I accept a challenge to criticize liberalism


My choice for president 

Readers have often mistaken me for a liberal because of my criticisms of conservatives, but I am neither the one nor the other, although I lean more toward the left. Recently, a reader who was offended by my criticism of conservatism challenged me to criticize liberalism. This is my response.

“When knowledge becomes rigid, it stops living.” --Anselm Kiefer

Liberals are of the same mindset in encouraging
open-mindedness, that they are in “honoring diversity,” i.e. the more the better. The danger of diversity is societal fragmentation and, in the worst case scenario, civil war; the danger of open-mindedness is the elimination of absolutes. I’ll give some examples from the fields of morality, history, science, and philosophy. In regard to morality, the denial of absolutes puts the basis for our values upon personal preference and social custom. For example, who are we in the West to say that the Moslem practice of mutilating the genitals of young females is wrong for all peoples in all places and at all times? Likewise, if we carry this view to its logical conclusion in the field of history, we must remain open to the possibility that the holocaust didn’t really happen, and, come to think of it, maybe the moon-landing didn’t either. In the realm of science, surely we wouldn’t be so rigid as to deny the possibility that the universe was created in six days, 6,000 years ago, by a male humanoid deity named Jehovah who was afterwards all tuckered-out and had to sleep-in on Saturday. Philosophically, we are forced to remain open to the possibility that Hume was right when he doubted the existence of cause and effect. Sure, this would mean that if someone gets hit by a bus, we can never know for sure that he wouldn’t lie splatted on the asphalt even if nothing had hit him, but isn’t keeping an open mind preferable to allowing our thoughts to become “rigid” and no longer “living”? 

The best I can say about the value that liberals place upon openness is that it’s a crock. No liberals are open-minded in regard to the examples given, and I would even go so far as to say that all human beings are closed-minded; liberals are just more hypocritical in this regard, and their minds are closed about different things.*

Liberalism is the parent of political correctness, a doctrine whereby anyone who has different values and opinions from yourself can be persecuted as a bigot. How can a person know beforehand that she’s about to fail the political correctness test? She can’t because political correctness is like religious gnosticism in that it requires esoteric knowledge known only to the initiated, and woe be to  anyone who is being given such a test by her employer because she might well be fired. This sometimes happened at the hospital where Peggy was worked. A nurse could expect to be put on probation for drug abuse, but there was no forgiveness for political incorrectness. Peggy
’s job was never at risk for the following, but I’ll give it as an example of how petty and unkind the politically correct often become. During a slow night in labor and delivery, Peggy tried telling her fellow nurses (all of whom were liberals) a few jokes:

“Has anyone here heard of the math teacher who was detained at the airport because she had a slide rule in her purse? She was thought to be a member of Al-Gebra.”

When a fellow nurse complained that the joke was ethnically insensitive, Peggy told another:

“What kind of flightless bird is completely gray? A melted penguin.”

Alas, when a second co-worker said that her friend of mixed race would be hurt by the joke, Peggy gave up trying to amuse her co-workers.


Some stores here have signs by the door proclaiming them a “Hate Free Zone.” When I asked myself how such stores might differ from less enlightened establishments,  all I could come up with was that shoppers would have to change out of their Klan robes before entering. I think the result of such signs is simply to announce the store owner’s imagined superiority over those who don’t tow the liberal line, their real message being: “Only the politically correct need enter here.”

Before leaving Mississippi for Oregon’s liberal Willamette Valley in 1986, I had never, to my knowledge, known an across-the-board liberal, and their frequent reaction to my Southern accent left me disabused of my delusion that they valued compassion, fairness, and intelligence. Many such people didn’t ask where I was from with friendly interest but with an inflection better suited to someone who smelled dog shit: “Where ARE you from!?” When informed, they would typically do two things. One was to ask “Where in Missouri?” (suggesting that they had never even been to the South), and the other was to tell me me how ignorant, vicious, provincial, and bigoted, white Southerners were, a characterization which apparently included me although we had only met minutes earlier. Given how dangerous such people thought I was, it struck me as a wonder that they had the audacity to speak so openly, but perhaps they were more courageous than I imagined.

