Humility is the key to Civility

There was an article in the New York Times on Thursday by opinion columnist and Keynesian economist Paul Krugman entitled “A Party Defined by it’s Lies”. His premise is that Republicans only stay in power by lying about their agenda and if that fails, they conjure up ungrounded fears about scary brown people (his phrase, not mine). There are a couple of problems with Krugman’s reasoning, however the purpose of this reflection is not to rebut his article. The problem in his piece is not unique to Krugman, but I do think it’s telling of the arrogance I see as the leading factor in the demise of our discourse.

The sub header of this piece is “at this point, good people can’t be Republicans.” Later in his piece, Krugman’s writes “it’s impossible to have intellectual integrity and a conscience and be a Republican in good standing.” Words struggle to express how much I hate this. What if I was some non-political junky (I mean I am, but if I wasn’t) who just wanted lower taxes, or a religious person who felt wrong serving a gay wedding? According to Krugman, that makes me a villain! But I would be unfair to suggest this is only coming from Krugman, or even just from the left. Some on the right like to claim they only think you’re wrong if you disagree with them while leftists think you’re evil. But let’s not give credit when none is due. I’ve heard people say things like “you can’t follow this religion if you don’t support strict social conservatism.” I hate this line of thinking so much, whether it’s from the left or the right. We should be able to disagree without coming to the conclusion our opponents are evil, irreligious, or morally bankrupt.

In reality, these statements are the product of arrogance and the inability to recognize people different people can think different things. Now, I am as devoted to what I believe as anyone. I see my politics as the natural outgrowth of my values, and since a lot of my beliefs flow out of first principles, it’s hard to convince me I’m wrong, because we’re often working towards different ends. That being said, I’m humble enough not to presume that good people can’t arrive at different conclusions than me. I know socialists who I think don’t know anything about economics, but that doesn’t make them evil. Even if I think a policy is wrong, people can have different things atop their hierarchy of values, which means we might come to irreconcilable differences on what types of policies are worth pursing. This is why I might agree with strict social conservatives on values, but my commitment to freedom leads us to disagree almost entirely on social policy. I might want to convince them why they should pursue the ideals I prioritize, but our differences shouldn’t be irreconcilable. Good people can disagree. This should not be a hard concept, but apparently we need a collective lesson in swallowing our pride and accepting it once more. There’s a lot of talk these days about civility. You can’t be civil with a group of people you think are evil, and a group of people will not be civil with you if you keep calling them evil.

To come to Krugman’s conclusion you must live in a bubble so thick it is impervious to everything, including logic and reason. Does Krugman not know a single person who at the very least thinks the President’s moral deficiencies are unfortunate but not disqualifying? If so, how is that possible? As prideful as I can be at times, the arrogance in Krugman’s assumptions is unbelievable. And people saying things like this is a problem. It plays right into the hands of those who benefit off dividing us. Because when you decide your opponents are evil and need to be stopped, they will soon side with anyone who fights back. And then you get a man in the office who’s best qualification is that he fights. Whenever someone on any side suggests there are no good people on the other side, the good people on the other side decide being good is not important anymore.

Most people would agree our political discourse is not in a good place, and it’s not trending in the right direction. Well it’s not going to change until we are humble enough to stop impugning each other as evil and accept the apparently terrifying notion that good people can disagree.

Thank you for reading, this was a quicker piece in preparation for the midterms tomorrow. I’m not sure what I’ll post later in the week, but I am going to try to be a little more concise going forward. If you’re going to be a voter tomorrow, be sure to be an educated one. As always, please like, comment, and follow. If you think I’m wrong, or want clarification on something, let me know.

Remember to be humble. Otherwise our problem of hating each other will only get worse.

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