Letters: The Left vs Liberalism

Brian Werthiem on Unsplash, created with Typorama

This week we share the introductory letters from Eric Leroy and George M Brenckle

As I watch the news and read articles on Medium and other sources of reference, I receive a very large dose of the so-called Liberal point of view. I disagree with most of it. This has struck me as strange since, for practically all of my life I have considered myself a Liberal also. Therefore, without resorting to either jargon-based or pedantic terminology: Woke. Binary. Libertarian, etc. I have decided to ask myself (and maybe you too) the question: What is a Liberal? Am I still one? Have I changed or have the rules changed?

One of the things essential for any discussion (I say this as an international English teacher with students in many countries) is that we come up with an acceptable “working definition” of what we are trying to discuss. Meaningful dialogue is impossible, I have found, if the people having the talk cannot agree on terms. For example, apparently simple words such as “beauty”, “freedom”, “happiness” and “art”, which people toss around all the time, in fact prove very elusive when we try to nail them down.

Moreover, that being true, we really run into problems when we attempt to explain what is meant by such terms as “racism”, “sexism”, “feminism”, socialism”, and even “democracy.” Sometimes it almost seems that there are as many definitions as there are people.

So once more, without going “text book” on you, I will try to define what I mean when I use the term “liberal”. Two words immediately spring to mind: “compassion” and “open-mindedness.” To that, you could add, significantly, “tolerance.” The Classic Liberal, therefore, is someone who was not born with “his mind made up”. He/she is open to new experiences without bringing a predetermined or judgmental attitude to that fresh experience.

My feeling in the past was that conservatives or “right-wingers” usually lacked such compassion and open-mindedness. They tended to be either elitists who, while patting themselves on the back for their own good fortune (because many of them were rich) looked down on those weaker or less fortunate than themselves, or else they were simply angry, ignorant, vicious people (the racist southern “redneck” of the past comes to mind), who seethed with hate and basically could not see beyond the gas stations where they often seemed to sit and kill time.

Not that it is wrong or bad to “conserve” what has long worked well, but the word itself seems to imply a repudiation of epiphany-visions, new frontiers, and “out of the box” thinking and innovation. Just to use what I suppose is a trite example on the world stage, for years and years, the miserable fuddy-duddies that ran college football (who of course had hidden agendas — there is ALWAYS a hidden agenda) would not allow a play-off or championship game, and so the nation was annually deprived of a true national champion. I used to listen to all the arguments they tried to make and every one of them was STUPID. Now we have a play-off and championship game and, despite the inevitable bickering about this and that, most people who are football fans are much happier.

The curmudgeons who fought it tooth and nail for years were all, guess what, CONSERVATIVES. That was one reason I called myself a Liberal. But there were many other far more important reasons.

You know what I used to say to myself? I would say, “What if aliens from another galaxy suddenly arrived on earth and got out of their space ships?” What would happen? And I figured that the Liberals would be glad to see them and eager to communicate and cooperate. The right-wingers would want to kill them on sight…

My education (or rather the analysis I made based on my education) showed me that guys like Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy had the right idea. Even presidential candidates who failed to win, such as Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey, were essentially good guys whose world vision was akin to my own. The despicable Joseph McCarthy and the equally loathsome Richard Nixon were people to shun, even despise. Of course it didn’t break down strictly along party lines. Eisenhower was a legitimate hero and good man. Lyndon Johnson was ultimately awful. Reagan was never my cup of tea but Americans loved him…etc... Personally I think that Bill Clinton was a great president. Americans never had it so good as while he was in office. George W. fucked it all up. Clinton was liberal, Bush a conservative.

So on that evidence, I definitely qualify as a Liberal, correct?

I passionately supported the Civil Rights Movement (damned near got killed because of it) and I have NEVER had anything against people who have a different sexual orientation. Moreover, it never would have occurred to me to think that women should not have the same rights as men, fair treatment, etc., because I took it for granted. I would have got straight in the face of anyone who dared to say that women were inferior or ought know their place. I believe that I was a Feminist before they ever invented the term.

