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The Liberal-Conservative Divide: Two Sides of One Nature

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We are on the one hand kind, generous, and sympathetic; on the other, competitive, self-interested, and prone to cruelty.

We are both and all of these things, with divided natures: human, but also animal; social, but also individualistic; empathetic and generous, but also self-interested and jealous.

Neither side is right or wrong, or good or evil; both are essential aspects of human nature. There is nothing we can do about them even if we wanted to.

Capitalism, libertarianism, nationalism, and similar impulses can be thought of as mass analogues to the individualistic side of human nature. We naturally want to succeed, for ourselves and our families (our genes). We band together into clans, states, nations, and apply our individual sense of self-vs.-other to these group identities as well. We want to be in charge of our own destinies, as individuals and as polities. In pursuit of these goals, it's natural to want freedom and liberty. We don't want government, or any kind of larger force, to be telling us — whichever "us" we are talking about — what to do. We want to be free to succeed or fail on our own merits.  And so we have invented capitalism, and developed ideologies and policies that support it.

At the same time we want to live in a harmonious world. The natural sympathy characteristic of our social side makes us want others to be happy too — sometimes making us go so far as to feel a need to help the unfortunate who cannot even return the favor. We tend to shrink from cruelty and violence. At the least — assuming we are not sociopaths or Ayn Rand — we find unadulterated selfishness distasteful.  And so we have created moral doctrines based on love and harmony; social programs reflecting these doctrines; and organizations dedicated to peace.

We are very good at maximizing the effects of both sides of our natures. What we are not so good at, collectively speaking, is balancing them. At times we come closer to success, and form political alliances that enable nations to progress and thrive. At other times — like now — we polarize into factions bereft of mutual respect or trust.

Talking to each other — not yelling, not going on television to bark out the latest factional soundbite, not signing online petitions, but actually talking to each other — is the only way to heal rifts like the one that is tearing apart the U.S. The health care issue is the catalyst, but the divide was there, has been there for years. But when we talk to each other, we can usually find some common ground. We're good at that too. If we only make the effort.

So next time you want to leave a derisive comment on a blog post, or turn on a TV show whose host only reinforces the opinions you already have, take a moment to think.  Reach out to someone you disagree with. Engage. Talk.

We have it within us to do this. We have it within us to recognize a part of our own nature in what seems like a perplexing, opposing ideology — and to ask our "opponent" to do the same.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • http://musicandes.com/ Lynette Yetter, author of the novel, Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace

    Bravo Jon!!!!!!!!
    I applaud your wise article. Yes, as Daisaku Ikeda says in his many writings, dialog is the sure road to peace. I love how you start out your article talking about our traits as humans. Beings of the same species. A unifying concept.

    In SGI Buddhism we often refer to a parable in the Lotus Sutra, of Boddhisatva Never Disparaging. His practice is to bow in reverence to each person, saying that he would never disparage them for they are sure to be a Buddha some day.

    Many folks got outraged at him and attacked with stones and whatever else was at hand.

    He moved a safe distance away, in order to protect the people from making bad causes of injuring him, and continued to bow in reverence and repeat his mantra of reverence of the Buddha in each person.

    Jon, you are brilliant – hitting the nail on the head. Open up and dialog with each other. And listen. The soft power path of peace. It takes courage to listen to someone we disagree with and seek their Buddha within. Huge courage.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Nice thoughts, Jon. But my experience on BC has been that a calm, reasonable approach is often either ignored — or slapped down with snide cynicism and extremist, take-no-prisoners rhetoric. Which of course prompts a response in kind…etc.

  • Baronius

    Jon, conservatives honestly believe that conservatism is better for the disadvantaged. Liberals likewise believe that liberalism is more efficient and successful.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “. . . conservatives honestly believe that conservatism is better for the disadvantaged.”

    An odd way of putting things, as though the lot of “disadvantaged” were a kind of indirect by-product of policy. It doesn’t speak much for personal involvement or concern.

    We might as well be talking about the weather or the price of tea in China.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Leaving a derisive blog comment IS talking, Jon.

    And while I appreciate the sentiment of this article, it’s not clear that you really understand how meaningless the current use of the terms liberal and conservative really are.

    Many of those labeled “conservative” are far more liberal than those called “liberal” though they might never admit it. Conversely there are an awful lot of very conservative folks who call themselves “liberral” with little understanding of what the term really means.

