Standing Against “Stupid or Evil”

If we are to honestly engage and discover the “other” side, political, economic, religious, or one of the other measures by which our society is divided one thing has to be set aside, which alas is hard to do. It is easy to decide that the “other” side are stupid or evil, and they are by and large no more stupid nor evil than any other side of the fray, with of course a few obvious exceptions. From my comments yesterday,

I believe that the truest measure of a society is how they treat those who are least able to defend and to speak for themselves.

How a Republican could say that with a straight face is beyond me.

“Bravely fighting for tax cuts for the rich” would be a little more… true.

The Democrats, the progressives, and the GOP all share concern for the poor and “those who are least able to defend and speak for themselves”. It is true, on both sides, there are stupid people and there are evil people. And one can likely argue endlessly about which side has a smidgen more of which and which particular individuals are stupid or evil.

If one suggests, for example, that private charity is a better approach generically to dealing with the less fortunate in our midst than broad stroke applications of OPM administered by “somebody else.” That doesn’t mean either the person who favors the big OPM approach vs the private approach have a different concern for the unfortunate, but that they differ on what is the best and the most effective means. Alternatively on one side, one might suggest that strong long term economic growth is better for the poor than tepid or slow growth.

Mr Obama, Mr McCain, Mr Cheney, Ms Pelosi, Mr Bush, and Mrs Palin none of them are stupid or evil, and this lesson should be remembered by all of us. What those on the “other” side don’t share with the rest of us are the same fundamental differences in our divides. Additionally of course, the “sides” themselves are far more complex than we like to pretend. There is no monolithic “GOP” view on the best solution to the problems that face the nation as there is no “monolithic” progressive one. We all see basically the same moral, ethical, and material world. However, there are a number of different assumptions one can make about how to order those things we see. But if we keep in mind that those who disagree with us on what is the “best” set of assumptions are just as smart and good (or not stupid and not evil if you prefer) as ourselves.

For example, in my recent essay (and follow-up) on healthcare, in which I noted that healthcare is certainly nothing like what I understand to be a right, it was pointed out that the costs of certain ideas on healtcare and new poverty-fighting programs match or exceed the current national budget. My notion is that the best thing would be to cut healthcare costs, suggesting that a one or two order of magnitude reduction of the costs involved in healthcare would be a far better way to insure that everyone gets it, because given that those costs are impossible … it’s actually more likelyl the only way that everyone will get it. I oppose nationalizing healthcare and healthcare insurance, and in fact, most healthcare regulation because I think those are the biggest obstacles to innovation in healthcare which is the only way those costs will come down. But that doesn’t mean either the person who is for nationalizing healthcare or me (who is against it) differ on motive, i.e., we all want everyone to have the quality and quantity of healthcare they desire … just the means to that end. That argument can be repeated almost universally across the board.

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9 comments

  1. I try to give my opponents the benefit of the doubt, and I know and love Republicans in my personal life, but good intentions just aren’t enough. It’s not enough to want people to have health care if you vote against policies and people that would deliver that health care.

    Also, if you look at the campaigns over the last month, McCain has been appealing to voters’ xenophobia and fear above all. Maybe he has good intentions and just thinks that the end justifies the means, but he and his surrogates have done some real evil. He’s gone out of his way to imply that Obama is a terrorist sympathizer when he knows that’s not true. He’s gone out of his way to paint Obama as “other,” as not “one of us,” as having some sort of secret, scary agenda.

    And the base is lapping it up. They’re shouting “kill him” and “terrorist,” etc. It took days of criticism by not just the left but by members of his own party and media partisans from his own side for him to finally say *something* to correct the misperceptions about Obama he himself was complicit in spreading.

    That is evil. Maybe he justifies it to himself with the belief that America really needs him rather than Obama, but his means are evil.

  2. Mark says:

    JA,
    You’re not making sense. You write:

    I try to give my opponents the benefit of the doubt, and I know and love Republicans in my personal life, but good intentions just aren’t enough. It’s not enough to want people to have health care if you vote against policies and people that would deliver that health care.