Again I ask: on THAT evidence, I DEFINITELY qualify as a LIBERAL, RIGHT???

I spent my life butting heads with idiots who wanted to deny other people their freedom and their rights.

So what in the world has happened? Have I lost my mind? Well, no (I just banged my head against the wall to make sure that my mind is still there, and it is). Nope, and I haven’t yet become senile either.

Again we should go back and examine the terminology. Liberal (in the traditional or classical sense) vs Left Wing. The CONTEMPORARY Left Wing is what I am referring to. In my opinion, we are speaking of two different animals. Today’s Left Wing (I am tempted to use the word “radical” but I won’t because it is too emotionally-charged) are BY NO MEANS Liberal.

I think it started with Political Correctness. The use of euphemism to soften certain harsh realities is more than reasonable and acceptable. That is why I would say to you, “I understand that your Uncle Fred passed away recently” instead of “I hear your Uncle died.” Or, yipes! — “kicked the bucket”, “snuffed it”, and so on. It is why we say “Sorry to hear you had to put Molly (your beloved dog) to sleep.” NOT “So I hear you euthanized your dog.”

It is why we refer to someone as being “elderly” or “getting on a bit” instead just “old”. “Overweight” instead of “fat”. “Plain” instead of “ugly”. I GET IT. But it becomes preposterous when we have to call a “disabled” person (no fucking legs) “differently-abled”, or a certifiably retarded person as “mentally challenged.” Or a short person, “vertically challenged.” Or Ruduolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer “nasally-challenged”.

If you want to call the chairman the “chairperson” or (for Christ’s sake) just the “chair” — “Please log the fact that the chair tabled the meeting”— OK, OK. But it becomes really silly when we have to say “server” instead of “waiter” or “waitress”, “flight attendant” instead of “steward/stewardess”, and when we can have only “challenges” but never “problems.” Or when Eskimos become Inuits, Gypsies become Romans, and “Oriental” is a bad word. It is ridiculous when it’s OK to refer to the Dallas Cowboys or the Notre Dame “FIGHTING Irish”, but a terrible insult if we call a team the Washington “Redskins.” (The idea, after all, is to make a football team seem ferocious and heroic, hence “Redskins” is a COMPLIMENT. If it were otherwise, we would have teams like the “Denver Daisies” and the “Pittsburgh Pussies”.)

I have found that the best way to test a concept is to take it to its logical extreme. If at that point it becomes absurd, then we need to rethink a few things. So let’s do that. Let’s change the name of the city of Manchester to Personchester. Or Humanchester. Let’s say that a guy didn’t fall into a “manhole”, rather he fell into a “humanhole”. Or a “gender-free hole.” You like that? Hey, I’m all for it. Write it up.

Political Correctness, which is a staple of Left Wing thinking, robs us all, not only of our sense of humor but of spontaneity. These days, it seems you can’t say ANYTHING without some bastard getting offended.

In law, the prosecutor has to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The key word here is “reasonable”. So let’s examine sexism in the office. In Russia, where I spent many years, if you tell a woman she looks beautiful (or even nice) she is HAPPY. She takes it as a compliment which is exactly how it is meant 99% of the time. In America if you say that she might call the Thought Police and you may lose your job. (And please don’t remind me of how primitive Russia can be. I KNOW that. I lived there.)

REASONABLE. Obviously, you don’t walk in and say, “Hey hotcakes, how about a bit of grind and grunt during your coffee break?” Obviously. But in America if you say, “Your hair looks nice today, did you have it styled recently?”, the answer you might get is the following: “This a work place, not a meat market. You are not here to judge my appearance.”

Sheeesh. Who wants to live and work in an atmosphere like that? In an environment where you always have to be on your guard? There is a difference between offensive disrespect and a harmless, well-meaning compliment. But the angry Left Wing have obliterated that distinction.