    People who defend the status quo and support the interests of the ruling elite and advocate restricting freedoms are inherently NOT liberal. Yet that describes our current “liberal” establishment far better than it describes many so-called “conservatives.”

    Similarly, it’s not particularly conservative to want to change the direction the nation has been moving for generations and point it in a very different direction, but that is what many “conservatives” currently advocate.

    Your book choice illustrates this dichotomy. Most modern “liberals” would find the ideas of Mill quite threatening, while many modern “conservatives” embrace him. The same is true of most of the liberal icons of that era, including our founding fathers.

    Dave

  • alano

    I disagree with an underlying assumption you have built into your article.

    First, I suspect you’re a liberal – or at least lean to the left. I say this because your underlying assumption makes the left look good. Specifically, you seem to argue that human nature is both selfish and caring – and that our two-party, bi-polar political system reflects that contradictory nature, with the right representing greed and selfishness and the left representing goodwill and love and harmony.

    Is this true? Why is it that keeping the money I’ve earned through voluntary exchange in the marketplace is “selfish” – but someone else coming along and swiping it isn’t? How is “greedy” for me to keep the money but acceptable for someone else to take it? Take a look at California, for example, where public sector workers now earn a great deal more on average than private sector workers; where even though the state government is on the verge of bankruptcy, the public workers refuse to take pay cuts or cuts in benefits or cuts in their extremely generous retirement pensions – all while the private sector continues to bleed jobs and money. Aren’t the recipients of welfare loot being selfish – esp. when their lifestyles are bankrupting the government?

    Let’s face it, most people vote Democrat not because they have a big heart and want to help others (people who want to voluntarily help others can give to charity). People vote Democrat because the Democrats are always promising free cash and prizes in exchange for votes. Free health care, free college education, free transportation, free federalized daycare… How is that not an appeal to selfishness?

    We’ve now reached the point in the so-called “welfare state” where it’s nearly all out war – with various pressure groups fight each other to gain control of the gov’t, and once they gain control doing as much looting (and redistributing) as possible until the public votes them out for some other gang who will proceed to loot as much wealth as possible. Peace, love, and compassion? How you figure?

    In my opinion, it’s LESS selfish to say that you have what you need and that you don’t want to use the physical coercion of the gov’t to steal from your neighbors or force doctors to take care of you for free.

    So I don’t think your assumption that conservatives = selfish and liberals = unselfish is valid.

  • Arch Conservative

    Do I get a free lollipop with this article?

    Grow up Jon.

    In the real world, as opposed to the blogosphere, actions have consequences. I’m not going to engage in debate, or make any attempt to be civil to those, whatever label they apply to themselves, that support and enable our current tyrannical corporate government in their attempt to dominate every aspect of our lives.

    Life isn’t a high school debate team. Life isn’t theory. It’s practice.

    I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes Jon.

    “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”

    GK Chesterton

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    I’m glad at least you, Dave, picked up on my book choice. Taking the time to study Mill might broaden more peoples’ perspectives on both “sides.”

    I use “liberal” and “conservative” in the generally understood U.S. way. I’m not talking about what people call themselves, but underlying principles.

    Online discussion (like this) is not, in fact, a very good example of the kind of “talking” I am talking about. Personal talking is what I mean. Sometimes it helps. (Not always.) But it requires courage. Maybe we don’t have enough courage, collectively.

  • Baronius

    Alano and Arch both hit on the conservative side of the argument. In the interest of dialogue, let me note how many liberals believe that liberalism is effective. We see BC people who argue that higher tax rates result in stronger economic growth, that health care reform will cut the federal deficit, that an extended hand of friendship is more likely to result in international stability. They argue that green jobs will lead to economic prosperity.

    I think Jon’s position would make sense to a moderate. They see themselves as moderating the excesses of both capitalism and dependency. On a practical level, we all probably do want a society that pushes forward as much as it can while supporting those who fall behind as much as is prudent.

    The thing about people on the left and right is that they see their ideologies as being both practical and merciful. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Higher taxation is favored by the American left but it is a decidedly illiberal policy. Liberalism traditionally equates taxation with theft by the force of excessive government.

    Dave

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    That is a caricature [as too often is the case with you].

    No one ‘favors’ high taxes. But the public holds these contradictory stances: Don’t touch my Social Security. Don’t touch Medicare. Don’t touch the defense budget. And we hate taxes, except on the rich. [Read the polls.]

