disagreement does not mean disrespect

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Helen Smith's Pajamas Media piece asking "How Should Conservatives Deal with the Left's Disrespect and Lack of Empathy?" suggests that liberals commonly meet conservatives with not only misunderstanding, but with "disdain and disgust," referencing psychologist Jonathan Haidt's comment that he "think[s] of liberals as colorblind." As Tom Jacobs wrote in this AlterNet article (which I commented on here), there's more nuance in Haidt's assessment:

In January 2005 -- shortly after President Bush won re-election, to the shock and dismay of the left -- Haidt was invited by a group of Democrats in Charlottesville, Va., to give a talk on morality and politics. There, for the first time, he explained to a group of liberals his conception of the moral world of cultural conservatives.

"They were very open to what I was saying," he says. "I discovered there was a real hunger among liberals to figure out what the hell was going on."

That's one of the things setting (most) liberals apart from (most) conservatives: we want to learn why the other side believes what they do, rather than simply calling them names (Socialist! Atheist! Baby-killer! Commie!) and trying to have them fired, imprisoned, or assassinated for the opinions they hold or the lives they lead.

Let's take a look at one of Smith's other examples: Congressperson Eric Cantor's claim that "a bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond." Smith apparently assumes that her readers won't read the CBS News article to which she linked, wherein the Virginia police stated: "A preliminary investigation shows that a bullet was fired into the air and struck the window in a downward direction, landing on the floor about a foot from the window." Note the heavily-qualified remarks in this NYT article:

"We believe it was a stray bullet as a result of random gunfire," said Gene Lepley, a spokesman for the Richmond Police Department.

That means that Smith's statement that "Cantor can have his office shot at and it is played down"--an assertion that liberals are treating conservatives unfairly--is false. Cantor does have an office in that building, but even Fox News notes that his office was not targeted in the incident:

The pastel green structure with a purple door resembles a town house, and from the outside it is difficult to distinguish whether it is a business or residence. Except for a brass plate by the door identifying it as The Reagan Building, nothing outdoors links it to Cantor or to the GOP.

Smith's complaint touched a nerve for Tikkun's Mike Kashtan, who responded with "Empathy from Left Field" (h/t: Dave Belden at AlterNet). Kashtan writes that "Conservatives are just as worried about my views, and what would happen if everyone espoused them, as I am about theirs," I agree that there is plenty of worry from the other side of the aisle--but precious little curiosity; plentiful misrepresentation but little honest analysis; lots of made-up quotes and misattributions, but little factual depth; many assertions but little evidence; lots of rhetoric but little reality.

I would have much more respect and empathy for conservative arguments if they had more content and less complaint.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on April 8, 2010 8:01 PM.

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