The sad fact is that many Feminists are no longer really concerned with liberation. Instead, they have become vicious and vindictive. The worst of them are simply nasty, unpleasant people who have forfeited any sympathy they might otherwise have received from an ordinary individual (without an agenda) like me. I am not a complete idiot. I know the difference between right and wrong. I can not speak for other men, but I know that my heart is, and has always been, in the right place. I am not out to HURT anybody. But if they choose to get offended over nothing, I see it as THEIR problem.

The same goes for race. I can not begin to explain the degree to which my life, my education, even my soul, has been positively influenced by black people. But I am sick and tired of being put down as racist simply because I am white. And I refuse to accept every excuse that black people make when they screw up, trying to shift the blame to me and what I represent to them. I reject utterly the fallacious notion that because I am white I am by institutional definition a racist. That is specious, sophomoric bullshit and I won’t have it. If they want to turn me INTO a racist, then they can keep on with that insidious, self-serving malarkey.

University students. These are NOT liberals. They are Left Wing fascist fanatics who refuse to listen to anyone with a different point of view from the ones they have ingrained in their immature skulls. They do not think; they do not know HOW to think. They are untutored oafs who stand and chant a kind of brain-dead catechism. The overwhelming majority of them cannot string two thoughts together in a coherent way; they have no real education regarding governments and societies as they have evolved through the centuries, and their level of sophistication does not go beyond Facebook. And yet, they would pontificate to the world.

These are the kinds of fools who think that slavery was all about mean white people kidnapping (and torturing) innocent black people. It never occurs to them to study the subject and learn that for centuries and centuries slavery was practiced the world over and USUALLY by people of the same color. They do not apparently know that in America even some black people owned slaves! Is that an apology for slavery or an attempt to get white people off the hook for the horrible things they did in the American south? FUCK NO! But, boys and girls, it is HISTORY. Study it sometime. You might learn something.

And if you are not convinced by what I have stated about the slavery issue, then just think for a moment about the Roman Empire. If you asked most Americans about the Roman Empire, they right away would conjure up images of Christians being mauled and devoured by tigers (not enough tigers, alas) and some fat slob (Nero) pouring wine over everybody’s head while the whole whorehouse goes up in flames. Nothing could possibly be more misleading when you consider the longevity of the Romans and their incredible achievements. Even its period of increasingly precipitous decline lasted longer than the USA has even been on the map. But with the subject of slavery, all you get is Mandingo and Quentin Tarantino, and with the Romans it’s a combination of Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston (yes, the IRA guy) and Humpty Dumpty (as Nero). History. And American college students don’t know it any better than Abdul the Manhattan taxi driver, maybe not as well.

When I was young, college and university campuses were very special places where vigorous young minds were exploring the world and the universe with the ardor of a child opening presents on Christmas morning. The world was an open frontier with strong winds blowing fresh IDEAS all about them from all directions.

Now university campuses are fortresses not frontiers, and if you don’t go along with the party line you are racist, sexist, homophobic — you fill in the blanks.

Finally, if all this is not enough to turn your stomach, we have the American media. OK, there are and have always been great journalists. Likewise, slime-ball hacks. They co-exist, although I can remember a time in America before the National Enquirer first came out, which I will discuss in a moment. As for the Enquirer, my grandmother loved it. I should have known something was up when I saw that their center-spread (tabloid-style) liked to depict things like terrible road accidents, replete with dead, bloody bodies strewn along the highway. My favorite was the one which showed a guy in Africa who, in defiance of the rules, got out of his car — while his family watched from inside the vehicle — to film lions he saw in the distance. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice the lion standing right behind him. So the series of photos displayed him kneeling with his camera, then the lion in back of him, then the lion actually airborne, and, last but not least, the lion ripping him to shreds while his family, aghast, helplessly looked on.

