Many progressives often wonder: Why does the Left keep losing? After all, our causes are just, our cases are strong, our logic is unimpeachable -- not to mention that our souls are pure and our average IQs are way above average, as Garrison Keillor used to say.
In spite of all that, we appear to have not only lost America (for now, as that pendulum does keep on swinging) but even most of our own Democratic party, Sen. Bernie Sanders excepted. We must be doing some things wrong -- but just what are those somethings?
As a long-term regular contributor to OpEdNews.com, with a host of articles, comments, and a few diaries posted, I tried an experiment recently. On several articles which I authored, and a few authored by others, I engaged in the Battle of the Comments considerably more than usual. Perhaps I can best highlight my experiences with an analogy; while recognizing that analogy is considered less than the ideal form of logic, it still can have its uses. So, here goes: During the early seasons of the now-legendary Saturday Night Live TV programs, there was a bit termed, as I recall, POINT-COUNTERPOINT, featuring the now-legendary Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. In the typical episode, Curtin would present a well-reasoned, persuasive, effective argument on some controversial topic, such as abortion, usually taking a liberal prospective. Aykroyd would then pause when his turn came, and respond, Jane, You Stupid Ignorant Slut!
That has been the tone, content, and indeed quality of much of the debate I have been reading and studying via comments on my own OpEdNews.com articles, and those of other authors. My own articles recently have covered such topics as the Iranian Nuclear Non-agreement, which I deplore; the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Handicaps Act, which I praise; and the recent September 11, 2001 terror attack anniversary, which I commemorate. The articles by other authors which I have studied include those same topics, and several other current issues. Both in content and tone, the comments on those articles by me and other authors have tended to be intolerant of the views of others while smugly presenting the views of the comment author as being the Gospel Truth. The comments abound with hatred for America and the West, conspiracy theories so absurd that they are often self-contradictory, the rehashing of old themes and issues, a profound contempt for the views of others, and in some cases a clear need for professional help for the author of the comments.
Here is one example of what I am describing, an example taken at random by scrolling through dozens of comments on a recent article titled REFUGEES FLEE AMERICAN AGGRESSION on which I had commented that it was not primarily so-called American aggression which the refugees from, say, Syria were fleeing. The comment excerpt is as follows (italics added to separate comment from this present article):
EUGENE ELANDER: "horrid atrocities" of Qaddhafi were none - "helicopters shooting people" was a fabrication of AFP so to save Sarkozy's ... against Q's claims of having financed Sarkozy's campaign. And why do I spend time with - let's say politely, imperialists - like you and (name of other author deleted) justifying and whitewashing Hiroshima, Nagasaki and atrocities like this....on and on and on.
This comment is not atypical of the type and quality of responses to many articles, and it appears that they come from a rather-limited group of commenters who follow certain authors whom they dislike, or even detest, and then blast whatever those authors have written, indiscriminately and excessively. What these commenters lack most of all is tolerance for alternative viewpoints and the ability to disagree without becoming so disagreeable. They may believe that they alone hold the Holy Grail of Truth in their hands, or in their computer files, but they fail to advance their truths to us unbelievers.
If fellow progressives and lifelong liberals cannot be reached by harassment and intolerance, it is hard to see how these commenters can expect to reach the other side, i.e. the Right and the Republicans and the Tea Partiers and their ilk. When so many commenters, and even some article authors, behave with all the intolerance of, say. Donald Trump, those who otherwise might even be reached are like to choose the real Donald over these unintentional impersonators. In their attempts to shed heat rather than light on the topics-of-the-day, what they really shed is intolerance of any views except their own. That has never been the progressive hallmark in the past, and it should not become our hallmark now. We can do better, and we absolutely must!
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)