    That doesn’t leave room for a lot of options. If, in addition to those untouchable middle class totems, we are to provide a social safety net, including not letting people go bankrupt because they get sick, we can’t do so with lower taxes. So liberals propose a return to the moderate [not extreme] taxation of the 1994-2000 era.

    Conservatives, if they had their druthers, would prefer to do away with all entitlement spending and lower taxes to zero. Since that is politically impossible, they are perfectly willing to squeeze the poor and allow health insurance companies to continue ruining people’s lives. There is less political cost, and they can say they’re standing up for principle.

    You can be sure that spending cuts proposed by conservatives are always for social programs, and never for defense.

  • http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/ STM

    Of course, there is no reason why capitalism and “socialism” can’t co-exist.

    If we’re talking things like free healthcare, workers’ rights, etc.

    Looking after your own (countrymen, employees, whatever) AND making a decent quid that gets to be shared out a bit more evenly is not a mutually exclusive concept.

  • Arch Conservative

    “No one ‘favors’ high taxes.”

    No they just never fail to vote for politicians that advocate higher taxes.

    Based on recent history it’s obvious that neither party in DC has the slightest desire to exhibit fiscal common sense.

    Aside from taxes we as a nation have grown so much more greedy and so much less self sufficient than previous generations. An entitlement mentality currently pervades our society like a cancer and yes it is the left that feeds this unholy beast.

    The entire appeal of the Dem party is to promise people stuff for free creating a false sense of security. The promise of absolution of all personal responsibility is irresistable to the stupid, lazy and apathetic.

    Handy bemoans that budget cuts of his precious social welfare programs….

    But the last time I checked it went:

    “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. ”

    Not

    “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but sign him up for welfare, keep him a helpless dependent and you can pay for his fish for the rest of his life.”

  • zingzing

    archie: “The entire appeal of the Dem party is to promise people stuff for free.”

    well, there’s other stuff like not bombing the shit out of anything that moves and then torturing what’s left behind, but you know… the free stuff is pretty cool. where’s my free stuff? what’s the free stuff we were supposed to get again?

    if you don’t bother to find out why we do the things we do, how do you expect to argue us out of doing those things? no, it’s not free stuff and welfare that dems want. get that silly-ass notion out of you head.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Even if Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin were president, and appointed Michelle Bachmann Secy. of Health and Human Services and Ron Paul Secy of Treasury [I’m gagging as I type this] —

    They still wouldn’t dare touch Social Security, Medicare or the Pentagon budget. Their hands would be just about as tied regarding taxing and spending decisions as any Democrat’s.

    And since they would inevitably cut taxes and increase defense spending, the deficit would continue to loom over us.

  • Baronius

    OK, is there anywhere we can go with this thread? The left and right can bash each other some more, but is there any middle ground? I’m not saying we all become moderates, and I’m not talking about teaming up for birther-bashing (as much fun as that is). I’m just wondering if there’s any progress that can be made.

  • Arch Conservative

    Well Baronius, maybe we can all get together and go kick Fred Phelp’s ass…or maybe Bernie Madoff’s. I don’t care how old either of these guys are, they’re both just begging to be pushed down a long flight of stairs.

  • Baronius

    Arch, I was trying to keep things non-partisan, and you go talking about beating up Democrats.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Here’s some food for thought, lyrics from the wonderful song “Wasteland of the Free” by Iris Dement

    We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines
    and their speech is growing increasingly unkind
    They say they are Christ’s disciples
    but they don’t look like Jesus to me
    and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

    We got politicians running races on corporate cash
    Now don’t tell me they don’t turn around and kiss them peoples’ ass
    You may call me old-fashioned
    but that don’t fit my picture of a true democracy
    and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

    We got CEO’s making two hundred times the workers’ pay
    but they’ll fight like hell against raising the minimum wage
    and If you don’t like it, mister, they’ll ship your job
    to some third-world country ‘cross the sea
    and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free
    where the poor have now become the enemy

    Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
    Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
    Living in the wasteland of the free

    We got high-school kids running ’round in Calvin Klein and Guess
    who cannot pass a sixth-grade written test
    but if you ask them, they can tell you
    the name of every crotch on MTV
    and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

    We kill for oil, then we throw a party when we win
    Some guy refuses to fight, and we call THAT the sin
    but he’s standing up for what he believes in
    and that seems pretty damned American to me
    and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

    Even more powerful when she sings it.

