments* out of the discourse. Because those arguments cannot be made without appearing vulgar to those committed to silencing them.



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Rod Dreher

posted June 30, 2010 at 11:11 am


That can be true, Cannoneo, but it is not always true. The reverse point would be that only those who write with what you call “unpleasant language” deserve to be taken seriously — that is, that the harsh style is a sign of moral and intellectual legitimacy. That can’t be right.
I have appreciated at times Greenwald’s direct style, and like you, I appreciate prose that cuts through obfuscating B.S. But surely there is a vast middle ground between Dull Accomodationist Establishment Pap and Mow-’Em-Down rhetoric, yes? As Gerson points out, to believe that the “Ugly Party” style is the only real one is to mean that all discourse cannot help but be adversarial, and to deny the possibility of common ground. More worryingly, it can easily go from dismissing an opponent’s argument to dismissing an opponent’s humanity.



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TTT

posted June 30, 2010 at 11:16 am


Since the terminology being discussed here is already rife with age-ism, I’ll run with it: most of these “Grown-Ups” are useless greyhairs cocooned within the Beltway for whom none of the issues being discussed actually matter. Their worship of process is a diversion only possible for people detached and comfortable enough that what actually happens is of no import. To them, those people who could actually be affected by these policies are inscrutable aliens whose emotional responses only validate their continued disenfranchisement.
Bipartisanship for its own sake is the most extreme position of all, as it presupposes that facts and truth simply do not matter. The foulest obscenities come from the policy goals of all too many in the “Grown-Up Party” and their Beltway Broderite enablers–the most perfect example being the Iraq War itself. Dick Cheney was a master of exploiting this wacky fetish, as he was always soft-spoken and said “please” and “thank you” when he was selling out core American values and ruining our military and fiscal policies.
I don’t use the imagery of rape or vermin, thankyouverymuch. I just think people whose concepts of political normalcy ossified around 1960 will never be able to understand America as it is now and will never be able to contribute usefully to our policy and public opinion systems again and so should retire at once. If Broderism didn’t exist as an actual significant opinion-shaping force I probably wouldn’t feel that way, but as long as it continues to enable destructive policies behind a false facade of whatever it was they used to care about when Shelbyville was called Ogdenville it will continue to deserve only contempt.



