Archive for Sunday, March 12, 2017

Opinion: Resentment is not an identity

March 12, 2017

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So this driver is stopped at an intersection. A pedestrian is dawdling in the crosswalk. Driver leans out the window and yells, “Get out of the street, you damned liberal!”

It’s been years since I read that in a magazine. I can’t remember if it was a true story, though I think it was. But even if only apocryphal, the picture it paints of American acrimony in the post-millennial years is true beyond mere facts.

As such, it leaves me questioning the likely impact of two recent well-intentioned pleas for ideological outreach. Joan Blades, co-founder of the liberal activist group Moveon.org, wrote an essay for The Christian Science Monitor, asking progressives to stretch beyond their left-wing comfort zones and “love thy neighbor.” And New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof warned the left against a tendency to “otherize” Donald Trump voters.

I’ve got no real argument with Kristof or Blades. It’s a noble gesture they’re making. It occurs to me, though, that none of this addresses a question that has come to seem obvious:

What if the problem is simply that we just don’t like each other?

As I’ve said often, our acrimony is not political. It’s not about tax rates, government regulation or even abortion rights. No, this is elemental. This is about the city versus the country, higher education versus a mistrust thereof, Christian fundamentalism versus secular humanism. And it is about social change versus status quo.

Consider for a moment how often in history that change has been forcefully imposed on conservatives. It has been done by statute, by court decision, by executive order and, once, by war.

This is not an apology for that. In every instance, force was necessitated by the intransigence of those who defended that status quo because they were not ready for change. If change must wait until all parties are “ready” for it, then change will never come.

So no, the foregoing is just an observation: Resentment is the residue of forced change. And this particular resentment is old, deep and festering. Worse, it is useful. Republicans have found the maintenance and exploitation of that resentment to be a political gold mine. For instance, it helped elect Donald Trump.

But resentment is not identity. Or at least, it never was before. These days, people seem to wear their resentments — and more to the point, the ideological labels that give them voice — the way they wear gender or ethnicity, i.e., as an immutable marker of self. Suddenly, “conservative” is not about what you believe, but what you are. Small wonder the feud between ideologies comes to seem as mindless — and about as amenable to amicable resolution — as the one between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Then you see a George W. Bush cozy up to his friend Michelle Obama and it stirs some vague, vestigial hope, some reminder that none of this is destiny, some realization that we must resolve this hate — it is not too strong a word — if we want to continue as one nation, indivisible. You see them buddied up across their vast ideological divide and you wonder why we can’t all be like that.

Still, with due respect to Kristof and Blades, I don’t know that progressive outreach alone can get us there. I find it noteworthy that I’ve seen no prominent conservative columnist or activist issue a similar call to the political right. Maybe I missed it. If so, I look forward to the correction. It would be a hopeful thing.

Because it’s a fallacy to believe progressives can fix America’s acrimony by changing their attitudes. I am all for reaching out.

But it helps to have someone else reaching back.

— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald.

Comments

Maddy Griffin 7 months, 2 weeks ago

The "Bob's" will have fun with this one....

Bob Summers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Pitts is a perfect example of people with the condition.

What if the problem is simply that we just don’t like each other?

Pitts hates non-Liberals. He projects hate and assumes, like a good individual with the Liberal genetic condition, non-Liberals hate as well. .

I like Liberals. They are very creative people. ergo. Hollywood is owned by people with the genetic condition. The music industry is majority Liberal. Liberals are amazing at creating fantasies.

Liberals create amazing fantasy (fake) news. Look at Obama. Look at Trump. Both people are perfect subjects for Liberal abilities at creating fantasy.

If one disagrees with the Liberal fantasies about Obama. You're a racist.

If one does not agree with their Trump fantasies, you are a deplorable. A hater. A misogynist. A racist. etc.

I like people with the Liberal genetic condition. They're funny.

Ken Lassman 7 months, 2 weeks ago

You know, Bob, I'm sure that despite your totally wrong-headed, misguided and simply false conclusions about genetics and behavior, that you're a very likeable guy. Heck, I'd even buy you a beer sometime.

I'm perfectly comfortable with your inherent likeability and my maintaining a consistent in-your-face calling your obsession with your false conclusion that there is some kind of genetically determined basis for "Liberalism" (read: anyone who I disagree with). You can be my friend and I can still call such ideas tail-wagging-the-dog thinking, on the slippery slope to eugenics and racial purity, and counterproductive name-calling. After all, what are friends for?

Paul Beyer 7 months, 2 weeks ago

The "Bob's" must be sleeping in, only one so far. Guess the rest were up late to catch trumps latest lying, BS tweets.

Bob Smith 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Das lennypitts leads off with a tale that he admits may not be true and spins a tissue of dung. For him that's par for the course.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 months, 2 weeks ago

You know, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and have mentioned him a few times here. But most of what I have is from his web site, you ought to check it out. You would then see where the Bobs get most of their drivel you see here. I don't listen anymore, I don't have any desire to hear any more of this crap like we see here from the Bobs.

Limbaugh is on during the working day and claims a huge audience. I think this is the same lying like we hear from Trump. Most people I know have jobs and do not have the opportunity to hear the garbage that Limbaugh spews every day. And I would not waste the time.

New topic......The attacks and damage on Muslims that has suddenly been reported. (But not in this newsrag.) Why is there any doubt where this comes from?. We have a non president who is a verified bigot and racist.....we have a significant number of people in the population who embrace these views.....is it not clearly evident that the racism and bigotry that has come from the non-president is taking root in some corners of the society?

The hatred of Jews, blacks, Hispanics and other ethnic groups from the Klan, the American Nazi Party and the alt-right is well documented. It has been around for a log time. Jews who managed to escape Nazi Germany were turned away at the port of New York and sent back to Germany to be exterminated. It's nothing new.

This is what we get from the presence in the White House of a closet racist and bigot. There is no mystery here. "Liberal" has nothing to do with it.

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