The term we now use for this is “sensationalism”, and the American media has a terminal case of it. I often ask my students when we come to the media section of our books, “If you saw two newspapers and the headline on one read ‘Church Raffle Raises Money for Orphanage’ and the other blared ‘Lunatic Hacks Off Heads In Front of Metro’ — which one would you buy?” Of course, they hem and haw, until I say, “Look I already know the answer.”

The media knows the answer too, and so they feed the lowest aspects of human nature a plate of meat large enough to have satisfied that lion I was talking about. But hell, that’s show business.

The problem gets serious when you see that the big press in America is controlled by the Left Wing. Say what you want about Trump. Personally, I like mavericks who tell the establishment and the PC-ers to go to hell, but I can understand why he is not everyone’s flavor of the month. However, the Left Wing American media has smeared this guy from the start. Just as they have been doing to Kavanaugh. Double standards and hypocrisy abound, and the media piranhas are shameless. But in the old days, men such as David Brinkley and Eric Sevareid, liberal through and through, were always true professionals, as were moderates such as Chet Huntley, Roger Mudd and the magnificent Walter Cronkite. Anyone who saw Cronkite as he wept while telling the nation that JFK had been assassinated knew they were seeing the real-deal and not some disgusting skit born of slick choreography. And if you want to throw a great woman into the mix, think of Connie Chung. Those were journalists worthy of their jobs. Not like now.

Nowadays, these charlatans know that they will rise if they are “controversial” — and they have no morals whatsoever in that pursuit. They drink the blood of their subjects.

Have you ever noticed that in the headlines, nobody simply “SAYS” anything anymore. It is always “so-and-so RIPS so-and-so.” Or “SLAMS”. Or “LASHES OUT”. Contemporary media types have reduced words with specific meanings, such as “legend”, “icon”, and “guru” to the point that they have been rendered meaningless. Now please try to get this straight, guys: Robin Hood is a legend. King Arthur is a legend. Even Jesus Christ could be considered a legend— why? Because almost nothing is known about his life, or really (brace yourselves) if he ever actually existed as an historical person. Legend. The current coach of the Philadelphia Eagles is NOT a LEGEND!!!

Except in the American media. There, Madonna and Lady Gaga are legends. And it is this same Left Wing media, with its agenda, its hyperbole, and its endless appetite for the salacious — which makes intelligent and reasonable discussion on any political issue virtually impossible.

America is now a nation in which calm, dispassionate, honest dialogue is increasingly rare. Everybody is screaming at everybody. The nut-cases on the extreme right (the Nazis, KKK-types, Gay-bashers, etc.) are pretty easy to single out. But the LEFT WINGERS — ahhhhh! They claim to be so much better than that. They are the ones for HUMAN RIGHTS! They are the Good Guys!!

And you know what? It turns out that they are no better than anyone else. Just more sanctimonious. More Holier Than Thou. And just as full of dirty tricks and bad intentions. That’s what I despise: the double standards and the hypocrisy.

I have spoken like a plain little person, which is what I am. No one special, just a voice. But it is, I dearly hope, a civilized voice. I have a PhD too, and if I wanted to cloak my thoughts in a bunch of abstruse or trendy verbal dung, I could do it. Heaven knows I faked my way through academia doing precisely that.

No, I am speaking like Joe Blow with an open mind. I am LIBERAL.

Not LEFT WING.

-Eric


I am late to find Jen’s letters project (Truth In Between). I really like the idea. The world of social media requires us to communicate in sound bites, in fragments of ideas. To really hold a conversation, to really learn something, to really understand another person we need to communicate for more than 2 minutes or with more than 140 characters. Based on what I have seen so far in the currently published letters, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring. I tried this one-to-one about a year ago, but it kind of fizzled. I chalked that up to the fact that being retired, I have the time to think and write lengthy letters. My pen-pal, however, has her hands full with a child, a job, and all the other things we need to deal with when we are young and starting out.