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Scott Lahti

posted June 30, 2010 at 11:40 am


Eff “civility”, and all its nice-guy, lily-livered, nancy-boy, pantywaist Annenberg-Foundational, bipartisan, Viewers-Like-You works and ways, yea, unto its children’s children’s children. Some people, at the slightest whiff of smoke from a distant polemical fire, cry “Water!” I knock on doors from one end of the block to another and cry “I say, Neighbor, would it be too much to trouble you for a cup of petrol?”
More savage ridicule of the truly savage among us, please – starting in comboxes like these and working way, way, WAY up from there.
I like how the late William Manchester phrased the epigraph he contributed just before his death in 2004 to H.L. Mencken: The American Iconoclast by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers:
“Fifty years ago I spent my mornings reading to an old man who suffered, as I now suffer, from a series of strokes. He was a writer. He was H.L. Mencken. I have never known a kinder man. But when he unsheathed his typewriter and sharpened its keys, his prose was anything but kind. It was rollicking and it was ferocious. Witty, intellectual polemicists are a vanishing breed today. Their role has been usurped by television boobs whose IQs measure just below their body temperatures. Some journalism schools even warn their students to shun words that may hurt. But sometimes words should hurt. That is why they are in the language. When terrorists slaughter innocents, when corporation executives betray the trust of shareholders, when lewd priests betray the trust of little children, it is time to mobilize the language and send it into battle.
“When Mencken died in January 1956, he was cremated. That was a mistake. He should have been ‘rolled in malleable gold and polished to blind the cosmos.’ I still miss him. America misses him more.”
One prime aspect of the low level of discourse in what Jacques Barzun called “the culture we deserve” is the drearily ritual and earnest literal-mindedness on the part of most speakers: they first identify a set-piece Enemy Other personality against whom their enmity is echoed by ten thousand other bloggers, remain implicitly within the confines of the two-dimensional boxing ring in which that enemy has as if in concrete planted himself, and proceed to spend their alloted span delivering one straight-line spittle-flecked direct assault after another, mistaking red-faced ferocity for surgical accuracy. Seldom do they recognize the opportunity to remove Personality or Tribe from the equation in lifting it to the plane of ideas, or to apply the alchemy of art in stepping outside the consensus box of op-ed punditry and into that of an imagination at once self-disciplined and unbounded by rules fixed and enforced by dullards, or to substitute the other-governed slavery of anger for the buoyant and confident self-possession of full-throated laughter: “One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms”, as Mencken put it.
The surface paradox resulting: when you are through force of sheer practiced talent in the combat of ideas able to render the serial imbecilities of your antagonist to a smoking wreck without once feeling tempted to veer off into wishing him and all his blood kin a speedy dispatch to the grave, you will by failing to provide him the sort of rope more accustomed to his own hand, with which to hang you in a countersuit, piss him off all the more, if only from sputtering Rumpelstiltskin envy.
I know deep in my heart that if I were to find myself on my deathbed today, totting up in retrospect one regret after another, those which would float unbidden to the surface instanter, setting me to endgame wincing in the recall, would be every occasion when I had from fear of the likely reactions resulting failed to tell virtually everyone with whom I had at one point or another spent more than five minutes to go hang, when it might have actually done some good even at the margins in making them pause before stepping with steelcapped jackboots upon the unsuspecting toes of their next victims. Besides those sins of omission, the occasions on which I have allowed my verbalized passions to get the better of me collapse into fairy dust.
Recommended reading:
H.L. Mencken: Courage in a Time of Lynching by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers
“In 1934, the Nation magazine placed Mencken on its Honor Role of the Nation for his denunciation of the two lynchings. But on the Eastern Shore he remained persona non grata, detested even in Ocean City, a seashore town 25 miles from Salisbury. Characteristically philosophical, Mencken was unperturbed. As he put it, ‘Inasmuch as I had no desire to be admired by morons I let the Shoremen howl.’”
The Case Against “Civility” by Randall Kennedy
Memoirs of a Revolutionist by Dwight Macdonald



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Pat

posted June 30, 2010 at 11:41 am


The problem with distinctions like this is that the ‘grown-up party’ establishes the rules for what counts as ‘grown-up’ discourse. I completely agree with the distinction between civility and wishing death on one’s oppponents, but it can be taken too far to outlaw discussion of particular topics as ‘ugly party’ topics. For instance, birthers’ concerns could be discussed in almost any tone and I think they would still be classified in the ‘ugly’ party. Or on the other side, suspicions that republicans in congress are trying to keep the economy bad until the 2010 elections could be regarded as too inherently uncivil to be taken seriously.
I can remember when both dems and reps agreed completely about free trade, and people who believed in Ross Perot’s ‘giant sucking sound’ were viewed as too racist and nationalist to be represented in the discussion. The ‘grown-up’ consensus is too often composed of the people from both political parties who can agree that some concerns should be taken seriously and some shouldn’t — and I think that subverts the whole reason for having two political parties.
So I guess I would say, I want to get rid of both parties. The uglies should be ignored, and the ‘grown-ups’ relentlessly questioned to find out what they are sweeping under the rug. And I further think that when you find out what the ‘grown-ups’ are hiding, their rhetoric will become just as vile as the uglies’ was.



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Charles Cosimano

posted June 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm


What is missing in all this is the fact that much of what all the screaming is about really does not matter very much and, people, realizing that it does not matter, only watch for the entertainment factor of people screaming, then simply ignore them and go on and live their lives. After all, the moral and intellectual legitimacy of a speaker has nothing to do with the style of discourse. It has everything to do with whether or not the speaker agrees with the person hearing him.



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eccentriclibertarian

posted June 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm


It is entirely possible to be civil, reasoned, and intelligent in discourse as well as respectful of opposite-view holders. Such behavior does not mean you are trying to sweep something under the rug or downplay the importance of the subject at hand, or your impassioned feelings about same.
IF your goal in a conversation (or a comments section) about politics is to give a good account of your position, with the interest of getting your interlocutor to at least consider your ideas/opinions, what good does it do to use inflammatory name calling, attribute ridiculous motives to those on the other side of the issue, etc? Those things are fine, albeit coarse (IMO), if all you intend to do is the equivalent of graffiti tagging (“I was here!/I’m in your face!”).



