Hat tip by The Achoress
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.
I would love nothing better than to be able to stop writing about “left” and “right.” I wish we had a better vocabulary to describe our distinctions, because these words are limiting and off-putting. I am determined, with the merciful conclusion of this abusively long election season, to work diligently at spending less time entertaining these distinctions. But for today, I think it is only fair to note a very important and glaring difference between “left and right” – and in so doing – consider how we may, finally, stop needing to indulge in what is tedious.
Victor Davis Hanson says Let’s not imitate the left in our opposition. I agree.
It has been wonderful – really beyond wonderful – to consider how differently most of the right has reacted to their defeat than the left did in 2000 and 2004. In the two previous elections, the left responded by calling the other half of the country “stupid,” “morons,” and “Nazis” – Jane Smiley called them “unteachably ignorant” – they indulged in high drama, sniffling “apologies” to the globe, and denunciations of their fellow countrymen as “lying between repugnant and reptile in the dictionary.”
And oh, yeah (eyeroll) George W. Bush was not “their” president.
While you’ll see a few disgruntled extremists on the right say foolish, even ignorant things – and many throwing daggers at the sickening double-standards of the press – they’re not indulging in that sort of dehumanizing (and very adolescent) hate of their fellow countrymen or the president-elect. The reports they’re filing read very differently than those following the Bush wins. They read as grown-up, tolerant, open-minded discourses, not tantrums. There is a willingness to be hopeful, even in defeat.
And there is a determined respectfulness being offered to the winners – people who could not manage maturity and respectfulness in their defeat and who, sadly, are not always managing it in their victory, either.
I’m hopeful that the left – if it takes the time to actually condescend to notice how well it is being treated by the vanquished – might consider that self-indulgent defamation is the lesser way; that such a consideration may inspire introspection, and perhaps the smallest bit of regret for some of their appalling excesses toward the right and toward the American President who did not return hate in-kind.
I’m hopeful. I’m an optimist. I KNOW that the folks on the right – for all of their faults, and both sides certainly have faults – want America to be successful and strong and exceptional and free. I’m hopeful that hugely empowered left will discover that – beyond the feel-goodism of “free social programs” which are never free –they actually, really do want all of those things, too. That they’ll look back on the last 8 years and realize, finally, that their enemy was never George W. Bush. Bush, the guy who never dehumanized them, was only trying serve those corny ideals.
And then, miraculously, we may actually have unity.
“The one mistake that we continue to make is that we label people. We say you’re conservatives, liberal, progressive, right wing, left wing. I think people just want to spend one day being Americans. They want to come together around a common purpose, common values.”
I wondered the other day if the catharsis of this election might open up “a vein of generosity” (or at least decency) from the left as concerns President Bush. I have not seen it yet, but I’m going to be optimistic and keep looking.
I link, therefore, I Err has a little mini-round-up of appreciation for George W. Bush. You’ll want to read it all.
From Alppuccino at Protein Wisdom:
At 10:40, President Bush will keep his streak alive by telling everyone how much he loves America. Just as he always has. And he’ll show everyone how much he loves America by preparing Obama as best he can for the next 4 years.
Read it all; it’s doubtful that Obama’s team will come into the White House finding O’s missing from their keyboards, any rude messages greeting them. And that is how it should be in America, a respectful transition.
Many liberals refuse to concede Bush’s humanity, much less his achievements.
But that humanity is precisely what I will remember. I have seen President Bush show more loyalty than he has been given, more generosity than he has received. I have seen his buoyancy under the weight of malice and his forgiveness of faithless friends. Again and again, I have seen the natural tug of his pride swiftly overcome by a deeper decency — a decency that is privately engaging and publicly consequential.
[In 2005]…the White House senior staff overwhelmingly opposed a new initiative to fight malaria in Africa for reasons of cost and ideology…In the crucial policy meeting, one person supported it: the president of the United States, shutting off debate with a moral certitude that others have criticized. I saw how this moral framework led him to an immediate identification with the dying African child, the Chinese dissident, the Sudanese former slave, the Burmese women’s advocate. It is one reason I will never be cynical about government — or about President Bush.
[The treatment of President Bush] from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have…Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty — a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.
Until we fix, within ourselves, our enthrallment with hate for others, simply because they hold differing views, we’ll never pull it together. In 2006 we watched a right-wing blogger be called less than human by a left-wing reader. We’ve seen President Bush being referred to as “the chimp” and “the monkey” by the wits who insisted that ideology trumped having a decent respect for another’s humanity. I wrote about that a little here:
Thus, George W. Bush is “Chimpy McHitler.” Hillary Clinton is “a pig in a pantsuit.” Barack Obama is “O-Bambi.” Cindy McCain, who has exhibited some courage and laudable compassion in her life, is reduced to a “pill-popping beer-frau,” and so forth. From there it is smooth sailing down an ever-descending river of hatred, until we are incapable of seeing anything good in the “other,” both because we have willfully hardened our hearts, and because our hate — especially when it is supported by a group of like minds — feels safe and inviolable.
