Saturday, November 26, 2005

Trying to understand what the left hand is doing...

These posts aren't directly related, but each one makes me think of the others, I guess because they are all written by people trying to understand and/or distance themselves from the leftists who took the liberal label and ran away with it without taking the values that used to go along with it. I don't pretend that these posts give a complete picture, but I like that they look at the issue from different perspectives.

Melanie Phillips, writing January 1, 2000, Why I am a progressive

neo-neocon, writing March 5, 2005, Dancing in a ring...

Nick Cohen, writing August 7, 2005, in the Guardian Unlimited, I still fight oppression

Dennis Prager, writing November 22, 2005, The Left Hate Inequality, Not Evil. (Via Bookworm, writing November 22, 2005, Today's morality lesson).

Wall Street Journal editorial, September 13, 1984, reprinted in OpinionJournal May 16, 2005, Liberal Fundamentalism


Mark Mossa, SJ said...

Bookworm room: "As to that, though, I don't think it's too much to accept that there is a difference between a clarity based on recognizing and rejecting evil, and a clarity based on embracing evil."

I would add: and a very fine line between them which many overlook when they step over it. Too often moral clarity is confused with moral certainty. The first is laudable, the second dangerous.

I have to say I find Prager's apology for hate disturbing. But the beauty of his logic is that no matter what arguments I would make against his view, the answer would be, "See, you just think that because you're a liberal." To which my answer would be, "Gee, I thought I was disturbed by the argument because I'm a Christian."

Another good reason not to confuse conservatism and Christianity, or Christianity with any ideological or political stance.

Congratulations on your nomination!


Kathryn Judson said...

Mark, Thanks for writing. I'm trying to get my thoughts in order for a reply, but I keep finding myself talking in circles. (Can I blame it on having a cold? Ugh.)

Short version: re: Bookworm. I think she pushed the point a bit far by saying "based on embracing evil". From my more-left-leaning days, I know we didn't embrace evil; we just didn't think it existed, and so were operating case by case, rather free form, as it were, with noble aims but erratic reasoning - which had the unfortunate side effect of frequently finding ourselves on the side of unsupportable things, rather by misstep than by choice. (Not much consolation to the people we hurt along the way...)

re: Prager. The column of Prager's I can't get out of my mind is one where he talked about asking groups of college kids which they would save, their dog or a stranger, if they could only save one but not the other -- and finding many of the kids stunned that he thought he needed to ask, because of course they'd save their own dog. I get the feeling that a lot of what he does these days is to counter the moral vacuum that so many people have been raised in, in which human life has no special worth, and evil is just another word for unpleasant. I haven't found him prone to dismissing people who disagree with him as liberal - he seems to be more intent on asking people how they can square their behavior with Jewish ethical teaching. I could be wrong on that. I've only read him hit and miss.

As to your point about the dangers of stepping across from moral clarity to moral certainty, I couldn't agree more. That's one of the reasons I blog, by the way. One of the things I've learned the hard way is that I don't know where my own blind spots are, and I don't figure I can know if I only hang around people who agree with me, or say they do.

(Did I say this was the short version? More tea! More soup! More discipline! ;-)

Bookworm said...

Kathryn, I think in our Left leaning days 20+ years ago, there were Leftists who whole-heartedly embraced evil and Leftists who really did stand for pure and good liberalism. In the former category, I'd identify those who knew what Stalin was doing and didn't care. In the latter category, I'd point to liberal victories such as the Civil Rights movement and women's rights.

What's been happening in the last 20 years, however, and what I think has driven us away from our formerly liberal positions, is that Leftists, clinging to their civil rights paradigm, will now stand up for anyone they identify as the underdog, regardless of the merits or morals of that underdog position. (Indeed, I posted about that here.)

So, while I don't believe that the Left intentionally embraces evil, I do believe that the Left's knee-jerk impulse to support any person or cause identified as an underdog results in Leftists periodically, and whole-heartedly, mounting a defense for unmitigated evil.

By the way, I'm incredibly flattered to be part of such an interesting discussion. Thank you.

Kathryn Judson said...

Bookworm, Thanks for weighing in. You make some good points, I think.

I've been meaning for some time now to start talking more about subsets of the Left and subsets of the Right, instead of lumping so many folks together who really don't belong together. I guess this is a good example of where that would be useful, eh?

Bookworm said...

You're welcome, Kathryn. Also, I found this article about Ramsey Clark a perfect example of the kind of liberal/Leftist who embraces any kind of evil, as long as the evil is under attack from the U.S.

Mark Mossa, SJ said...

Hope you're feeling better!

Kathryn Judson said...

Mark, Actually I'm not feeling too poorly today, but nearly every time I turn around I'm putting things in the wrong cupboard, posting to the wrong blog, or publishing drafts that I mean to save merely as drafts. Very frustrating. (Not to mention embarrassing!) I dislike this stage of a cold very much. I am considering becoming a hermit until it passes...

Thanks for the good wishes.