Monday, October 8, 2018
We have nothing whatsoever in common
I've been thinking about the explosion of anger, vitriol, profanity - and, yes, grief - from the far-left, progressive wing of US politics over the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh's appountment to the Supreme Court, and his swearing in over the weekend. This tweet from Caitie McCaffrey, whom I understand is a senior employee at Microsoft's Azure, may as well speak for all of them.
(I note that Ms. McCaffrey's Twitter account has been changed to private status, so that only "confirmed followers" can read it. Why is it that so many of these extremists think they can avoid the consequences of their words and actions by doing that? It's become almost a knee-jerk reflex among certain circles. To me, it smacks of dishonesty - but then, I was raised never to say anything of which I'd be ashamed, or which I'd later rue. I haven't always kept to that standard, but it's stood me in good stead over the years. Perhaps progressive extremists should try it sometime?)
There's no avoiding the conclusion that such people have almost nothing in common with me, and those who think like me. I'm prepared to make every accommodation I can to get along with other people. In the words (mis)attributed to Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". However, what was said in Ms. McCaffrey's tweet was a tissue of lies. "Gender traitors"? "Accomplices to sexual assault"? "Deaths of women"? Does she actually know - let alone believe - what she was saying? The only excuse I can think of for her vitriolic hyperbole is that she's so upset, she's no longer able to think straight. If that tweet is an example of her actually thinking straight, God help her - literally.
Can free speech be extended to open, out-and-out lies that have no foundation in fact? Should we be expected to extend credence and tolerance to mendacity? I can't think that Voltaire would have approved of that. The trouble is, of course, that the very definition of "truth" has been so upended that it's almost impossible to arrive at a generally accepted meaning for the term. To me, truth is factually accurate, verifiable, testable and measurable. Political discourse (such as it is) seldom qualifies for that label. When it comes to fundamental truths at the root of society, such as those outlined in the Preamble to the US Declaration of Independence, they are adopted as the founding principles of that society, and enshrined at the root of its laws. To challenge them is to challenge the society based upon them. Nowadays, particularly among politicians and activists, who is so rooted in and grounded on their nation's political foundation that it is secure in his or her hands? Who would cheerfully overthrow every historical aspect of their society, in order to remake it according to the dictates of political correctness and expediency?
That perspective has invaded popular entertainment (see, for example, the Star Wars brouhaha). It's dominating social media, to such an extent that dissenting voices are frequently silenced without explanation or alternative outlet. It's become a deliberate attempt to silence all opposition - and that's why it's so dangerous. It cannot brook opposition. It must win all the time, every time, its proponents believe. Opposition is treason. Dissent is hostile. Even questioning political correctness is unethical.
I was prepared to at least try to have a rational discussion with such people, but they've made it absolutely impossible, because for them discussion must inevitably lead to the triumph of their point of view. No other outcome is acceptable. They don't debate, they seek to demolish. They don't listen, they scream all the louder to drown you out. I have nothing in common with them, and I think most people of character and fundamental honor and decency can say the same.
We're perilously close to a situation where we'll no longer be able to resolve our differences at the ballot box, because mutual accommodation will no longer be possible. If that happens . . . look for the next Fort Sumter on the horizon. It won't take long to arrive.