After months of hearing my home state—and by implication myself—being trashed, I would sometimes ask such people if they had considered the possibility that they might be bigoted. They would assure me through clinched teeth that they weren’t bigoted, they were right. They could then in good conscience drive away with their “Honor Diversity” bumper stickers unblemished and their pride in their openness undiminished, while I reflected that, regardless of their stated values, people at either end of the political spectrum tend toward asininity. I seriously doubt that it is possible to agree with everything a given group believes without surrendering the willingness to think for oneself.

Many conservatives seem proud of their prejudices, whereas liberals had rather be skinned alive than admit to theirs. This is because they exist in opposition to what liberals claim to hold most dear, namely that all people are equal and deserving of respect. While it’s true that white loggers, white ranchers, white fat people, white Republicans, white evangelicals, white Southerners, white blue-collar workers, white people who live in trailer parks, and white people who are under-educated, are all fair game to the un-prejudiced, they would not regard their hatred as bigotry but as fact-based analysis. As with the people who thought they knew everything they needed to know about me based upon my accent, such liberals would argue that you’re only prejudiced if you’re wrong, and they aren’t wrong.

A few months ago—and upon learning where I was from—a Canadian reader wrote: “From Mississippi, are you? I have enough bigots in my life. Please don’t come near my blog again.” Another liberal reader was so incensed that I didn’t consider it obvious that the cop in the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, shooting was motivated by racism, that she said she was too upset to talk about it. Like all good liberals, both of these readers prided themselves on their openness to other people’s views, but drew the line at views in opposition to their own even when, as with the Canadian reader, he didn
’t know what my views were.
 
Several years ago, residents of a rundown part of Eugene called The Whiteaker Neighborhood risked vandalism if they painted their houses, replaced a fence, or did some other home improvement project. This was because even the most humble efforts to make one’s abode attractive were said to discriminate against the poor by raising housing costs. It was a case of anti-gentrification taken to its logical conclusion. Just as some liberal heterosexual couples refuse to marry until all gays can marry, some liberal property owners refuse to repair their houses until all people have houses. Of course, this implies that they want to marry and repair their houses.


In the year 2000, two Wiccans who worked for the Eugene city government complained that Christmas trees were symbols of Christian oppression and violence, and they asked that such trees be prohibited on city property. Although the U.S. Supreme Court had declared in 1989 that Christmas trees are not symbols of Christianity (most atheists have them), Jim Johnson, Eugene’s city manager at the time, banned them from city offices in the interest of what he called “practicing diversity” (liberals often find it necessary to abolish diversity in order to encourage it). When firemen bitterly complained that their fire stations were their homes away from home, Johnson finally allowed them to have one small tree per station on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day only—if no one complained.

One of the most appalling incidents of academic liberal intolerance occurred in 2005 when Harvard president Lawrence Summers suggested during a speech that research be done in order to determine whether innate differences between men and women might partly explain why fewer women choose careers in science, engineering, and math. Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at M.I.T., walked out on Summers’ talk, saying that, had she stayed, “I would’ve either blacked-out or thrown-up.” When the Harvard faculty passed a “no confidence” vote against him, Summers resigned.

Fanatics are usually able to set the tenor for a given group because people had rather let them do it than to be attacked as traitors for speaking out. Partially for this reason, I have come to distrust all cause-oriented groups and to hate a great many of them. For example, when Bush Jr. invaded Iraq, I joined the local war protests, but when they became more pro-anarchistic than anti-war, I could no longer in good conscience support them. I have also lost liberal friends as I did recently over the Ferguson, Missouri, incident. It wasn’t enough that I agreed that blacks are getting a raw deal, my friend considered me a racist because I couldn’t agree with her that racism was responsible for that particular shooting. Nothing breeds fanaticism like religion, patriotism, partisanism, and political correctness. 



*Atheism is something about which both liberals and conservatives are closed-minded (liberals less so because they are less religious). Much of my antipathy toward my species comes from my knowledge that I am widely hated, not for what I do but for what I don't believe. I read recently of an atheist who, upon coming out to his family, was told by his sister that she had rather leave her children alone with a pedophile than with him because a pedophile could only harm their bodies; he could destroy their souls.