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Pat

posted June 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm


eccentriclibertarian,
I agree with most of what you say, but you still beg the question of who gets to decide when a term is an insult (‘birther’?) or when motives are deemed ridiculous (wanting to keep the economy bad until the 2010 elections?).
Whoever gets to define that gets to rule out some topics of discussion. That’s quite diferent from setting up standards of civility, like those used in this forum.



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Rod Dreher

posted June 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm


TTT:
The foulest obscenities come from the policy goals of all too many in the “Grown-Up Party” and their Beltway Broderite enablers–the most perfect example being the Iraq War itself.
You should be aware that for many of us — I’m guilty — the same kind of untempered passion you exhibit here was what led us to support the Iraq War. I wouldn’t listen to anybody making a case against the war because I convinced myself ahead of time that they were speaking in bad faith — either as fools or cowards. It was obvious to me that they were not only wrong, but that they were putting America at risk by their refusal to see the world as it really was. David Frum articulated this point of view well in his infamous National Review cover story reading the anti-war right out of conservatism. What was at stake was so immense that there was no such thing as respectable anti-war opinion, not even among people who agreed with you on other things (the argument went).
That worked out well for us. :-(
There comes a time when civility can be overdone, and can obfuscate rather than enlighten. I think, for example, about the anesthetizing language Church bureaucrats used to describe the rape and abuse of children. “Civility” in those cases was a tool of what you might call endarkenment, rather than enlightenment. Direct language needed to be used, not diplomatic niceties. Still, those cases are fairly rare, I’d say — but the Righteous Anger mode of discourse is fairly common. It shouldn’t be.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm


My personal remedy to the Lahti(Scott)ist extreme is to cultivate my Inner Curmudgeon and be prepared to let him out (temporarily) as the opportunity arises. ;-)
Can we, in service to this thread at the least, recognize that Grown-Up and Ugly are broad generalizations logically connected to outcomes, and not commentaries on those who might (at least) superficially fit under one or the other?
Both sides are capable of egregious violations, of thought and from actions. The cure is not a rush to the opposite extreme. The balance point between Grown-Up and Ugly is not political correctness, no matter how the sunshine-and-flowers mediators of the middle would have it. Blunt and honest language does not need to include — let alone be defined by — profanity and epithets. Neither should we tolerate those hiding behind “polite” language with every intention of ignoring what other sides have to say.



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AnotherBeliever

posted June 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm


I agree with you whole-heartedly, Rod. Anger is fine if it is intelligently directed at people directly responsible (B.P. leadership, certain Wall St. Execs.) But demonizing your political opponents as evil, un-Christian and un-American(or gun-toting and ignorant as the case may be) and accusing the other side of wanting to destroy the country not only accomplishes nothing, it is counterproductive to any resolution or cooperation. Who would cooperate with the dark evil on the other side?? Most of us are patriotic Americans who may disagree on certain issues. But contrary to what some extremists would have you believe, we are ON THE SAME SIDE. We are all in this together. We have actual external enemies who think our division and political stagnation quite advantageous to their purposes.
There is a danger here. “We must all hang together or we shall surely hang separately” remains as true to today as it did at our nation’s founding. “We the people” only works insofar as we still identify ourselves as one people. E Pluribus Unum and so forth. Go too far the way of the talking heads, and you will literally throw out the Republic with the bathwater!
CAPTCHA says “shoves CIA.” Nice.



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TTT

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm


You should be aware that for many of us — I’m guilty — the same kind of untempered passion you exhibit here was what led us to support the Iraq War.
Reagan used pretty untempered passion when he said Medicare would lead to a lifelong Stalinist dictatorship over every aspect of every American’s life forever. And what was “Evil Empire”–a scientific Latin name? Yet I’d say a lot of that same “many of us” loved him for it. Ask pretty much any conservative–and certainly any Republican president–to talk about abortion or gun rights and you’ll see a lot more “passion” than I just threw away above.
This, I’m afraid, is another part of the Broderite trap: the idea that one side is Serious, even when it barefacedly is not. Emotion-based appeals become reclassified as documentary facts of nature as long as they maintain the status quo.
“Please, Mr. Nigra, sit in the back of the bus, thank you” is obscene.