  • Arch Conservative

    Are Madoff and Phelps both Democrats?

    I was not aware of that when I wrote my last post.

  • Baronius

    I was just having fun with you, Arch. But both of them are Dems.

    I’m like a juvenile delinquent. I got bored waiting around, so I started a fire.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Your mischievous ‘outing’ of Philip Berg and Fred Phelps as Dems may be amusing [at least to you], but it says nothing about the Democratic Party. I’m sure if we dug a little we could find serial killers and child molesters, present and past, affiliated with both parties. [And most major religions.]

  • Baronius

    Handy, it was completely inappropriate for me to bring that up on a “let’s all just get along” thread. I just got tired of waiting around for suggestions on how we can get along better. I’d love to figure out how. The irony was just too much for me.

    Now that we’re talking, how do we get along better?

  • zingzing

    calling madoff a democrat is fairly naive. yeah, he gave them money, but they were the ones in power in nyc. he was about making money, and the dems made it easier for him. not because of their policies, but because of the relationships he had formed. it’s all about the money. he gave to the republicans when he saw fit.

  • Baronius

    Zing, would you have provided the same caveat if we were talking about Enron and the Texas GOP?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Getting along and agreeing are two different things. It ought to be possible to try to find [and fact check!] the underlying reasons for our opinions on various issues.

    There’s a rather strong tendency on here to refuse to admit mistakes, to take the position that I’m 100% right and you’re 100% wrong.

    And to substitute sarcasm/mudslinging for genuine discussion/argument.

  • zingzing

    baronius–didn’t that have to do with some gerrymandering (boo)? the collusion between energy corporations and the gop is well-known, and mutually-beneficial. but, in the end, it’s all about money (at least from enron’s perspective). so, in this instance, i suppose i would grant them that. enron’s wallet is republican. madoff’s wallet is dem. both are brought on by the realities of their location (madoff) or industry (enron).

    but for phelps, it’s not really about the money. and he’s not really a dem either. phelps briefly backed gore until gore backed off of what he had stupidly said, and from then on, phelps railed against dems as much as he does anyone. and for good reason, at least from his sick pov.

    connecting either of these two to the dems is foolish. they aren’t democrats. they’re just willing to manipulate politics for personal gain, and nothing more. of course, one could say that of just about anyone, but it’s especially true in these cases.

  • Arch Conservative

    Why do you bother asking questions that you already know the answers too Baronius?

  • zingzing

    same reason you do, i guess.

  • Baronius

    Handy, one of the most valuable things I’ve done in the last few years was studying Myers-Briggs personality types. It really helped me understand that people have different communication styles. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the problems you have with internet chat are more about style than substance.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Only if by “style” you mean “lying and presenting it as the truth” or “using hyperbolic rhetoric and insults in place of actual reasoning and evidence.”

    Substance is what is usually lacking.

  • Irene Wagner

    So, lets find something controversial to discuss, a topic about which both conservatives and liberals sheepishly admit that the opposition has something of substance to say.

    Any idearssssss?

    *drums fingers on desk*

    Baronius, what do you think of this? I haven’t seen this movie, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the years about each perspective.

    With God on Our Side

    And I will hold my peace.

  • cannonshop

    At its root, Jon, I think the difference really is one of definition and perspective, and while both sides may be saying similar things, they aren’t saying anything similar at all.

    Community, sense of, validity of; different between right and left. I contribute to the following, of my own free will, often anonymously:

    The battered women’s shelter here in Everett Washington.

    The American Red Cross

    The Salvation Army

    Boy (and Girl) scouts of America.

    with the exception of the Red Cross, which operates in conjunction with our military (and has for a very, very, long time), I don’t think people’s taxes should go to these organizations. I believe, in the case of the shelter, that the State’s proper role is getting the abusive dirtbag off the street, so that the battered woman can piece her life back together in relative peace, on her own terms, with her own intellectual resources and whatever help she can get from people who’re actually interested in helping her, rather than just drawing a paycheque.

    Likewise for a lot of situations we see.

    Beyond that, I have a personal beef with the idea of a congressman voting ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ on a law without reading, and more importantly, comprehending, what it says, and an even LARGER objection to a President who signs a law without reading or comprehending it, then demonstrates that lack of comprehension in his speech at the signing.

    I had this issue with the PATRIOT ACT and I’ve got it with the Healthcare law. As a “Conservative” i’m fairly consistent, and don’t play favourites based on Political Party affiliations.