What concerns me the most about our current political climate is that everything is cast as totally good or totally bad. The far left and the far right were always this way, but now everyone is being polarized. I have had discussions with my kids and with other family members. If I’m lucky, we would get deep within a particular issues and truly probe our understanding of the problems and the details of potential solutions. When that happened (it takes time and commitment), we would often find that we were pretty close together — not in total agreement, but aligned in terms of goals when we admitted and explored the complexity of the problems confronting us. Sadly, days later, we were back to sound bites and memes. It’s too easy to just hit the “like” button and move on.

The behavior of my fellow citizens and of our national leaders over the past two years has depressed me. And I am not picking sides here. My disappointment extends across the political spectrum. We seem to be content to let both the political left and the political right yank all the rest of us back and forth. We seem to be fueled by anger and outrage.

I live in a very “blue” state, perhaps the most blue out of all 50. I was extremely disappointed by the tone and tenor of the 2016 election. I said little before the election — other than to express my hope that everyone would calm down and be nicer to each other once the election had passed. This was when it was almost a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton would win, and many of my liberal, progressive friends would agree fervently with me — telling me not to worry and all would return to normal. While I was not thrilled with the result of the election, I was absolutely shocked at some of the terrible and hateful things that came pouring out of the mouths of those same friends and colleagues. All desire for a return to civility seemed to disappear. Many of the sentiments they expressed toward the new administration and towards the “deplorable” people who voted for that administration were worse than anything coming out of the alt-right.

Then the signs started coming out.

You know the ones I mean. They are still up around our town, in front of houses and churches. The most ironic states “Hate Has No Home Here”. It is supposedly indicating that the sign placers are motivated by love for all. But, it doesn’t feel that way. When you talk to the owners of those signs, the message seems to be that if you don’t agree with them 100% politically, then you will be labeled hateful, and therefore you will not be welcome. They profess they are only intolerant of intolerance. But if you disagree even slightly with their position, you are labeled a racist, sexist, white supremacist, homophobe, Islamophobe, or some combination of those and therefore are hateful. You are therefore not welcome. It seems to me that there is a good dose of hateful self-righteousness in those homes.

The second sign that is still very prevalent is one that lists a series of “beliefs”. Some variation of “We believe that”:

· Black Lives Matter

· Women’s Right Are Human Rights

· No Human Is Illegal

· Science Is Real

· Love Is Love

· Kindness Is Everything

This sign in particular bothers me. It bothers me not for what it says. After all, there really is no disagreement with those sentiments on their face value. It bothers me for what it doesn’t say, for what it implies. I think this sign is saying that anyone who disagrees with me politically therefore does not value black lives and is racist; does not believe that women have the same rights and is sexist; thinks that some human beings are “illegal” as a state of being and is xenophobic; does not believe in science (a denier/antivaxer/creationist); does not believe in love and is homophobic/anti-LBGTQ; and ultimately is unkind by definition.

A picture of this sign was posted by one of my young relatives along with a short diatribe about the new president, the new administration, indicating that Republicans in general, and anyone who didn’t vote for and share her particular political views were terrible hateful people. Like most all of us, she is certain that she is totally right.

So this is a letter in a letter. The following is what I wrote to her about two years ago. I think it sums up how I felt then and for that matter how I still feel. It promoted some decent discussion between the two of us (until life, work, and a baby got in the way). Maybe it can do the same thing here…

I read your post and it bothers me. It requires some discussion. Not because of what it says, but because of what it seems to imply.

One of the tragedies of the Twitter/Facebook age is that it seems to limit our communication to these short sayings and posters. That and the “like” button… While this works well for funny cat videos, it can lead to serious misunderstanding on larger issues because there is not enough behind the short saying to see if there is really understanding and agreement. Furthermore, if there is any disagreement, it quickly degenerates to “good” vs. “evil” and name-calling.

