To the Conservatives Who Hate Me

This piece was published in mid-March, 2019.

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I learned the other day about some conservatives who hate me for what I write. My op/ed messages, I heard, so infuriated a few people that they canceled their subscription to a newspaper to protest my words being published there.

It upset me to hear that, but I hardly should have been surprised.

It upset me because I’ve long cared about my relationship with conservatives in the Shenandoah Valley—a caring that began with the positive connection I had with them back in the 1990s, when we made radio conversations together on matters of importance to us.

Back then, we discussed things having to do with our common humanity, like a show about stories that get handed down in families, or about our experiences of beauty, or about what we have learned about love.

And we discussed things that divided us, with our being on a different political sides, and having different ways of thinking about what’s best and how we know what’s true.

And what we built together in those conversations was really a good thing – for them and for me.

An important part of that positive thing was getting to experience the goodness of those conservative people when we convened on the radio to create a conversation that left our lives a bit richer.

So it hurt to think that some of those whom I’ve infuriated might be among those conservatives with whom I’d once had that positive connection that was so important to me.

But, though painful, it was not surprising, because I realize that my messages these days to the conservatives are challenging at such a fundamental level that it is only to be expected that many will object strenuously to what I’m saying.

So the question naturally arises: If I don’t want to arouse the hostility of these people I care about, why would I be sending them messages that quite predictably will anger a good many of them?

The answer is that I feel a moral and civic obligation to say what I’m saying. I wish quite fervently it weren’t the case. But history has dealt us an unfortunate situation in which I feel morally compelled — by virtue of my love of my country and its basic values — to speak to conservatives as I do.

Despite my knowing that some will be furious with me, I feel I must address the fact that most of the conservatives I knew and valued in the 1990s are playing a political role in America today that is endangering America’s future.

Of course, the conservatives I’ve angered will not be convinced by my being “certain” that what I’m saying is true. But at least it should be noted that certainty is not something I habitually claim. Back in the 90s, I was accused by some in my conservative audience of being “wishy-washy” because I offered more questions than answers. In that era, I framed our discussions by saying we should talk with each other “as if we might actually learn from one another.”

But in recent times, the nature of our political crisis has become so clear-cut that I feel an inescapable duty to summon conservatives back to “the better angels of their nature” in their politics.

If it were just a matter of people turning away from their fine qualities in their personal lives, I would be sad to see it, but I wouldn’t confront them. I believe strongly in the basic American value of letting people choose their own paths, even when we disagree with their choices.

But when it involves the spirit that guides people in the political realm, that’s everybody’s business. In a democracy like ours, everybody has to live with the consequences of our political system going off the rails.

Which is why my op/ed pieces are expressed in terms of those moral touchstones that characterized “the better angels of their nature” those conservatives showed me back in the 90s—fine qualities that seem in such stark contrast with the spirit that now runs the Trump Party.

  • a respect for playing fairly by the rules of the game, thus respecting the Constitution;
  • the basic moral teachings of Christianity (e.g. about “Love Thy Neighbor”);
  • and valuing character, integrity, principle, good faith, honesty…

To the best of my knowledge, I am the only liberal who regularly writes to the conservatives on the Trump side of the line. It has seemed to me that, for the past quarter century, liberals in America have failed their conservative brethren: leaving them to the right-wing propagandists, I believe, has been a major mistake with historically disastrous consequences.

That’s not the choice I’ve made.

But infuriating people seems unlikely to help America. I can only hope that with others of my readers, my efforts yield more beneficial consequences.

As is generally the case with answering a “call,” it involves an act of faith.

And, though those who hate me will not believe it, also something of an act of love.

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2 Comments

  1. Derryl Hermanutz

    Sorry, Andy, but you are preaching truth to a corrupted people who treat you the same way the ancient Hebrews treated their prophets: they hated them and killed them. It is not the poeple’s fault that they believe in fantasies and delusions. It is the fault of the bad shepherds who brainwash the sheep in order to lead them to the fleecing floors and slaughterhouses. When you try to show the brainwashed sheep they are willingling marching to their own destruction, they hate you for destroying the fantasy that they are heading to the Promised Land.

    The corruption of a people is an evil thing, but that is the nature of “civilization” that is organized by predators for the benefit of predators; not organized by sheep for the benefit of sheep. The lying propaganda of freedom and democracy calms the sheep while they are being systematically preyed upon for the benefit of predators.

    Some people are neither sheep nor predators. Some people can see what is happening here in this reality. These are the propehts and philosophers and social reformers who call upon the sheep and predators to “turn, and be healed”. But the sheep and predators don’t turn and aren’t healed. Civilization continues millenium after millenium. And prophets, philosophers and social reformers in each generation stand apart and look aghast at the spectacle.

    If you feel some kind of moral duty to enrage the sheep by telling them truths they are incapable of hearing, don’t expect their gratitude. Maybe you should reassess your moral feelings, and reserve your truth-telling to those you see are searching for it. There are always minds that are awakening out of the brainwashing. Those are the ones who need to hear what you have to say.

    • There is a great deal of truth in what you say, Derryl Hermanutz. But there are a couple of important truths left out.

      You write: “The corruption of a people is an evil thing, but that is the nature of “civilization” that is organized by predators for the benefit of predators…”

      To which I can resonate– being the author of a critique of “the nature of civilization,” i.e. THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES (summarized in installments #4 and #5 in the Better Human Story series on this website.

      But what’s left out is that the degree of corruption is not a constant at all times and places. So, if your description here of “the nature of civilization” is an expression of the futility of moving things away from corruption and toward wholeness –“civilization continues millennium after millennium,” as if continuity were all there is? — I think that would be a shame, and an abdication of the responsibility to do what can be done.

      Two other points, just for the record. 1) I’m not big on blame, or “fault,” for reasons that can be found in #9 in the series, “Understanding Evil.” 2) I have not expected gratitude from the enraged sheep. It would be nice, but you’re right about what generally is the lot of “prophets.” Yet the words of the prophets are read still (even the ones not written on the subway walls :)), and so perhaps they did not waste their breath.

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