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"a different moral universe"

Tom Jacobs' piece on psychologist Jonathan Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis, "Conservatives Live in a Different Moral Universe," should be a model for journalists to emulate. Jacobs grounds Haidt's theory in his life, explains it and its relevance, and does it all in an entertaining manner. His lead anecdote, though, rubbed me the wrong way:

Jonathan Haidt is hardly a road-rage kind of guy, but he does get irritated by self-righteous bumper stickers. The soft-spoken psychologist is acutely annoyed by certain smug slogans that adorn the cars of fellow liberals: "Support our troops: Bring them home" and "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

"No conservative reads those bumper stickers and thinks, 'Hmm -- so liberals are patriotic!'" he says, in a sarcastic tone of voice that jarringly contrasts with his usual subdued sincerity. "We liberals are universalists and humanists; it's not part of our morality to highly value nations. So to claim dissent is patriotic -- or that we're supporting the troops, when in fact we're opposing the war -- is disingenuous.

"It just pisses people off."

As a liberal, I see those bumper-stickers as attempts to reclaim patriotism from conservatives' pretense that only they can be patriots--and I always considered them to be designed for encouraging other liberals more than at converting conservatives. I wonder if Haidt ever considered the possibility that liberals may be doing something other than offending conservatives' delicate sensibilities.

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