Willful Misunderstandings

Nicholas Kristof posted a column this morning about how we understand each other or, more precisely, how we don't.

I agree with him when he suggests that we liberals should try harder to understand our conservative fellow citizens, but I disagree when he says that they already understand us.

I don't think so.

One of the offerings from last weekend's BookTV was a piece hosted by the Heritage Foundation with Mark Levin, touting his new book, Ameritopia.

If what Levin is claiming is what conservatives actually think about both the history of this country and the attitudes of liberals toward it, he is dead wrong. In the interests of full disclosure, I have to say I didn't listen to the whole thing, but I may have to revisit the BookTV's site, because there is so much there that is more than wrong.

Not only does it contribute to the paucity of understanding between the right and the left, to use those vague terms which actually only indicate a general direction, not an ultimate destination. It does so in a manner that seems, to me at least, to erase the struggles of our country to live up to our founding ideals.

If these are the people who conservatives are listening to, they are being disserved. They are being led down a path of willfull misunderstanding. They cannot have a real clue about who liberals are or what we want. They cannot even have a complete picture of the history of our country.

They are being read Dick and Jane and are told that it is Shakespeare.

Let me clear something up right now. Liberals are individuals. Liberals believe in individual freedom. Liberals will defend to the death even Mark Levin's right to say almost anything with the possible exception of shouting Fire! in a crowded theatre. Which you cannot do.

Nor can you shit in the river or light a bonfire in the middle of a dry forest.

When liberals are painted as socialists, it is assumed that we value the community over the individual. What we really do is recognize the value of the individual within the community, of the symbiosis of each, where the community helps each individual to achieve their highest potential and individuals acknowledge their role as members of the community at large.

I'm willing to believe that conservatives have an important part to play in ensuring that the rights of the individual are well-protected within the broader needs of the community.

Unfortunately, I believe that the current crop of conservative leaders are leading their flock away from any meaningful contribution to the public interest. They are willfully promoting misunderstanding.

Which makes it very difficult for people on "my side of the aisle" to see the value to be gained by listening.