23 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Like you, I lean more liberal than conservative but I consider myself neither one. The extremes of either conception are trouble.

PhilipH said...

Je suis Charlie. What's that got to do with this posting? No idea really, but it just came into my mind.

Political correctness gets worse as time goes by. It gags a lot of us when in public forums but in private many of us still say what we want.

In America it seems to be a lot more 'dangerous' to deviate from the rigidity of theism. In the UK we don't seem to be as 'religious' as Americans and I am happy about that. We still 'respect' others who ARE Christians, Jews and especially Moslems when in public; in private we don't give a damn.

Elephant's Child said...

Another left-leaner here. And, I also have trouble with extremists. About almost anything.
Perhaps it is a cultural difference, or I am unobservant but I have been despised and/or pitied for my lack of belief but not, I think, hated.

Snowbrush said...

“In America it seems to be a lot more 'dangerous' to deviate from the rigidity of theism.”

It’s a wonder to me that some countries which have state supported churches are accepting of atheism while America isn’t. However, churches here ARE state supported in various ways, but this isn’t widely known even to churchgoers. Churches even have the advantage over other charities in that they’re no accountable for the way they spend their money.

“We still 'respect' others who ARE Christians, Jews and especially Moslems…”

If you listen to the politicians here, you would think that Islam was as gentle and peaceful as a wee tiny puppy, but a large part of the population despises it as vicious and intolerant beyond words, as do I.

“I have been despised and/or pitied for my lack of belief but not, I think, hated.’

Atheists are seen by many if not most people here as depraved and unpatriotic. George H. Bush even said the following during an interview:

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?

Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.

Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

Here’s what one of his representatives added to that:

Sherman: American Atheists filed the Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit yesterday. Does the Bush campaign have an official response to this filing?

Murnane: It's bullshit.

Sherman: What is bullshit?

Murnane: Everything that American Atheists does, Rob, is bullshit.



Republicans today would go even further than Bush in that they don’t even pretend to support the separation of church and state. Rick Santorum, one of their presidential candidates, said that the Constitutional goal of keeping church and state separate.”…makes me want to throw-up.” Such Republicans are actively working toward a theocracy, and the idea that people who are happily anticipating the Battle of Armageddon are serious contenders for the presidency makes me want to throw up. As for those who vote for them, even if you’re a Christian, why would you support such candidates? Honestly, isn't Obama warlike enough? Do you really want people who are looking forward to the destruction of the earth to be a position where they have the power to bring it about?

Stephen Hayes said...

I lean more liberal than conservative but both extremes need to be held in check. We are all prejudiced; we've been designed to seek out people like ourselves, those we feel comfortable with. The goal is not to act on our prejudices but to see each person as they truly are. That last line in your post is devastating.

Tom Sightings said...

Good, thought-provoking post. The political spectrum is not a straight line; it is a circle, with extreme right and extreme left meeting up in the end. After all, the most extreme right (Hitler) and most extreme left (Stalin and Mao) have this is common: they are all responsible for killing more than 50 million people.

A more prosaic example: A survey of people with bumper stickers on their cars found that on average the more stickers someone had, the more aggressive the driver. It didn't matter whether the sticker said Hands Off My Guns, or Coexist, the results were the same -- the more emphatic they were, the angrier and more aggressive they were.

All Consuming said...

You know I'm left leaning, I deplore all of the extremists, whichever flag they may be waving. I don't agree with all you've said, but I am very aware that we have had very different experiences so far as age, country, and life generally goes. The country part is a big one - as Philip says atheism isn't a problem here, and I love that. Sadly the protection of extremist factions is far higher here than in your country - so swings and roundabouts. I don't like labels, people take them and make huge assumptions about who you are before a word is said as to the truth. You've clearly experienced this, where you're from for one - that happens here, but not in such a nasty fashion. For myself - liberal/feminist/Vegan = weak willed/men-hating = idiot - that's what the media do with words they don't like, and it's the right wingers doing it. I work on my tolerance for the conservatives I knows and are friends with because that's what I wish to have back. A meeting of minds is a difficult thing in politics and can cut to the quick in some cases. You've helped with that tolerance, because of your unfailing patience with those who disagree with you, and the way you communicate with them too - calmly. So I thank you for that. Ultimately it all comes down to our experiences, and no, I'm not going to go through the bits I disagree on *laughs*, my brain ain't up to it, but it has no relevance to how much I love you.

