Hello again, friends.
Despite all of the media turmoil about politics in the United States, I will not turn this blog into a political rant . . .however much I’d like to rant about this or that response to the latest ‘outrage’ revealed in the press (electronic or otherwise). I would like to remark upon a few musings I have had about politics in general, however.
A few people I know have decided to leave the United States–even to revoke their citizenship–because of fears that they cannot exercise their voice (or fear legal repercussions due to their views or perceived political status) given the current climate here. Many others have expressed severe misgivings over the direction that they feel this nation is heading, whether politically or socially. Yet others voice despair over the polarization evident in our discourse in the press and in social media.
One of the great gifts I feel I have is knowing people who among them hold political ideologies from the far Left (beyond classical Marxism) to the far Right (extreme statist ‘patriotism’ and even exclusionary beliefs; though I do not treat with racists nor bigots). I exit my ‘echo chamber’ of the people who feel as I do–call us centrists of one stripe or another, willing to compromise on details–to explore the political opinions of those who do not see the world as I see it.
I have found that two of the things I feel lacking among those I discuss matters with on the extreme Left or Right (Note; I find these terms such a trite and dated method of classifying politics here in the US or even the Western world; see the ‘Pournelle Square’) is ‘legitimacy’ and ‘restraint’. ‘Legitimacy’ is accepting that your political opponents, though their views differ from yours, still retain a basic honesty and right to be heard and discussed. ‘Restraint’ is the forbearance one gives to the person with whom you disagree that their view should still be considered and not dismissed out of hand just because they do not agree with you.
Democracy–even in the fashion it is practiced in this Republic–depends upon political discourse between its citizens. Discourse depends upon the people who engage in it seeing one another as equals, at least as considered in the political and social world. Increasingly I find that the people at the extremes of political ideology in the US lend their opponents neither legitimacy nor exercise restraint in declaring their views invalid; to the extent that they name those who do not agree with them actual enemies of the State . . .
The US has already been through one major period where the extremists on either side have declared the others ‘illegitimate’ and then shown them no restraint. It culminated in the Civil War. It tore the nation apart, and in many ways the past 150 years have not sewn up those wounds nor even allowed them to heal, though no one alive then still lives today. I personally would not wish to see those wounds torn open again, nor tear open new ones by inflicting new injuries.
I counsel restraint and forbearance, lest we let petty demagogues rip open a new civil discord in our body politic that will inevitably lead to another Civil War. We can’t afford it, either in terms of blood, treasure, lives lost or a civilization ruined because we can’t stoop to speaking to one another decently and work out our issues together, through compromise and equanimity. We have nothing to lose by working together save for our stupid pride; and everything to lose otherwise if we do not.
Keep striving, friends.