Both The Extreme Left And Right Are Wrong

I've been a fan of sci-fi author Orson Scott Card for years, with his Ender series being one of my favorites. His political commentary has also made me stop and think more than once.

One of his more thoughtful pieces was originally the afterword to his novel Empire, a story about the next American Civil War. In this case it's a war between the extreme Left and the extreme Right, the so-called “blue staters” versus the “red staters”, with everyone else caught in the middle. It's a cautionary tale.

In the afterword Card does a pretty good job of defining the problem with both the left and the right.

...we have never been so evenly divided with such hateful rhetoric since the years leading up to the Civil War of the 1860s. Because the national media elite are so uniformly progressive, we keep hearing (in the elite media) about the rhetorical excesses of the "extreme right." To hear the same media, there is no "extreme left," just the occasional progressive who says things he or she shouldn't.

But any rational observer has to see that the Left and Right in America are screaming the most vile accusations at each other all the time. We are fully polarized -- if you accept one idea that sounds like it belongs to either the blue or the red, you are assumed -- nay, required -- to espouse the entire rest of the package, even though there is no reason why supporting the war against terrorism should imply you're in favor of banning all abortions and against restricting the availability of firearms; no reason why being in favor of keeping government-imposed limits on the free market should imply you also are in favor of giving legal status to homosexual couples and against building nuclear reactors. These issues are not remotely related, and yet if you hold any of one group's views, you are hated by the other group as if you believed them all; and if you hold most of one group's views, but not all, you are treated as if you were a traitor for deviating even slightly from the party line.

To the extreme Left and extreme Right it's all or nothing. To the rest of us, it's not so clear cut.

In case you haven't been able to figure out from my posts, I am a conservative, though not nearly as conservative as many others. There are a few social issues where I am more moderate than my brethren. But for the most part I am one of those that believe that more often than not government is the problem, not the solution. Many of my liberal brethren believe just the opposite. I'm a firm believer that once taxes reach a certain point they have a negative effect on the economy as they pull too much capital out of the economy and put it towards non-productive ends. Some of my liberal brethren believe there's no such thing as too many taxes. I believe that too many of my liberal brethren think that because I disagree with them that I'm evil. On the other hand I think that too many of my liberal brethren have ignored the lessons of history and keep trying social 'experiments' that have failed again and again, which makes them ignorant or insane.

Other than that, we see eye to eye on some other things. But that doesn't mean I'm not part of the problem.

It is part of human nature to regard as sane those people who share the worldview of the majority of society. Somehow, though, we have managed to divide ourselves into two different, mutually exclusive sanities. The people in each society reinforce each other in madness, believing unsubstantiated ideas that are often contradicted not only by each other but also by whatever objective evidence exists on the subject. Instead of having an ever-adapting civilization-wide consensus reality, we have became a nation of insane people able to see the madness only in the other side.

Does this lead, inevitably, to civil war? Of course not -- though it's hardly conducive to stable government or the long-term continuation of democracy. What inevitably arises from such division is the attempt by one group, utterly convinced of its rectitude, to use all coercive forces available to stamp out the opposing views.

Such an effort is, of course, a confession of madness. Suppression of other people's beliefs by force only comes about when you are deeply afraid that your own beliefs are wrong and you are desperate to keep anyone from challenging them. Oh, you may come up with rhetoric about how you are suppressing them for their own good or for the good of others, but people who are confident of their beliefs are content merely to offer and teach, not compel.

I wholeheartedly agree with Card on this. Unfortunately there are plenty on both the extreme Left and Right that do not. That's scary. Talking with someone who disagrees with me gives me an opportunity to find out their views and, if I think they're mistaken or have been misled, I'll try to lay out my arguments, my evidence, and ask them to think about it before responding. It's not often I'll succeed, but just often enough that I keep trying.

The impulse toward coercion takes whatever forms are available. In academia, it consists of the denial of degrees, jobs, or tenure to people with nonconformist opinions. Ironically, the people who are most relentless in eliminating competing ideas congratulate themselves on their tolerance and diversity. In most situations, it is less formal, consisting of shunning -- but the shunning usually has teeth in it. Did Mel Gibson, when in his cups, say something that reflects his upbringing in an antisemitic household? Then he is to be shunned -- which in Hollywood will mean he can never be considered for an Oscar and will have a much harder time getting prestige, as opposed to money, roles.

How many academic careers have been curtailed or ended because a faculty member didn't conform to the politically correct viewpoints espoused by the Leftist academics? How many times have we seen liberal institutions of higher learning institute unconstitutional speech codes, which do nothing more than stifle free speech and the free exchange of differing opinions? How many times have we heard people talking pr writing about tolerance, yet these very same people tend to be the least tolerant people we would ever meet?

I'm not saying the Right is any less guilty, but it seems to me the Left is far more egregious in trying to impose their beliefs upon people who disagree with them. But then again, I am one of those evil conservatives, so my opinion means nothing......

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