    On the War: it was, in my opinion, necessary to remove the Hussein regime in Iraq-we’d already HAD one war with this guy, and ten years of sanctions weren’t changing his brutal behaviour-but it WAS eroding our credibility as a power-and being a power, is better than being in someone else’s power. AFTER his removal, we have an interest in preventing another Khomenei style regime in the region, or worse, an arabic Pol Pot from arising. These aren’t the on-paper justifications used, but they’re the practical outcomes that have to be considered in the situation-due to domestic restrictions, we have to deal with the Middle East, due to trade considerations, and Japan’s foreign oil dependence (as well as Korea, and don’t forget European dependence-the war in 1989 to 1991 was more about securing petroleum for Europe, than the U.S.), there’s an actual national interest in that action-one that diplomacy had failed to secure. War is the ultimate outcome when Diplomats fail, and the International Community, such as it is, is no more a community, than the Criminal Community is a community-they operate by largely similar rules-you’re either powerful, or a victim. (ask Biafra about this, or the Kosovars, or the Kurds… or Israel.)

    As a ‘Conservative’ I don’t subscribe to the idea of “Collective” rights. Citizens have Rights, Collectives have Agendas, they’re not the same thing, and shouldn’t be confused. It is my belief that Leftists DO confuse the two-on a regular, and distressing, basis. Maybe I’m a BAD conservative for this-I don’t think Corporations should have the same rights that Citizens do, companies shouldn’t have free speech-only citizens, people, who vote, people, you know, Individuals are entitled to due process-a corporate entity should not be, it’s not a citizen, it is, in large part, not even capable of either loyalty, or treason.

    it’s a THING, like your pants, or your keys, or that twinkie wrapper.

    Demographics are not People. People are people, only People can be victims of a crime, only people can be criminals, only people can be held accountable and truly be held accountable for their actions.

    Too big to fail=Too Big to Succeed. I have zero problems with antitrust enforcement, so long as it’s enforced. As a Capitalist, I believe in competition as the ‘invisible hand’ using Smith’s term-when competition breaks down and a Monopoly exists, that hand turns to vapour, and workmen, customers, and shareholders alike are brutally harmed as a result-the case in point, is the ending of Ma Bell’s monopoly on telephone communications-the present condition of the industry, with aggressive competition in technical, service, and infrastructure, has been, in my opinion,largely the result of eliminating the monopoly. Too Big to Fail was, indeed, too big to succeed. Likewise in the Oil Industry prior to the rise of OPEC. We can’t do much about OPEC, save developing alternatives at home, including in the short term, alternative sources of supply. Our own rules and laws give a foreign cartel power over our national economy (as they demonstrated in 2005/2006 by jumping the per-barrel price enough to start the chain of collapse that brought us the AIG bailout, killed Bear Stearns, and broke the real-estate bubble, generating any number of bank-failures when reality no longer could support the fantasies of commodities and derivatives traders…)

    One in five employed Americans works at some level of government, and taken as an aggregate of federal, state, local and so-called ‘hidden’ taxes, we pay at or above fifty percent of our incomes to support that twenty percent. There are more than eighteen thousand pages, in nine point type, to the U.S. Tax code. Tax Lawyers, and IRS Judges don’t know all of it, and few among those that know most, comprehend everything they know.

    This is, as demonstrated by practice (namely the huge deficits and National Debt) a great example of a system too big, and too complex, to succeed in its primary stated mission-that of raising revenue to run the government.

    If you can think of an activity, there’s a government department or appointee either regulating it, or studying ways to regulate it, whether federal, state, or (again) local. In the city of Denver, getting a blowjob is illegal, in Hot Springs South Dakota, if you’re entering the city limits, you’re supposed to have a flagman running in front of your automobile, and honk to warn everyone of your arrival. Blue Laws like this need to be eliminated, but are not.

    The Police can take your property, and sell it, without you first being convicted of ANY crime. This is called “Civil Seizure”. Likewise, the city council can (thanks to a Supreme Court ruling) take your home and sell it below-market-value to any prominent contributor whom they wish, on the flimsy grounds of ‘economic development’, regardless of whether that development actually occurs, or generates actual benefit to the community or not-the law used, “Eminent Domain” was intended to provide for infrastructural necessities like roads and highways, post offices, schools,prisons, and hospitals, not to serve as a back-door route for someone wanting to put in a strip mall or toxic waste dump.