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Keeping Dark Secrets

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:59 pm


My problem with this issue is at what point is telling the truth uncivil? This is an issue Norman Finkelstein has raised.
Rod, while outing some issues might destroy lives, aren’t other lives destroyed by our keeping quiet? Brooks et al are far too comfortable hobnobbing with people who by any stretch of the imagination are amoral, if not immoral. I believe that David Brooks has advocated immoral ideas in the past. So does one abandon one’s morals for the sake of polite conversation? This isn’t about political power, this about the tacit acceptance and support one gives to evil people when you socialize with them and do not accuse. We have power beyond the law and beyond violence, that power is association. The Amish and Mennonites realized this and put it into practice with shunning. Perhaps other Christians should practice shunning until person acknowledges their wrong, and repents, and genuinely changes and makes restitution to their victims; not a case of ally, ally, oxen free, I’m forgiven, let’s look forward.
Where does the line of civility stop at national boundaries? Why not break bread with the Taliban? That really would be a case of turning the other cheek.
I do find calls for bipartisanship in the face of all the coverups, shady deals, and juvenile behavior that does go on in DC hard to defend. There are partisan tribalists who are amoral or immoral as you say, and who engage in adhominems and juvenile insults. But does that justify us ignoring the internal evil in our midst? If I believe that a fellow American is engaging in evil behavior and I can back it up with facts, shouldn’t j’accuse?
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
I interpret this as morals outweigh social niceties. I’m not calling for violence, see my above comments. I’m calling for people to not associate with immoral people,and to really think about morality and divorce it from political and nationalistic concerns.
This isn’t a case of forgiveness vs hard-heartedness, this is simply telling the truth. And let’s be honest, Gerson et al are disturbed by a new form of information exchange that they and their employers can’t control.



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Indy

posted June 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm


Two separate issues here, tone and bipartisanship. Tone in a nutshell: everyone who speaks or writes publicly has an opportunity to reach supporters, opponents, and leaners. Target audience? Moderates, who comprise 37% of the voters, the largest single bloc. Larger than conservatives, definietely larger than liberals. So how has had that tone thing worked out in recent times? In 2008, NRO’s The Corner helped elect Barack Obama. So did Rush Limbaugh. In 2004, Michael Moore helped re-elect George W. Bush. Overly angry immoderate tones boomerang. They repel instead of persuading.
There is a core group of American voters who is turned off by stridency and righteousness and anger. That’s what Gerson is writing about, not ideology or commitment or passion. Because they themselves are moderates, swing voters often are attracted more to The Grown Up party than The Ugly Party. Yet they sometimes vote Democratic, sometimes Republican. It’s the Uglies who tip the balance AWAY from the party for which they are advocating.
Family duties call. I’ll post a few more thoughts shortly.



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Indy

posted June 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm


Rod, my followup comment from 7:28 or so went to the moderation queue. Please take a look when you get a moment.



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Keeping Dark Secrets

posted June 30, 2010 at 7:39 pm


How “moral” is being a moderate? From a religious standpoint, I ask? Is there a middle of the road when it comes to right and wrong? Moreover, in the next life can you say “I was just following orders. I was just trying to make it through the next day? I believed what my president/senator/prime minister said, it felt true.”
Once again, I’m not advocating some radical revolution. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t interact, shouldn’t break bread with people who advocate what you deem as evil. Explain your beliefs and if they remain stubborn, wipe the dust off your shoes and walk away. Full disclosure, I was repulsed (but not surprised) by the results of the now famous poll about Evangelicals and torture, and it partially resulted in my and my father (a clergyman) not speaking. The torture issue really was the nail in the coffin for me regarding established Protestantism, particularly in the South and MidWest. There is something profoundly ugly about the system, and all the emotionalism and romanticization we hear can’t cover it over.
I was civil when I broke off relations with my father, I just told him his positions were evil, and he and I couldn’t interact anymore. At that point any further discussion with the man was just mental gymnastics. He was one of those Brooksian types, social harmony over the truth, with a strong dose of authoritarianism. It seems that many of my friends who took morality the most seriously overtime have left the church out of disgust. Whereas my friends who sort of “took it all in stride” are all faithful church attendees, but a fair number are well on their way to a second marriage. My response is somewhat cowardly, I just started to avoid them. Grisham’s law applies here, I think. Keep on looking the other way to keep the people in the church, make excuses for political and cultural pathologies, and you end up with a corrupt community.



