Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Enemies

On NPR this morning:

Earlier this week several Washington think-tanks got together to hold a kind of summit on bipartisanship. The Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, and the University of Pennsylvania gathered scholars to dissect this thorny problem.

Thomas Mann of Brookings said the result depends on basic respect and civility.

"You have to be able to accept the legitimacy of the motives of those with whom you disagree, and you have to be willing to engage seriously in their arguments," Mann said, adding that there's little of that on Capitol Hill.


How did we get to the point where we fundamentally believe the other side of the debate is deceitful, corrupt, immoral, even evil? I've got a hypothesis, which is of course partisan.

Over at Gone Mild, Dan had a great post about how the cronyism of the Bush Administration is unlike the cronyism of past presidencies both left and right. I agree with him, and I think the attitudes that prompt that kind of behavior also create the environment for animosity. Dan points out that winning isn't simply means to an end (that end being running the government the way you believe is best) for these Republicans. Winning is the end. The whole point is to crush the other side. Of course to do that with no remorse, you must believe that your opponent is the very apotheosis of all that you abhor.

The other side is the enemy, and you do not engage the enemy in any way except for a fight. That is why we have such ridiculous situations as Republican Congressional staffers forming their own softball league rather than play with Democrats.

And I think it has spilled over to both sides now. I remember a time when I would have been as likely to vote for a Republican as a Democrat. I wanted to hear what each had to say, and I took them at their word. I was still more likely to agree with the Democrat's stance, but if the Republican made a good case I was listening. Today, that has changed. A Republican now starts out in a deep hole, and must work very hard to convince me he/she isn't just a party stooge. And I'm sure a die hard Republican feels the same way about Democrats.

So how do we get from here to somewhere productive?

3 comments:

Nose Goblin said...

That's the ebb and flow, Ancillary. There have been fist fights on the floor of the Senate before and there will be again. Things were very far right there for a while. Now they're turning a bit more left. All turds eventually end up feeding flowers.

Nate said...

Jim,

I have a statement to make. I believe that social welfare, the redistribution of wealth through taxation, and other forms of governmental aid (within reason) amount to secular tithing. Fundamentally, if you believe that it is just fine that the Church collect your scratch and, through unseen channels, distribute it to the needy (or not so), then you must have no problem with government doing the same thing. If someone says they're against welfare, not reasonable reform of welfare mind you, but welfare in general, they have no logical basis for supporting donation-based charity in a religious framework. Please respond.

Jim said...

Nose goblin -- I know things have been bad before,but you always hear these stories about political enemies fighting tooth and nail and then having a drink together. I can't imagine that happening today.

I'll admit I may be suffering from "this time is different than all other time" syndrome though.

Nate -- I think the argument someone who is against welfare but for tithing would make is that tithing is essentially voluntary while taxation is mandatory. I agree that it is a poor argument, particularly if the person making it believes the Bible to be authoritative. If they believe the Bible is authoritative and that God is the ultimate arbiter of morality, the mandate to tithe is greater than the mandate to pay taxes. The punishment for not doing so is probably worse too.

 

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