    Social Security: in the letter of the law authorizing it, is supposed to be Voluntary. Another law specifically prohibits the creation of a National Identity document for use inside the United States. Try getting a job, paying taxes, or buying anything major without having a social security number. Further, it was meant to be a TRUST FUND, the funds have been replaced, year after year, by IOU’s starting with the Johnson administration, and continuing on to today-it’s hovered near bankruptcy (publicly) for a good portion of MY life, at least…and it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.

  • Irene Wagner

    A policy of military non-interventionism is a very conservative idea.

    If more “bad” conservatives (#33) continue demanding that the clamps be put down on corporations [insert discussion on M.I.C. here, those who have time], we might live in a world where the principle of military non-interventionism regains its status as a conservative idea.

    In the end, it’s legitimate need caused by illegitimate greed, that fuels bloody conflicts. Then, here’s a liberal-conservative question: if providing this international monetary aid preserves international security, is its funding as legitimate a use of tax dollars as are military expenditures?

  • Baronius

    Handy, I look at that “Mad as Hell” thread, and it seems like you and Zing really worked over the newcomer who calls himself Recovering Lefty. You probably drove him off the site.

    Yes, he started off aggressively; we all did, I’d bet. A newbie typically wants to stake out his position and denounce all the people on the other side. When they settle in, they find that each of us has a slightly different viewpoint, and there’s a lot of room for debate. He never got the chance. You kicked him in the face.

    Look over what he said. You brought up Bachmann, criticized her, and blamed him for sounding like her. Very uncool.

  • Baronius

    Carl Reiner once explained the difference between comedy and tragedy. “Tragedy is if I cut my finger. Comedy is if YOU fall down an open manhole and die.” I think the same is true about political discourse. Reasonable political discourse is me yelling at you for being wrong; unreasonable political discourse is you yelling at me for being wrong.

  • zingzing

    baronius, i didn’t kick anyone in the face. and i really couldn’t care less if i did. trying to shame someone isn’t very cool either, especially when they did nothing wrong. besides, that guy was just another one to say “obama lies about everything,” which is patently false, so he certainly wouldn’t have been a credit to your side. so good riddance, you should be saying.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Yes, once Recovering Lefty [was that possibly a pseudonym for a regular here?] started listing the same tired, corrosive talking points about Pres. Obama being “anti-American,” I was not inclined to be sweet. And I poked fun at him/her because he/she didn’t know who Michele Bachmann is.

    Someone who apparently doesn’t follow the news, yet absorbed verbatim several items of lying right-wing rhetoric and crazy-talk. Not an ideal addition to the comments section here. But he/she seemed perfectly capable of standing up for him/herself.

    Anyhow, “drove him off”? Kicked him in the face? You are being hilarious and silly.

    When I think of the stuff that has been hurled at: me, zing, Glen, Cindy, Roger, and at others….

  • Baronius

    Handy, in point of fact, most people on the right never think about Michele Bachmann.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Can’t say I blame them. Can give you hives, thinking about that sort of thing.

  • Baronius

    Handy, John Bolton has labelled Obama our first “post-American president”. Do you see that as an insightful observation, a non-insightful observation, or a slander?

  • cannonshop

    #34 Irene, you’d have to go back to 1807 or so to find a time that the U.S. was not interventionist where our trade interests are involved. (Google “Barbary Wars” or investigate the origin of the Marine Corps Hymn.)
    For lack of a better option closer to home, fact is, we HAVE TO be involved, and because of the local psychology, largely interventionist, in the Middle East.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com roger nowosielski

    “A newbie typically wants to stake out his position and denounce all the people on the other side. When they settle in, they find that each of us has a slightly different viewpoint, and there’s a lot of room for debate. He never got the chance. You kicked him in the face.”

    That shows lack of socialization. We certainly don’t proceed this way face-to-face. Granted, the Internet offers greater degree of freedom – personally, I don’t beleive we should take advantage of the fact – but still . . . Especially if a person is new and so are all the pixels he or she encounters, one should start threading softly, feeling one’s way about, etcetera, etcetera.

    So I disagree. To allow him to continue along those lines would be encouraging juvenile delinquency. And then we’d have another Archie (just kidding!) on our hands. One is enough.