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Indy

posted June 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm


@KDS, I don’t follow your reasoning. Of course, you have the disadvantage of not seeing my last post, which Rod has yet to release. In it I mentioned that I know people who live in Washington, DC, a city in which I once lived, too. Many are quite high up in government. Gerson and Brooks may know one or two of the same people whom I know. None were involved in issues related to torture. There are none among my friends in DC whom I consider amoral or immoral. So breaking bread with them is not a problem, I enjoy having lunch with them on those occasions when we can do it. Our convos would surprise many people but then, there’s a lot about DC which is more complicated than many people think.
I think we have a different definition of moderate. As a voter, I’m a moderate because I lean a little right on some issues and a little left on some so I sometimes vote Democratic and sometimes Republican. Budgetary and foreign policy issues drive my vote much more than domestic issues, which I tend to think of more on the state rather than the federal level. In terms of tone, I support an approach which leads to listening and working togehter. Neither party in Washington can govern without the other, unless they have stupendous majorities. Given the way people vote these days, we’re not likely to see that happen. So either they will work together on some issues as once was possible(which involves horsetrading, compromise, giving a little on some issues — kind of the way we compromise with our spouses and co-workers in working through some issues — or there will be stalemate and big problems will be kicked down the road. All of us lose if we don’t support some form of bipartisan action, in areas where it is possible to give a little. Some areas admittedly are difficult or nearly impossible to do that on but you’d be surprised how many do lend themselves to working out reasonable, and, yes, moral, solutions.



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Jeff LeSalle

posted June 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm


It will be interesting to see what happens with the Republican Party and gay rights. After all, you’ve acknowledged that your side has most likely lost the fight to restrict the rights of gays, and the future of equality is inevitable. Here’s the problem for the Republican Party.
Regardless of your opinions of the validity of black civil rights struggles vs. gays, the Republicans have had a very simple and reflexive answer to any charge of racism: “Democrats were the party of slavery! Democrats were the segregationists!” It’s an argument that is, on the face, true, but misleading. It would be more honest to say, “Southern conservatives favored slavery! Southern conservatives promoted segregation!” It doesn’t mean that southern conservatives are bad people, but the vast majority of them (and the states themselves) switched to the Republican party after the Democrats became associated with equal rights for blacks.
The problem is that in a couple of decades, Republicans won’t have any excuse. When gay people are able to marry and adopt kids, when people literally don’t care about the fact that friends and neighbors are gay, the Republicans will have nowhere to shift blame. They’ll have to accept and apologize for their history of “rational prejudice”, try and hide it, or bizarrely hold on to those deep seated principles against homosexuality and enjoy a life as a fringe third party.
For reference, check out Ramesh Ponnuru’s article at NRO about the right’s historical problem with civil rights, and he bravely points out National Review’s own passionate defense of segregation and the inherent inferiority of black people:
http://article.nationalreview.com/436276/the-rights-civil-wrongs/ramesh-ponnuru?page=1
I always kind of wonder what it’s like to be Ramesh, because he works with folks like Krikorian that want to stop nearly all immigration (so Ramesh would still be in India) and people like John Derbyshire who have a deep hatred of people that aren’t white or certain races of northern Asia. It has to, at the very least, be awkward at parties.