It's the big Election here today. All we've had is the media driving various parties views and lies at us. Bombarding us. I'm quite sick of the whole thing, but vote I shall.

Snowbrush said...

“Good, thought-provoking post.”

Thank you.

“After all, the most extreme right (Hitler) and most extreme left (Stalin and Mao) have this is common: they are all responsible for killing more than 50 million people.”

The apathetic let atrocities happen, but they’re not directly responsible for them. Is this a significant difference? As I see it, everyone in this country who pays taxes and keeps his/her mouth shut is as responsible for America’s bullshit wars as are Bush and Obama, and that means me. My reasoning is that nothing I might do would make a bit of difference.

“A survey of people with bumper stickers on their cars found that on average the more stickers someone had, the more aggressive the driver.”

As the joke goes, “His bumper sticker said, ‘Honk if you love Jesus,’ so I honked, and he flipped me the bird.” As I’m sure you know, the theory is that bumper stickers create territorial boundaries, and if the driver perceives those boundaries as being trespassed, he/she reacts with rage. Maybe it’s also true that bumper stickers imply fanaticism. On a personal note, the house next to mine is a rental, and I’ve gotten along splendidly with every resident but one. His car was loaded with bumper stickers promoting peace and goodwill, yet he couldn’t find enough things to complain about, so much so that I dreaded seeing him walk over. I’ve often thought that I would avoid some bumper stickers because I knew I couldn’t live up to them. Most, I just find to miss the point of the other side’s argument. For example, “If You Don’t Trust Me with a Choice, How Can You Trust Me with a Child?”

“Good, thought-provoking post.”

Thank you.

“After all, the most extreme right (Hitler) and most extreme left (Stalin and Mao) have this is common: they are all responsible for killing more than 50 million people.”

The apathetic let atrocities happen, but they’re not directly responsible for them. Is this a significant difference? As I see it, everyone in this country who pays taxes and keeps his/her mouth shut is as responsible for America’s bullshit wars as are Bush and Obama, and that means me.

“I don't agree with all you've said…”

I wish you had said more about this, so I could have responded aggressively in order to show you how very wrong you are… think I’ll put on another bumper sticker.

“I am very aware that we have had very different experiences so far as age, country, and life generally goes.”

Yes, such as the “dating ads” you posted that you found funny and I found offensive. I can laugh uproariously at Borat movies and Sarah Silverman’s stand-up comedy, yet I’m offended by women whom I perceive to behave stuttily. I think I”ve always been this way, but have I? I do know that, when watching movies, I’ve always found the “quiet librarian” type far more appealing than the brazen vixen.

“You've helped with that tolerance, because of your unfailing patience with those who disagree with you”

That is becoming harder for me, and the drugs don’t help. I never got the Oxycontin, so I’m on a higher dose of oxycodone, and I’ve noticed with it that patience is coming harder. Also, having excoriated one reader (Joseph) it seems easier to do the same with others. You’ve encouraged me to stop that progression.

All Consuming said...

"You’ve encouraged me to stop that progression." - Nooooo get rid of the nuts!!! *laughs*. A cat with a woman's face isn't slutty, it's really bloody weird. Still, on the bright side, we won't be arguing about that for the rest of eternity because I'm the only one who has to have the last word. *grins*.

G. B. Miller said...

Interesting post.

I lean towards being a moderate Republican (coming from a household of hardcore conservative Democrats) and I see this nonsense at my job all the time (guv'ment worker here). I've even been the victim of this nonsense when a security got offended by my comment about her hair one day (I called it "interesting"), so she filed a complaint with my HR director about it. She also pumped it up a bit by adding a complete like claiming I said something about her job last summer.

Suffice to say, my HR director chose to believe her than to believe me about it.

Snowbrush said...

“A cat with a woman's face isn't slutty, it's really bloody weird.”

Is a woman with a cat’s face so bloody awful then? What if she’s writhing around on a bed?