    Uhm, if you think the “policies and people” would be harmful to heathcare for the poor, then you’d vote against them. Duh.

    Btw, I’ve heard the “kill him” and “terrorist” references were misquoted by the MSM (incomplete references used to mislead), the person that they were intended to refer to was Mr Ayers, not Mr Obama. But the left is who is lapping up the misconception.

    Nobody, even the evil, considers themselves and their actions to be evil. Sorry, but that is the case except (perhaps) the very rare insane individuals. None of the politicians in the race today are insane (or more properly, if you contend one is, they all are).

  3. Boonton says:

    One “kill him” reference was quoted by a MSM reporter as referring to Ayers (this is based on the assumption it came from the crowd right after Ayers’s name was mentioned). Other’s misquoted that as referring to Obama.

    But that still is disturbing. Usually crowds shouting for someone to be killed tend not to be too discriminating.

  4. Mark says:

    Both of y’all,
    It seems to me you generalize and color “all the right” with blanket negative impressions based on a few cries of this sort. Did you do the same, regarding the left when “kill Bush” cries appear.” Did you then consider that, on the left, this was then highly disturbing. For you know, such cries “tend not to be too discriminating?”

  5. Uhm, if you think the “policies and people” would be harmful to heathcare for the poor, then you’d vote against them. Duh.

    Some people believe progressive taxation is moral. Otheres believe it is not, even if it hurts poor people. So yes, plenty of people would vote for policies that hurt poor people. They tell themselves the government has no right to distribute or that the poor deserve to be poor because they’re lazy, etc.

    Btw, I’ve heard the “kill him” and “terrorist” references were misquoted by the MSM (incomplete references used to mislead), the person that they were intended to refer to was Mr Ayers, not Mr Obama. But the left is who is lapping up the misconception.

    Uh-huh. And they weren’t booing Palin at the hockey game, they were saying, “we love yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.” At least that’s what “I heard.” 😉

  6. It’s not that a few crazies are yelling things but that McCain and (more so) Palin are practically encouraging them. This whole “who is the real Barack Obama?” campaign is all about painting him as Other. She said he “palled around with terrorists” “because he thinks America is so imperfect.” It’s politics at its most ugly and cynical.

    No way did Kerry or Edwards say things like that about Bush, let alone make it the center of their campaign.

  7. Mark says:

    JA,
    Whatever. If you think the progressive leadership wasn’t and didn’t encourage/enable such remarks you have a different recollection of 2003.

    Uhm, if you think the “policies and people” would be harmful to heathcare for the poor, then you’d vote against them. Duh.

    Some people believe progressive taxation is moral. Other’s believe it is not, even if it hurts poor people. So yes, plenty of people would vote for policies that hurt poor people. They tell themselves the government has no right to distribute or that the poor deserve to be poor because they’re lazy, etc.

    Yes, that’s your narrative to explain (and demonize) the nasty, i.e., evil, GOP. Stop it. It’s frankly both wrong and unhelpful. Look, you have enough imagination to cast, exactly the same statements about progressive taxation as immoral and that not providing bread and circuses for the poor is better for them than doing so. If you can’t, keep at it.

    I have to do the same thing. I have to remind myself and work remembering that progressives policies which I find horrific are not done with the specific intention of bringing about evil results.

  8. Kyle says:

    Point taken Mark, but you seems to ingore the noetic effects of sin. The “other side” is no more evil than I am. Nevertheless, every person has their own particular kind of sinfulness, and sin creates a blind spot. Whether it’s mine or somebody else’s, isn’t a sin-generated blind spot some kind of combination of evil and stupid?

  9. Boonton says:

    Did you do the same, regarding the left when “kill Bush” cries appear.”

    I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a crowd where someone yells Kill Bush. But I’ll take your point. If members of the crowd snicker in response and express disapproval of this ‘lone nuts’ statement that may not be as notable as the nut who cries ‘kill him’….so maybe I’ll hold off on bashing some of the Republican crowds barring additional evidence.