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September 29, 2020

“Blind to Their Own Blindness”. Our Political Identities Are Too Rigid.

In the 1980s, tweed-jacketed writers of policy papers with magazine racks of old National Reviews seemed civilized enough. They sat around speaking of judicial restraint and raised glasses of chardonnay to the memory of Joseph Story and Russell Kirk. Before bed, they read Chesterton and Asimov.

They went to church, put money in the plate, and lit cozy fires against the storm of equal rights, civil rights, and other soul-turning weather.

I believe this particular class of people is suffering from what is called “blind to their own blindness”, a phenomenon shown by Danny Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow.  I discount from this all those who have adopted the arrogance and brutal language of our current president.

Due to this blindness, many of these intellectuals, their families, their country relatives, and their kids with liberal arts degrees are ready to vote someone into the role of George Washington who:

_ Said “I like people who didn’t get caught.” about John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war.

_ Paid a prostitute not to expose their doings.

_ Allowed peaceful protesters to be beaten and tear-gassed.

_ Said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”

There are thousands of such things, including careers ruined.

Still, this tweedy and now twittering group believe the 1950s is a time that Americans would like to see revived. They imagine that it doesn’t matter that women and Blacks were each an underclass. They imagine it doesn’t matter that abortion was on the rise and that they, with their Achilles flaw (an insistence that abstract concepts could solve everything) were never going to be ready with a truly pro-life vision for America. Neither corporatism (gift of the 1950s) nor the long march to freedom for women and minorities were going to accommodate families of 8 or 10 or 12 children. The chauvinism that for some represented the good old days painted a crude cartoon of women held in a perverse time warp.

The unholy alliance of Christianity and corporatism is a tragedy.

This election is a fight for the soul of our country, but all elections are that. Absolute truths (i.e. harming others is unacceptable) and relative truths (i.e. this urban area is a food “desert” and here is what we are going to do about it) are reflected by what our laws enforce and prohibit.

Elections offer us a choice of scrapple or hash. Each candidate holds out a mash of relative truths and absolute truths that overwhelm our consciences.

There are probably both absolute truths and relative truths in the policies of the party you don’t favor which you would understand and agree with if spoken softly by your beloved as you drifted off to sleep (and not even suffer nightmares!).

Absolute truth: life is precious.  (human, animal, black, brown, white)
Relative truth: when this baby is born, both she and the mother will be deprived of safe housing and education,     what are we willing to do to alleviate this?

Absolute truth: workers should not be defrauded of their wages
Relative truth: handicapped workers should receive equal pay

[Note: by “relative truth”, we don’t mean it’s anyone’s guess. “Relative truth” means absolute truth as it applies to specific and changing sets of conditions.]

Hang in here. There is a big pay-off for accepting that our political chaos stems from things besides racism, ignorance, and greed. It is abetted by those certainly.

When you wonder if everyone voting for Trump is secretly racist, and you just can’t believe it, you’re right. For some people, there is an absolute truth that looms larger than all the incompetence in the current administration.

When you wonder if the Bernie supporters are going to push Biden into experimental policing, leaving the streets wild, but you doubt all those marching moms wearing Stitch Fix really want that, you’re right. For some of these democratic socialists, there is an absolute truth that has more gravitas than a concoction of Ayn Rand witticisms trickling down at them.

We have to “leave it all on the field” according to AOC, so Elephant Journal is now tolerating Latin tags!

Mutatis mutandis—”with things changed that should be changed”.

The left can expand its care of all life. It champions the poor, the underserved, the homeless, the vulnerable and the interconnected life on the planet. These are absolute truths and learned “liberals” have a right to imagine how to allow conscience to hold space for human lives conceived.

Similarly, considerate “conservatives” should feel free to fall in love with the burning and polluted earth, with social justice, and with the rights of workers. These are absolute truths.

True freedom means you can envision a way to honor the absolute while tending to the specifics of every relative truth we encounter.  My real concern here is that words and ideas in amber have become more real than human beings for the old warriors against communism. The gulag was far away but made real with eloquent words. Today, Solzhenitsyn would say, as he did in his Harvard speech of 1978, “One’s life journey may be an experience of moral growth.” The 2050s can be filled with innovation, integrity, compassion, and prosperity. This can only happen if those who long for civilization have their sight restored and finally see all of us.

Mutatis mutandis.

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