I’ve given some more thought about my tendency to be less restrained. Reasonably or not, I often feel that I put more into my responses than I get back. For instance, I often spend a lot of time answering someone questions without ever knowing if they read my response. On such occasions, I think it reasonable to expect that which I myself would give, which is an acknowledgement. Recently, someone asked me a question that would have required an extremely long answer, so I thought and thought about how to answer it, and finally suggested that I send her something. She declined, saying that she really wasn’t that interested. This infuriated me because she had to have known that her question wasn’t one that I could answered in a few paragraphs, so this meant that she was willing to put me to a lot of trouble to answer a question that she wasn’t even interested in knowing the answer to. I ask myself what is it that I’m being patient for, what is my reward here, and it’s hard to tell sometimes. Instead of saying, “this is how I see it,” I’m increasingly tempted to say “fuck off,” and just knowing you have appreciated my efforts inspires me to keep trying.

“I lean towards being a moderate Republican (coming from a household of hardcore conservative Democrats)”

Are you from the South? Growing up in Mississippi, the Democratic Party was the conservative party and the “Party of Lincoln” the liberal party (remember the “Freedom Democrats”?). That has, of course, changed. The problem I see with being a moderate Republican is that the candidates for national office are rarely moderate. It seems to me that if you’re not a “born again” admirer of Ayn Rand (who was, ironically, an atheist), the Republican Party has no place for you, at least as a candidate, and I should imagine that you would feel uncomfortable as an active member. Of course, I couldn’t be an active member in the Democratic Party either, although what little hope I have for a brighter tomorrow lies with it.

“my HR director chose to believe her than to believe me about it.”

I’m sickened to hear of this. If you’re white and male, I think you’re often at a disadvantage from the outset (in a politically correct environment) if your attacker is a female and/or a person of another race. I’m not sure the Republicans are any better, but believe they are simply as bad about different things. For instance, I subscribe to Forethought Today, and read account after account of people being persecuted because they aren’t “born again” Christians. The stronger the Republicans become, the more this will become a problem, I believe. I can’t see that the party gives a rip about religious liberty or the environment, yet these are two of my most important concerns.

Sparkling Red said...

I am like you and Charles G.; I don't identify with any one political pole, but feel more sympathy with liberals. Fortunately for me, Canada has three major political parties: right, left-lite, and extreme-left. I have been tending to vote left-lite, (even though they are as corrupt as any political organization... I feel that I've got to vote for someone. It would be irresponsible not to vote at all.)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Very profound thoughts.

I was very impressed when you said that all human beings are closed-minded. This is the crux of the problem.

Islam should change as the world opinion changes and not live like frogs in the well.

Politicians cannot be trusted. They make false promises and mislead people in order make money for themselves and their families.

Excellent post. I enjoyed reading it.

Snowbrush said...

“I was very impressed when you said that all human beings are closed-minded. This is the crux of the problem.”

My point was that it’s possible to be so open minded that one discards all absolutes, and I believe it to be a destructive position even if it could be achieved.

“Politicians cannot be trusted.”

In America, they are put in a position that, to win, they have to sell their souls to moneyed interests. Until recently, there was a limit to campaign contributions on the part of such interests, but it no longer exists, and so our elections are going to the highest contributors.

“Excellent post. I enjoyed reading it.”

Thank you. I’m glad you came by.

Ginny said...

"Nothing breeds fanaticism like religion, patriotism, partisanism, and political correctness."

You are so right on this. Fanaticism helps no one and really solves nothing.

lotta joy said...

A little bit of intelligence can be cured by a lot of research. I find it shocking that these particular wiccans were too ignorant to know that "Christmas" trees have their roots in pagan rites.

The problem with labels is there's no testing required to be properly labeled, and people LOVE labels.

These were no more "wiccans" than any teenager declaring they are too, after watching the latest Harry Potter movie.

Joe was called for jury duty and is now worried he won't be here when I need him to accompany me to doctor's visits.

I told him to answer their interview questions with the following: "I believe in the death penalty without regard to the particular crime" or to just say "I'm an atheist".

NO murdering, necrophiliac, child molesting, animal abusing rapist would want to be judged by anyone as vile as an atheist.