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    cannonshop, your lengthy comment indicates that you’re the type of person a “lefty” could sit down with over a beer and come to some sensible conclusions with, unlike many of the partisans who comment here and elsewhere. And I don’t exclude myself (sometimes) from that intolerant category. But my article is part of an ongoing attempt to come to terms with what seem to be such extreme differences.

  • Irene Wagner

    Goes to show ya, Cannonshop. There’s no such thing as the good old days. There were liberals back in 1807. Oh, my bad, liberals. That wasn’t the liberals’ fault. 1807 PREDATED the Conservatives’ non-interventionist Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

    Cannonshop, I’m not against armed self-defense –national or personal. Just ask Dr. D and STM, if you don’t believe me! The 1807 event you are describing is inappropriately delayed–if it had been there from the beginning, there wouldn’t have been a problem–armed protection of the participants of international trade and goodwill-building that the original conservatives hoped would replace and prevent foreign military entanglements.

    As far as that goes, Cannonship, (and thankyou, by the way, for answering me), after the Industrial Age began, and with it the more aggressive, hostile, dehumanizing strains of capitalism, perhaps the primary justification for offshore US military bases would be for the protection of “the foreigners” from those aberrant strains of US capitalists, as well as the other way around. (The Military Industrial Complex demonstrates, sadly, that those two entities are more likely to get into bed with one another than to keep one another honest and humane, but there is hope that if a thrird party (3 the magical number) is regulating both of THEM, foreign trade could be conducted to the benefit of all parties concerned.

    This is the case in the Middle East and many other parts of the world where the US has found itself involved in long-term conflicts to “protect her interests” where fuel to the “enemies'” fire was in large part due to the screwing over by American capitalism, enabled by US military presence, they’d received. And the soldiers were used cynically, I’m not knocking them or denigrating their service. They were told they were “fighting for freedom” or “standing on the side of God’s chosen people” or “making the way for democracy abroad.”

    Here’s where a lot of the Common ground between Old School Golden Rule Conservatives and Liberals falls. Maybe one dividing line between Conservatives and themselves is: does US national interest (what does that mean: that we have enough oil to survive?) trump the rights of those foreigners in the vicinity of those with whom we do business? I’m assuming you’d say, “Of course it doesn’t.”

  • Irene Wagner

    And ZingZing, you should listen to Baronius. You have not a shameful iredeemable character flaw, but rather a fixable one that most likely stems from the subtle slide into incivility that results from the decision to eschew capitalization.

  • Irene Wagner

    Or capitalism.

  • zingzing

    irene, i’m sensing a bit of a joke in your words, but all i did was disagree with the lefty character. i didn’t “kick him in the face” in any shape or form. in fact, i was very civil. not one curse word or even a mild insult. nothing. baronius apparently thinks disagreement is the same thing as making someone put their teeth on the curb. but only, of course, when it comes from the left.

    and my lack of capitalization is a product of my irredeemable laziness, nothing more.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    plus, zing, it’s way cool

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Oh Baronius. Why am I taking this bait…

    John Bolton has said many things that seem designed to provoke rather than to enlighten. This sounds like another. You “pay no attention” to Michelle Bachmann? Fine. I pay no attention to John Bolton.

    [Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and several boisterous crowds of tea partiers seem to think MB is some sort of glamorous icon with hard-hitting insights. Perhaps they don’t count as significant “people on the right.” I certainly hope they remain insignificant outcasts, mysteriously attracted to the mating calls of shrieking dingbats.]

  • zingzing

    handy, #49… what is?

  • zingzing

    oh, the lack of capitalization? there is the coolness factor, i’ll admit that. too cool for school, that’s me…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “John Bolton has labelled Obama our first “post-American president”.

    Personally, I tend to agree in that it is insightful. No reflection on Obama though, just on the times.

    You can’t have both, Handy – the kind of America you’re comfortable with (are you that comfortable with the America of old?) and the one that’s in the making. It’s identity is changing.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I think you’re the best poster on here, when your temper doesn’t get the better of you. Fearless, hilarious, and usually right on target. And you make the right wingers sooo maad! Which is cool enough in itself.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    #54 was aimed at zing btw

  • zingzing

    “when your temper doesn’t get the better of you.”

    THE FUCK?! kidding. it’s all mock indignation. they piss me off, sure, but not enough to actually get my temper going, most of the time anyway. i can think of a few occasions where that’s not true…

    but thank you for the compliment. i’ll put it in my ego’s closet so i can pull it out next time someone calls me a child. should be any day now.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    well maybe it’s the beer then lol…occasionally your posts get all incoherent. I assumed it was rage.

