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Definitions Matter

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Peeling back the various levels of nuance and considerations before deciding on policy is not exactly a conservative tendency (and is probably an excessively-employed liberal one). While it does create any number of shortcuts to ascribe blame or just general evil intent on liberal objectives, its continuing disconnect from reality creates its own set of problems.

That we are facing (and will continue to face) a range of political, cultural, and economic challenges that lend themselves to absolutely no easy fixes is not exactly "breaking news." And while small psychological and ideological victories are claimed daily in the battle of wits between the Left and Right, our energies could be better-used elsewhere. Crafting solutions, for example. 

In order to get there, however, we first need to attend to some matters here. Until we all draw a deep breath or two, recognize what we as a nation will be dealing with for years to come, understand the motivations of those across the aisle who--shocking, but true!--actually love this country just as much as do those on that other side, and then engage in dialogue just like adults are expected to do when serious issues arise, the ideological battles will remain dominant.

No one wins, in the end.

The barriers are not insurmountable. Just a dash of contemplation before jamming the next snarky comment down the throat of the evil ideologue across the way can work wonders the more often it's done, by more of us. That also means not just recognizing and appreciating the differences, but finding ways to preserve the most important principles in order to provide the best policies for the most citizens.

It also means speaking the same language. Like most of these suggestions, that won't be easy. As George Lakoff noted in this excerpt from his 2002 book - Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Second Edition:

[T]here is a [ ... ] far more demanding, adequacy condition on the characterization of conservative and liberal worldviews. Those worldviews must additionally explain the topic choice, word choice, and discourse forms of conservatives and liberals. In short, those worldviews must explain just how conservative forms of reasoning make sense to conservatives, and the same for liberals. Moreover, they must explain why liberals and conservatives choose different topics to discuss and use different words in their discourse to discuss them. Furthermore they must explain why sometimes the same words have very different meanings when used by liberals and conservatives.

A stumbling block to be sure, but not an insurmountable one. The question, in the end, is a simple one: What kind of a nation will we choose to be in the years to come as we deal with an array of now-present and burgeoning challenges? The answer(s) will matter now and much more in the days head. We do have choices.

Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own--to the things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their property and their personality. Civilized society requires that all men and women have equal rights before the law, but that equality should not extend to equality of condition: that is, society is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights--but not to equal things. The just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of respect and duty.

Forests have been felled in recent years both denouncing and justifying the growing gap between the haves and have-nots. Russell Kirk's observations (above) about the Right's take on this issue are no less valid (to conservatives) today than they were more than half a century ago. "Equality," however, is one of those many buzzwords tossed about these days with distinctly different meanings when liberals speak of it versus the conservative version.

I don't think too many progressives will disagree with the notion that we're not all entitled to "equal things." Setting aside the obscene salaries for the few whose contributions to societal well-being are marginal at best, we don't find much fault in everyone earning what their efforts merit. Where the disagreements begin is that we on the Left are of the opinion that what all are entitled to are equal opportunities to make the most of every citizen's specific talents and objectives.

Life isn't perfect, and there are no guarantees of success. But if opportunities once made available to the now-successful are being denied to those following behind, then we have a problem. Education cutbacks; denying children some of the most basic of necessities in zealous pursuit of principles no matter what the harm (or outright obstruction if that option is available); and/or creating impoverished conditions for the less fortunate who are less fortunate through no fault of their own is a convenient end-around to the righteous talk of equal rights and just rewards.

I'm assuming it's wee bit more difficult to contemplate one's career aspirations when the occurrence of a next meal for yourself or your children is in considerable doubt. It's another simplistic tactic by just lumping all of those unfortunate citizens into the box labeled "slackers." Not much time wasted on compassion, for one thing. Introspection gets a day off, too.

In today's world, equality of opportunity has been perverted, and it seems quite clear that the few are doing whatever they need to do to preserve what they can for themselves, consequences to the many others be damned.... We bleeding-heart liberals have a problem with inhumanity.

All-or-nothing thinking has its limitations and carries intended and unintended consequences--as is true of almost all strategies and tactics. Making things worse for more people doesn't seem to make much sense to those of us on the Left.

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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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