Friday, September 05, 2008

Could Everyone Please Stop Calling Each Other EVIL?

File this one under random and frustrated rants:

These heavy political seasons bring out the accusers of every political persuasion. People left, right and center (well, okay, less center than left and right) can't seem to help judging one another's motives. Most of these judgments lack the understanding that people can share similar goals while vastly disagreeing on method. I would wager that 99% of Americans share a desire for children to be wanted, raised in peace and safety, and all of their fellow citizens to prosper. I'm guessing that almost no one wants war and that we would all love to see America standing among many prosperous nations in the world, each with its sources of security and revenue, populated by happy and peaceful citizens. We all have different methods that we think will be successful in bringing about our desired ends, but hardly anyone wants other human beings to live in poverty, or to see animals suffer, or innocent children dying in endless wars, right? For the most part, people desire what is right, don't they? Is it possible for us all to agree on that, or am I the only person who has that kind of faith in the goodwill of the average American? (I am not talking about ability and accomplishment here, just intentions.) Am I just that much more naive than other people?

Judging by "the accusers" of all political stripes, seemingly no generous motives can possibly exist in the hearts of the disloyal opposition. By the standards of their most extreme opponents, liberals support abortion because they think humanity is an infestation upon the earth and they enjoy killing babies. On the other extreme, conservatives opposed to abortion are thought to simply want to control everyone's lives and keep women tied to their unwanted offspring while men dominate the world. Conservatives face the accusation that their support for free markets and self-sufficiency can only come from their desire to increase their own lofty fortunes by stripping the last dollar from the hands of poor unfortunate children and uneducated social victims. The alternative accusation is that liberals use these same unfortunate children and uneducated social victims as an excuse to strip every last dollar from hardworking taxpayers so that they can increase the power of Big Brother and ultimately transfer all financial control to the Democratic majority in Congress--and ultimately the United Nations. Conservatives, of course, really want to rule the world.

Can we just all stop it, please? Whatever we think of each other's methods, could we please just give other people a little benefit of the doubt as to their motives? No one can see into another person's heart. We all misinterpret what we see even with our own eyes (and our eyes don't come anywhere close to reading minds). I know I do it all the time. On a personal level, I take things as slights, or even attacks, that are nothing of the sort, but my inability to see beyond my own perspective and insecurities hinders my ability to give other people their due as far as their intent. I regularly have to call myself up short, and seek God's help in not letting my limited vision make me see others as intentionally hurtful or neglectful, or whatever--and this is with people I love and desire to think well of. On the macro level, I see this multiplied many times over when expanded to group and political party dynamics. Larger groups of people become anonymous, and so much easier to judge. Whole categories of people somehow have the capacity to become evil en masse in a way that none of these people would be ever viewed if two ideological opponents were simply chatting in line at the grocery store about their favorite dish soap or Chardonnay.

Based on blog posts and comments I read (and I read a lot of them), from one political extreme to another, liberals and conservatives espousing their own views truly see themselves as the good, right, noble, compassionate and virtuous party in every ideological dispute. They want what they see as good to come to fruition. They aren't seeking to have wrong rule the world, but many of them don't seem to be able to recognize that same fact in other people who don't see things their way. Many refuse to even listen when someone puts out an idea that is different from their own. Some of these might actually be good ideas. If we could recognize that the folks out there that we disagree with aren't trying to be evil, and listen to each other once in a while, maybe we could make a little progress in finding common ground.

Or am I just being naive again?

Rant over.

Update: Please don't get me wrong. I do firmly believe that there is evil in the world, but do not believe that the average person intends to be evil and sets out to support wrong. They may be wrong, but that's not the same thing.