  • zingzing

    heh. my life is a constant search for oblivion, so it’s very possible… the incoherent ones are, i’m sure, a product of grasping at my goal. if they occur at 4 am on a saturday, i can pretty much guarantee i’m trashed.

  • Baronius

    Handy, I’m not trying to bait you. I’m genuinely curious about where you draw the line. I also think it’s a provocative question.

    Evan Thomas said, “Reagan was all about America….Obama is ‘we are above that now.’ We’re not just parochial, we’re not just chauvinistic, we’re not just provincial.” President Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” I think that Obama approaches nationalism as someone who was greatly influenced by an anthropologist. He isn’t anti-American, but I wouldn’t call him patriotic in a traditional sense.

  • Irene Wagner

    The only reason I have any time for your comments at all, ZingZing, is the charminglyunconventional yet entirely grammtatically proper use of elipses…and that you are not utterly devoid of a sense of humor (except you should have laughed at #6 because after all, Carl Reiner said it and not really Baronius….

    …Now before I get back to the business of “holding my peace,” I wish to say to: Roger Nowosielski, “hello.” Please say hi to Cindy and Mark when you all get back to the business of building the Leaning Tower of “Pie,” and that I meant no offense by #47, just couldn’t resist the pun….

    …and finally Jon Sobel: I always seem to have a lot to say on your threads…like on the “I am not an atheist one”….which I disagreed with, but found thought provoking…but THIS article was a very well thought out, generous, bridge-building effort, and I hope it helps bring about the changes you desire in political discussions.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Mr B: I really, genuinely don’t think Obama is so very far outside the mainstream.

    He’s very smart and very articulate, and his core may be more liberal than his policies.

    But in terms of patriotism, capitalism, even in fact taxes and spending he is playing it straight down the middle. That health plan could have passed for a Republican one just a few years ago.

    In the GOP, the inmates have taken over the asylum. So they pretend that anyone to their left — which is to say, most everyone — is ‘radical.’ I find that whole line of reasoning just beyond ridiculous.

    As I said in an earlier post, if we ever really had a leftist government, it would be clear that Obama is a centrist, at least in terms of his policies.

  • zingzing

    irene, i like carl reiner (one of the great straight men), but i’ve heard the quote before and didn’t comment on it. as for “having any time at all” for my comments, i had no idea you were even reading them, so carry on as usual, i suppose, and so shall i.

  • Irene Wagner

    That’s “Irene” to you, ZingZing, and yes, I was being sarcastic. *ring a ling* Whoa! Did someone mention fetuses? Dinner’s on ZingZing and Irene.

    Ironically, Common Groundsville can be a fairly lonely place at first. Well a little of me goes a long way, I guess. Over and out.

  • http://www.theunderstandingproject.com dan

    Hey, I don’t mean to spam. This actually seems relevant. I recommend checking out my website. I’m looking for people to interview about politics – or at least to leave me comments.
    Perhaps some of you could also be co-researchers on your own blogs. We could link to each other.

  • Ryan

    “Take a look at California, for example, where public sector workers now earn a great deal more on average than private sector workers; where even though the state government is on the verge of bankruptcy, the public workers refuse to take pay cuts or cuts in benefits or cuts in their extremely generous retirement pensions – all while the private sector continues to bleed jobs and money. Aren’t the recipients of welfare loot being selfish – esp. when their lifestyles are bankrupting the government?”

    Alano, you clearly don’t live in California as you have no idea what is actually happening here. State and county workers at all levels have been taking pay cuts left and right for years, as well as taking unpaid furlough days, and recieving downgraded insurance policies with doubled premiums. Teachers certainly aren’t living like Kings and Queens.

    With regards to state workers receiving such higher salaries than private sector employees, this is simply wrong. Recently, in Orange County, the salaries of all major state positions were published in the newspaper with many of them making far below what they could be making in the private sector for similar work. The County Sheriff makes far less than the average Vice President of an Orange County business despite having FAR more employees and direct charges. (not to mention public accountability)

    You should also think a little harder about the actual definition of the term “welfare” if you think that going to work and earning a paycheck is “welfare” simply because you are a state employee. Social welfare programs are financial “safety nets.” A person working for a paycheck, regardless of where at, is not “welfare” by any definition.