Snowbrush said...

“Fanaticism helps no one and really solves nothing.”

Of course, fanaticism is in the eye of the beholder, so people who I considered heroes of atheism would doubtless be considered fanatics by their detractors, as would those who supported women’s suffrage and, more recently, environmentalism.

“I find it shocking that these particular wiccans were too ignorant to know that "Christmas" trees have their roots in pagan rites.”

I would guess they did, but, like a lot of things, Xmas trees were appropriated by Christianity, so maybe that’s what they were objecting to. Theirs is a modern and made-up religion that pretends to be ancient. Religions tend to either develop a unifying governing structure or perish, so I don’t expect Wicca to last indefinitely unless it changes.

“Joe was called for jury duty”

I’ve been dismissed for refusing to take the jurors’ oath, which contained “so help me God.” Once you do that, the judge won’t dismiss you, but the prosecuting attorney might because atheists are less predictable, but considered more likely to bring in a not guilty verdict. All he need do is to say that he has such strong feelings about whatever crime is being tried that he can’t reach a fair verdict. Then again, he might get off simply by calling down to the courthouse and saying he is is ailing wife’s only caregiver. Age might also get him off, but here the magic number is seventy, and I doubt that he’s reached it yet.

possum said...

Some interesting thoughts here - as usual. What seemed to stick with me is the need for people to label themselves or others. I hated those labels in school and took most of them as a challenge.
I, too, tend to be considered a liberal, yet in some ways I am the conservative in some groups. Go figure.
As for jury duty, even being an open Unitarian, let alone a Buddhist, will get you off the list permanently around here. But stating you are an atheist in many cases precludes your being allowed certain (usually elected) jobs where you must take an oath of office. How often that law is enforced, I have no idea.

Snowbrush said...

“What seemed to stick with me is the need for people to label themselves or others.”

I very much appreciate labels if they fit. I especially get impatient with atheists who won’t admit to being atheists because they say the term is negative. Well, come on, you can also call yourself a humanist, a naturalist, or a rationalist, but if you don’t believe in a supernatural deity than by the customary use of the word, you’re also an atheist. I think that what such people are really concerned about is avoiding the hatred that comes with the word.

“As for jury duty, even being an open Unitarian, let alone a Buddhist, will get you off the list permanently around here.”

Unofficially, I’m sure, because they can’t deny a person the right to serve for such reasons.

“But stating you are an atheist in many cases precludes your being allowed certain (usually elected) jobs where you must take an oath of office. How often that law is enforced, I have no idea.”

Eight states (all in the South except for Pennsylvania and Maryland) still have laws that preclude atheists from holding office, although the Supreme Court declared these laws unconstitutional in 1961. I suppose the laws don’t get challenged simply because no open atheist could win an election.

Joe Pereira said...

Political Correctness if left unchecked is as detrimental to free- thinking as organized religion. Great post Snow

All Consuming said...

"Is a woman with a cat’s face so bloody awful then? What if she’s writhing around on a bed?" - Yes, a woman with a cat's face is just as weird, and the writhing about on the bed bit is an add-on from your imagination hahahaha. It is. But if such a creature were to be, then it could only be considered slutty if you found the whole concept attractive in some form in the first place. I concede that to people who fancy women with cats faces, and cats with women's faces it might be more than a little lascivious. Whatever floats your furry boat man *winks*.

OneOldGoat said...

I read - and mostly enjoy - all of your posts. I've tried desparately over the many years to believe. I really want to believe and have faith. But I don't. I can't find any reason to believe. The fact that you - who writes so eloquently, is so educated, has searched so thoroughly - can't find anything to believe in........gives me zero hope. Which now that I am no longer needed in my role as a mother, wonder why the hell I am even here.
Snowbrush, your blog has touched me like nothing I've ever read. Some people may consider you a jerk but I've always thought that you are honest and that you write directly to the point. I consider you a friend.

OneOldGoat said...

And I didn't mean that previous post to sound whiny - which it was.........but I just wanted to let you know (again, I think), that you do have a positive influence on your readers and that not everything is black and white!

Oh crap - enough.......have a great weekend!