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Indy

posted June 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm


@KDS, being a moderate in temperament, also (ha!), it occurred to me that I may have left the impression that I don’t understand the problem you faced within your family and church community. Not so. I haven’t faced anything like that but I do feel some sympathy for you for having had to go through that. It’s no wonder we define moderate somewhat differently. You’re thinking in terms of taking a stand. I’m thinking in terms of the classic moderate swing voter, who often leans a little left on social issues and a little right on fiscal issues. I actually have taken some pretty strong stands in my workplace, to the extent that I once was shoved aside and had to wait to regain some clout and influence until some things changed in my organization. My initially unpopular stance was vindicated in that instance, in the long run, but it doesn’t always work that way. My career has taken some interesting twists and turns although I’m doing very well now and have for some time. But it isn’t because I’ve rolled over, its because I’ve built some cred and allied myself with ethical, honorable people.
One of the reasons I wrote that NRO’s The Corner helped Barack Obama win was because of the way the bloggers handled torture and some foreign policy issues (to say nothing of their worship of the tv show, 24). A little more soul searching in such forums on issues such as the GWOT would have helped the GOP but I think that was, and largely still is, beyond those bloggers.



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Keeping Dark Secrets

posted June 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm


Indy,
I would say that the direct involvement in torture isn’t just the issue. Condoning a system that allows it is. Not wanting to talk about it, wanting to “move forward” makes us all complicit in the initial crime. We become accessories after the fact. And I don’t believe DC is any more evil than any other city, nor is the government the problem. If I wasn’t clear, I apologize. Government reflects the people’s wishes in large part, particularly in a democracy. One can argue that our government is dominated by lobbyists and corporations. I’d counter that is just because we allow it to be so, folks are fine with the system as is. My dad is one of those folks. In his own life he is a straight arrow, honest to a fault, and I believe moral in most respects. But in the end that doesn’t hack it. He is far too willing to make excuses, provided the people in the wrong are in power. He will get worked up over all the classic hot button issues, but you mention the personal failings of a Gingrich or the torture stuff and he shrugs his shoulders. That’s the excuse of all the Germans who weren’t directly involved in running the camps. Not that Americans are Nazis, but you see my point? Your friends might be perfectly fine folks, but I bet they interact with people who aren’t. And lest you say I’m not being realistic, I’d counter why make compromises with someone just because you share a national identity with them? Rod said he supported the Iraq war, well why wasn’t he willing to compromise with Saddam? Is this a question of morals, or is it a case of we let our political and national identities trump our moral identities. I’m not arguing for some sort of grandstanding, which so many Christians do around political hot button issues but then provide cover for their side. I’m talking about everyday life. If you know somebody is up to no good, you shouldn’t associate with that person if they refuse to admit wrong-doing. As the old saying goes, lie down with dogs and you get up with fleas.



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Indy

posted June 30, 2010 at 8:42 pm


@KDS, thanks for the response. I’m still waiting on Rod to release my comment from ca. 7:28 pm but hey, he just got some encouraging news about his sister, he’s probably doing family stuff, this blog definitely is not (and should not be) the focus of his life.
The problem with guilt by association, etc. is that we don’t know everything that is going on behind the scenes. Case in point, the issue that led to my being shunted aside. In corporate terms, I took a bullet on behalf of people who felt as I did but were unable to advocate the issue the way I did. I lost. I stuck with the organization. I regained my previous footing and then some when some things changed. No one on the outside knew or knows now what I did on behalf of my co-workers. Looking at my organization from outside, you only would know its outside corporate identity and would have no way to know about the pretty fierce battles we fought internally over some pretty serious stuff. Given that experience, I project, think through the problems we faced, and know enough to ask some of the people I know in Washington, DC about similar issues. As I said, you would be surprised. . . .
But you’re right, there are plenty of people among voters of both parties who probably approach things the way you describe your Dad as doing. As long as certain things align right for them, they find a way to overlook others. That’s why I said in another thread that a lot of voters apply situational ethics and moral relativism. Yet they accuse others of not having values. Makes you go, huh? sometimes.



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Jam

posted June 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm


People can also be wrong without being stupid or indoctrinated, as well, and probably a whole host of other things.



