I contend, however, that I never draw first blood, even if my posts incite disharmony; it’s my ideological foes who are the first to turn disagreements into personal insults.
I’ve been called stupid, a liar, and uninformed.
Sometimes I walk away, but sometimes I simply cannot bear the condescending remarks, particularly when they are extended to my friends.
One “foe” resorted to: “Gary’s liberal friends are stupid and should be ignored.”
From there the gloves are off.
A conservative friend posted a quote from Winston Churchill, on my Facebook page: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
Clearly, the point he was making is that “socialism is bad” and it was directed toward me because he thinks that socialism is what I (and all liberals) are directing our country toward.
I’m in a bit of a quandary when I get things like this because I’m caught between my desire to correct their thinking and the realization that if someone is living in a world with talking trees and flying monkeys, what is the point?
I decided to clarify Churchill, someone I admire, and to put this quote into perspective. Even though Churchill was a brilliant man, his views, taken out of context, do not necessarily stand the test of time. The same can be said of any historically revered figure.
I pointed out that Churchill was a man of his times and, in fact, opposed women’s suffrage in England. He saw the presence of women in politics as unnecessary and believed that men represented them well enough.
I also mentioned that Churchill, in spite of his sincere dislike for socialism, also realized that aspects of that philosophy were necessary and many crept into his own political initiatives. He advocated for unions and collective bargaining and even created state health care, similar to Medicare, that was paid for by taxes.
I wasn’t trying to de-mythologize the man, but, rather to clarify him, but that is where the trouble began. Not everyone is looking for clarity and suddenly someone writes, “Only Gary would say that Churchill was a bad man…”
Selective hearing is very common in our political discourse (as well as relationships), and I particularly see it coming from the right (Uh-oh!).
My challengers often put words into my mouth that were never there; often those words are the complete opposite of what I’ve said.
In another post I wrote: “It’s frustrating when intelligent people don’t use intelligence in their arguments.”
Immediately, the responses lined up: “Gary is calling us stupid!” “Gary said he’s never wrong!”
“No…,” I replied, “…I just called you intelligent.”
The issue at hand is the choice, or the ability, to go beneath what we see on the surface; to look several layers deeper to find the truth. That is the essence of critical thinking. It is not the sole domain of liberals to use, however, in our modern political discourse it has been the platform of liberal ideas, while on the right it has become the bane of their policy.
Let me offer a conversation I had with someone about Social Security to illustrate that point. This person took the position that they could “invest that money a lot better than government.”
That concept fits perfectly with the political position to empower the private sector and it deflects the encroachment of government.
I then asked, “What if you DON’T invest well? What if you don’t invest enough because you wanted a boat or a bigger house, or whatever, but by 65, you don’t have a good retirement?”
He responded, “Then it’s my fault. I have no one to blame but myself. That’s called taking personal responsibility.”
“Okay…but….what do we do with you and the millions of others who didn’t invest well? Do we step over your dead body on our way to work? Do we annex land in Arizona and call it “It Sucks To Be You Acres” and farm you off there?”
“I’ll just have to keep working then,” came his reply. That, too, fit nicely into his privatize /personal responsibility/keep government out of my life policy paradigm.
“What if…you can’t? Aging has this nasty habit of diminishing our skills. There aren’t a lot of 85 year old airline pilots, and frankly I’m thankful for that, but what if retirement is forced on you because there is a better employee, younger, cheaper and able to work longer than you, who’s ready in the wings?”
They were silent. I never assume that I’ve “won” these arguments because 999 times out 1000 no one’s mind has changed, but I know that my point was received and not dismissed. Political ideology is as inherited as our religion and the roots can be planted deep and so change doesn’t happen often.
This isn’t fantasy and it isn’t an illustration of what would be an anomaly in a post Social Security America, it is exactly what would happen. But finding that truth required going deeper than his superficial concept of freedom and personal responsibility.