When I initially saw this post, my first reaction was complete agreement. After all, what is there to argue with? But then, I’ve read a lot of your other posts, and I’m pretty sure you and I do not see the world the same way right now. That got me thinking, “what does she really mean by this?”

You see, some of your opinions scare me. Not the opinions in and of themselves, but the fervency with which you hold them. You scare me primarily because you remind me of me when I was in my early 20’s. I’m pretty sure you view this year as kind of a crucible. For me, my crucible was the early 70’s. If you want to get a view of some of the absolutely appalling stuff that my generation did in a time of political and social unrest, read “Witness to the Revolution” by Clara Bingham. Having just read it this year, I am now a lot more comfortable that we will survive as a nation. If we got through 1970, we can surely get through 2016.

So… this is going to be a little long. Hopefully you are willing to spend the time to read it. It needs to be long because I want to at least spell out where I think we are in complete agreement, and also to outline where I think we may not be, and I can’t do that in short sentences. I also want to understand how you feel about that. I sincerely hope that you understand my positions. While I don’t expect you to agree with me completely (the world would be a pretty dull place if everyone is in complete agreement), I do hope your current world-view is large enough to allow me my interpretation of the poster you have shared. Bear with me as I go through each of the statements on your poster and try to elicit what gave me pause.

Black Lives Matter — I’m in complete agreement as a statement. But (you probably expected there was going to be a “but”), I am definitely not in complete agreement with the Black Lives Matter movement and its actions so far. I do believe there are racist police, but I do not automatically assume that every police officer is racist and that any and every fatal altercation between law enforcement and a black citizen means that the cop was automatically a racist. Bigotry is never a one-way phenomenon. Anger is not the best emotion to work with to actually solve a problem. I believe that the yawning gap between law enforcement and the people they work for (i.e. “us”, “the community”, “citizens”) is a serious problem and needs to be addressed. But, (there is a but again…) I do not necessarily think this is the single largest problem that lies before us right now.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights — Again, in complete agreement. In fact, I believe this is a tautology. Everyone is entitled to human rights. Women are human. Ergo, women’s rights are human rights. So I’m in complete agreement. However, I do sense you are saying more here than can be summed up in just that statement. I’m not sure what it is, so I can’t know whether I agree or disagree — I just don’t know.

As a side note, I am hoping that someday we can evolve away from the morass of identity politics we seem to be mired in. Both of the above statements seem to carry the weight of identity politics and of grievance. People — every single one of us on the planet — are unique. We are all much more than the identity group or groups we are thrown into. I think identity politics turns us all into political footballs, used by politicians to get what they want by playing one group off another using those nice short catchy memes and sayings. Social media is politics at its absolute worst.

No Human is Illegal — Again, I agree 100%. But what does this mean? Humans by definition are not illegal. It is not our “being” that is tied to our concepts of legality or illegality. It is our “actions” that can be labeled legal or illegal. So by saying this, are you questioning to need for a legal system or laws? Are you saying that because humans are not illegal that the entire concept of a society having laws and rules is unnecessary? Again, I agree with the statement at its simplest face value, but I’m not sure what is implied. Perhaps you can clarify if there is some hidden meaning here that I am missing. Perhaps you can identify who it is you do not think subscribes to the notion that a human being can be illegal just for “being”.

I think the implication here is pointed at immigration, specifically illegal immigration. This is a huge, complex topic and could require a lot of discussion. Do you support completely open borders? Let’s table this for right now (we can pick up on it later). Just know that people who believe there should be some sort of control on the country’s borders do not believe that people in this country illegally are by nature illegal. Even you should be able to admit. However, that they have committed an illegal act based on our current laws. We’ll save debate for what the implications of that should be to a future time.

