Podcast: Paul Craig Roberts on collapse of American Justice and Rights, 911, Rescue by Collapse of the Dollar or RevolutionThe first person to post a comment was an ex-pat in China who has a vendetta for Roberts because Paul was a member of the Reagan administration--- assistant Treasury Secretary. This commenter, who refuses to use his real name, attacked Roberts, not only personally but also for his personal life.
The problem is, Roberts is not the person he was in the days of Reagan. He woke up and is a very different person. For years, he was a brutal critic of president George W. Bush and Republican policies. Now, he criticizes Obama as well. His writings were widely posted on progressive and further left leaning sites until late March, when he penned a good-bye, saying he was done with writing, not feeling very hopeful about the future of the USA. My podcast, linked to above, certainly catches his mood and his reasons for feeling that way.
But this article isn't about Roberts in particular. It's more about the abusive commenter and people like him who attack people who have the courage to speak up after they've woken up and smelled the coffee.
Last fall, I helped organize and moderated a discussion with former Cigna Communications director Wendell Potter, another man who woke up and gave up a high paying career to speak out on the evils of the health insurance industry. I first interviewed him a few days after his initial testimony before congress. He went on to appear on Bill Moyers show, Democracy Now, and hundreds of other media venues. The day before I moderated the event with him he'd been on BBC, Bill Maher, Air America, Sirius Radio and more. Potter has become a truthteller, supporting health care reform, advocating for single payer.
It was true. Potter did make a lot of money in his old job and he did attack Michael Moore's movie. But he woke up and changed his ways.
I've seen the same kind of thing happen in other cases. Critics attack people who had been right wing, who were, in their opinion wrong, even evil, and they get nasty. I think this is profoundly misguided.
Waking people up is the challenge we as a progressive minority face-- getting people to see their world through the lense we use to view it. It's a big deal, (or as Joe Biden said, "a big f*cking deal") a major achievement when we actually do it, when we get a conservative, or a non-political person to care and to see our way.
When we actually do wake people up, we want to embrace them, support them, encourage them. It's absolutely essential that we engage in radical forgiveness, accepting them for who they have become, not punishing them for who they were. You don't have to be a born-again right wing Christian to forgive trespasses.
Yet there are people like the Roberts commenter and the hecklers at the Potter event who can't forgive and who abuse the opportunity that awakened people provide them by participating in progressive forums.
The fact is, it's easy to be a liberal or progressive if you grew up in a liberal home, with liberal parents and perhaps a liberal community and religious background. It's much tougher to wake up and become a progressive, to talk progressive talk when you grew up a conservative. It's not a small step. It's a heroic journey.
People who have awakened DO have a history, often a conservative, history that progressives see as negative. But the character it's taken to rise above that history is remarkable and worthy of respect, not disdain. We have a lot we can learn from them and the unique insights they bring to the table. Consider Arianna Huffington, another former conservative. Look at the work she's done, the effect she's had on the conversation. I'm sure that she has detractors too, because of who she was. I'm very glad she woke up.
So, the next time you think about someone who used to be someone who didn't like, who used to have ideas you disagreed with, but who woke up, don't bash them. Instead, honor, appreciate and support them for their courage and newfound insight and wisdom.