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meh

posted June 30, 2010 at 10:59 pm


Jeff LeSalle: “and people like John Derbyshire who have a deep hatred of people that aren’t white or certain races of northern Asia.”
http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NTEzZGViYzAyZjdjZmFhMjdmZGJlZTFiMWRkNTE1YzM=
Every person subscribes, with different degrees of intensity, to many groups. I’m an American, a native of England (and of Northampton), a Long Islander, a Derbyshire, a Knowles (i.e my mother’s family), a lapsed Episcopalian, a writer, a mathematician, a Yankee supporter, an opera fan, a white person, a Gentile, and so on.
Depending on one’s immediate circumstances, one or other (or none) of one’s identities might be to the fore—might be “salient.” In a room full of Nigerian mathematicians, my mathematician identity would be salient. Hurrying along a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant at 2 a.m., on the other hand, my white-guy identity would be salient. This is basic psychology.
Wait a minute, Derb is a Yankee supporter??? You’re right, he’s evil.



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Pat

posted June 30, 2010 at 11:14 pm


If I began shunning everyone who is even remotely complicit in evil, would I have anyone left to associate with? Not that any of my friends support torture, to my knowledge, but lots of them eat veal, and buy clothing manufactured in sweatshops or chocolate that is most likely picked by children in slavery or meat raised in inhumane factory farms; some of them give to political parties or religious groups that I feel have been supporting evil policies; some of them drive gas-guzzlers… the fact is, if I once begin shunning the Amish way is pretty much the only way to go. Middle-class american culture is too enmeshed in too many evils.
Not that I disagree with shunning in total, but none of us can afford to be too extreme with it. We have to pick our battles or we will end up having to shun ourselves, which is too expensive — what with needing separate beds, and all.



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Gene Callahan

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:47 am


Hmm, I’ve been searching those archives and not found much racism yet. The idea he “grudgingly” accepts Jews seems just made up — he describes himself as a philosemite:
“For another thing, there is the antisemitism of the AR followers, which rubs me the wrong way. I fall in line with the long tradition of British philosemitism (Cromwell, Victoria, Lloyd George, Maggie Thatcher), and just have no patience with the other thing.”



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Gene Callahan

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:06 am


Mr. LeSalle, I’ve now read through five pages of the archive where I would get this indisputable evidence about Derbyshire, and have found basically nothing. He does seem to think there is a racial component in IQ, but that alone hardly justifies your characterization of him. Can you point to something that does?



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Judith

posted July 1, 2010 at 11:34 am


John Derbyshire: a tiresome and vain man.



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Broken Yogi

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm


A lot of the problems with the mode of “angry righteousness” speech is similar to “the boy who cried wolf”. There really are situations where angry righteousness is called for. Rod brings up the Iraq war, and in that case angry righteousness really was called for, and his dismissal of war critics because of their angry righteousness, and his embrace of the “grown ups” even in their delusional certainty, was clearly a huge, huge mistake, and he’s aware of that. The problem seems to lie in that in our day and age, virtually every petty dispute is addressed with righteous anger, and so when something that really does call for righteous anger comes up – you know, something where hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars are at stake – we tend to tune it out and dismiss it. There isn’t enough respect for proportionality in the angry righteousness market to know when it’s called for, and when it’s not. And part of that problem is that people who call themselves “grown ups” don’t really know themselves how to be righteously angry anymore, or even to tell the difference between really, really bad decisions like the Iraq war, and good decisions like embracing a much more patient mode of “containment”. The other side of this problem is that “grown up” is often defined merely by civility and politeness, rather than by making intelligent and wise decisions. Grown ups pat each other on the back for their civility while making terrible decisions that ruin millions of lives. That’s a colossal error in defining maturity by purely aesthetic standards.



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Indy

posted July 1, 2010 at 7:01 pm


Broken Yogi, maybe some of that is related to personality. If someone I know — a loved one or friend — comes at me shouting, raging, screaming — I tend to step back, withdraw, even harden my heart and say “no” with no chance of reconsideration, if they really have angered me with that approach. If instead they sit down and say — “look, I’m troubled, can we talk?” and lay out their case without raging at me, I’m much more inclined to think over what they said. They’re giving me wiggle room, in essence, by approaching me that way. I may not agree immediately, but I sure have a greater chance of coming to an understanding of where they’re coming from. Same in politics, as least for people like me. As I’ve said before, Americans value their individualsim, we are not a submissive people who are inclined to bow our heads and submit in the face of extreme anger to what someone else wants from us.



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