With that in mind, you’ll want to read this excellent piece over at Conversion Diary, wherein Jenifer ponders pictures from a Nazi-era photo album and wonders, how such common-variety people managed to support and enable such profound evil.
One thing that stands out in all these examples is that the victims of the widespread evil were categorized as something less than human…not only that innocent people were killed or enslaved, but that their humanity was taken away by the societies around them…So here is the advice I would offer to my children, and to my children’s children:
Every decade or so, take a look around the society in which you live, and ask yourself if there is any group of human beings who are seen as something less than human. A big tipoff is if dehumanizing words — terms other than “man,” “woman,” “child,” “baby,” or “person” — are used to describe any category of people.
And if you ever see that going on, you might be in the midst of something gravely evil.
Dehumanizing people begins with baby-steps like name-calling, or the sort of intellectual dishonesty that delights in deliberately twisting the meaning of others in negative and misrepresentative ways. Those are the little gateways to the great evils that come once you’ve managed to thoroughly de-humanize others.
We’ve had 8 years – I’d say 12, really – of people demonizing and dehumanizing others, from both sides, and it is not getting us anyplace good. I believe that the response of most of the right to Obama’s victory is a step toward changing that. But the left has to do their part, too.
Pope Benedict XVI said, “those who hope live differently.” The election of Barack Obama was borne on this word, “Hope.”
If the people who voted for “hope” were sincere, then let them begin, today, to embrace it – and to live differently – without the kneejerk move to hate “the other side.” The right, responding levelly to their defeat, has offered the opening. Will the left take it?
UPDATE: Seems some will. Here is mostly accurate, and appreciated praise from a surprising quarter:
Would America have elected Barack Obama if white Americans had not gotten accustomed to seeing (in succession) two African-American Secretaries of State? I don’t think so. Before Bush, African-Americans were appointed to some good posts but not to our #1 foreign policy job. Two African Americans (one with a pretty odd first name) served as America’s face to the world. That eased Obama’s way. It is not Tiger Woods in whose footsteps Obama is walking — it’s Rice and Powell….Fact is, “W” never gave any evidence of holding racist attitudes…even just the slur the occasionally slips out of the mouth of even our most liberal leaders.
Same with Arabs and Muslims…Bush, after 9/11, never resorted to anti-Arab or Muslim stereotypes. He drew distinctions between terrorists and Arabs…Had he not done these things, Arabs and Muslims might have experienced not just hate crimes but pogroms.
Meanwhile, from Grand Rants:
Here is a man who is regularly compared to Hitler in casual conversation in Leftist circles high and low. His honor has been regularly impugned, his intelligence (or, as the press loves to put it, his “intellectual curiousity”) constantly demeaned, his verbal stumblings consistently mocked, and his accomplishments in office discounted or ignored. He is a man who kept his head down and did his job, despite the slings and arrows hurled at him by fortune made all the more outrageous by nearly the entire Democratic party.
I for one, would like to say thank you to Pres. Bush. For keeping us safe. For watching out for us. For persevering in spite of all the spite. I believe history will ultimately judge you as one of America’s best presidents, and I believe you deserve that judgement.
H/T to Opinionated Catholic, who writes:
The throwing under the bus of the President by even his friends and indeed the base has been shocking to me. Many groups will find out soon enough how they took Bush’s support and advocacy for them for granted, Catholics, especially.
Meanwhile, Jules Crittenden is beginning to enjoy Omerica, Quin Hillyer is saying America is over, kaput, finished, Evan Thomas suddenly finds Obama “slightly creepy” and when you refuse to release medical records, and the press doesn’t care…conjecture begins about your mental health.
I like to have my morning coffee & after a bit of quiet time, I like to visit the Achoress and meditate a bit on her wisdom. I especially like her views on Bush. I know we have all been very disappointed with some of his views. I certainly have.You do have to hand it to the Man. He was our President and he kept us safe on his watch. I believe as the Achoress that he has been unfairly attacked by too many. It is one thing to disagree but quite another to have such hate. I know that many of you are as I, praying for our new President even though we vehemently disagree and will work diligently to keep him and those in Washington accountable. It will not always be flattering. Probably not. At the same time you won’ t see us wearing t-shirts with profanity on them and being vulgar like we have witnessed with both him and Sarah Palin. You don’t see us going on his supporters blogs and leaving vile messages and attacking their person.
Now while I agree with most of her gems of wisdom. I continue to think we need to stay on our toes, know what is going on, report it and work like mad, exercise our rights..organize to defeat BS. LOL! Continue to call, write, fax and email as if we were gonna die if we do not. Yes, that is what we need. Informed citizens who will do more than just whine. Who will actually bug their reps when votes are needed until they think they are going deaf with our noise. We did it with the bailout. We did it with the borders. We did it with drilling for oil. Yes, I know, some of that will have to be done again. But remember who and what you are doing it for. LIBERTY! yOUR BILL OF RIGHTS! YOUR CONSTITUTION. If we fail, we can look our children or grandchildren in their eyes and say ‘we tried and tried hard until the fat lady sang and then some’ Nuff said.