Science is Real — Being trained as a scientist, of course I agree with this. I have more to say about this than any of the other statements. Science is fundamentally a way of looking at the world and forming opinions on how the world operates by testing those opinions. It is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. Science is also something that has been grossly misused and abused by mankind. Note the following points:

-Science is “real” does not mean science is “right”. A phrase we hear a great deal today is “the science is settled”. A rule that has been proven again and again in the history of science is that “science is settled until it becomes unsettled”. It moves forward in fits and starts, and just when we’ve become complacent, thinking that we’ve gotten it all figured out, we find out we completely misunderstood things.

-Science is conducted by scientists, and those scientists are human. Being human, they have all the foibles that all humans have. Scientists do not have a lock on “truth”. In fact, scientists do not have a lock on “honesty”. Scientists can have huge egos and be totally self-serving in their actions. They cannot be placed on a pedestal. If you believe that all scientists exist in some higher moral plane than the rest of us, I suggest you spend some time perusing web sites such as Retraction Watch.

-Science is not policy, at least it should not be. This is the single scariest thing as far as I’m concerned. Science cannot proscribe policy. Every time mankind has done that in the past, the consequences have been deleterious at best and horrendous at worst. Scientists can have preferences for particular policy positions. They can advocate for their preferences. But, they should not present those preferences as “science” because it is not.

-Science is not immune to mankind’s bias and self-serving nature. Here I recommend reading some of Steven Pinker’s books, particularly The Blank Slate.

-Science is not religion. Alas, too many people today seem to have replaced religion with science, who have lost faith in priests and placed blind faith in “experts”. This is sometimes referred to as “scientism” and is not a good thing in my mind. I’m not defending religion here — I don’t think people should place blind faith in any religious figure. But replacing that religious figure with a scientist is just as bad.

So on that last point — Science is Real — you can see that I agree with the statement you made wholeheartedly, but that I have a lot to say about how science should and should not play a role in our society. That being said, am I missing anything here? You felt that this is something that needed to be said. As if there are people out there who do not think the science is real? I need more than those three words to understand what your position is.

Love is Love — Agreed. 100%. ‘Nuff said. There is no ambiguity or hidden meaning here. I am assuming you mean this to refer to the issue of gay marriage. Are you saying that if someone can’t agree about gay marriage then they do not recognize love? What if you don’t think marriage is necessary for love? What if you think that sometimes a marriage may happen without love? What about love without marriage? These are serious issues and bear discussion, but a statement as simple as this can’t easily express the nuance. Maybe it is also one where we should just leave this to the “lovers” to work out in the way that is best for them. However, I’m not ready to say that all orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. that do not recognize gay marriage religiously, do not believe in love. I hope that is not what you are trying to say.

Kindness is everything — Agreed. 100%. Again, there is no ambiguity at all. Here I’d like to share with you a graduation speech that I thought was one of the best I’ve ever read. Here is a link to a video of George Saunders giving the speech at Syracuse in 2013.

Finally I have a problem with the order of the list. Things are always put in a particular order for a reason. Sometimes that reason is not clear. One thing I am sure of is that the order of the list is not random.

It seems to me that this list puts the most important things last on the list and the less important ones first. It clearly puts the most unambiguous clearly defined statements last.

Why is that?

I have a sneaking suspicion that in this age of political moralizing and value-signaling in social media, that this was deliberate. It is an implication that if you do not agree with the first statements in their entirety (hidden meaning and all) than you are incapable of being a loving person or of showing kindness. In this age of blue-red antagonism, it is not a stretch to suspect this is the intent.

Is it yours?

I don’t think so. At least I hope not. I am interested in understanding the nuances of your thoughts — what you read into this list and why. I don’t expect us to agree on everything. It would be most unusual for an old man in his 60’s and a young woman in her 20’s to agree on most anything. But fortunately agreement is not required for understanding.

I look forward to hearing from you. Not to argue, but to have more of a nuanced discussion aimed at understanding and expanding both our positions regarding the world. If you were interested that would be great. Maybe we can raise the level of social media dialogue to a whole new level. If not that’s OK too. I’ll just pay more attention to the cat videos.

-George


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