An Apology from an Embarrassed Liberal to my Conservative Friends

Some time ago, I wrote my apology from an embarrassed Christian to my non-Christian friends. Liberals loved it. But I’m guessing my Liberal friends are not going to embrace this letter so quickly. We’ll see.

I help admin the Coffee Party USA Facebook page that invites discussion across our differences. The page has a large following and one of my tasks is to monitor the comments. (This responsibility is particularly ironic given my past refusal to ever, ever, ever read and engage cyberspace comments!) The Coffee Party Facebook effort is committed to civil dialogue around important issues of our day. Some posts generate hundreds of comments and most often, the conversation is intellectual and respectful.

But then again, all too often, the conversation devolves into childish name-calling.

I’m embarrassed to say that (all too often) some of the worst offenders are my fellow Liberals. (Of course some Conservatives are guilty of this childishness as well, but that’s not my topic for today.)

After this last election, many of us were stunned. Since this administration and this Congress have been in power, many Liberals have moved from disbelief to rage. Our exasperation is about policies and approaches that we absolutely believe are harmful to America. Our frustration is with politicians who seem hell bent on increasing their own power and wealth at all of our expense. I think some anger is justified.

But what I often see happening in this Liberal backlash is a toxic spillage of that political rage onto the real people who are our neighbors. I see a demonizing of fellow citizens just because you understand the world differently than we. I see too many Liberals painting all Conservatives with a broad brush – the very thing we despise when it happens to us. This displaced anger is not a liberal value and will only jeopardize our ability to find solutions for America’s problems. I am truly sorry for this.

I really like the dictionary definition of “liberal:”

Willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own;

open to new ideas.

Some of the synonyms listed are “tolerant,” “broad minded” and “forbearing.”

“Willing to respect opinions different from one’s own.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? But I confess too many Liberals in today’s America have forgotten this plain meaning.

It’s as if we are willing to respect every opinion out there except for the conservative ones. It’s as if we are open to new ideas as long as they fit into our old boxes. This small-minded attitude is anything but liberal, and I’m truly sorry for that.

My Conservative friend, Janie, and I have been trying to build bridges together. She approached me last year and suggested we publish some of our conversations as an example of how Conservatives and Liberals can actually engage in civil dialogue. I think it has been a decent example of agreeing to disagree. But the real benefit is that the process itself has not only made me smarter, it has actually strengthened our friendship. Mutual respect can do that.

Respecting each other’s innate value as a fellow human being.

Respecting each other’s right to our own beliefs.

Respecting each other’s experience and personal journey.

Please understand I am not apologizing for the ways social and political Progressives are marching and protesting; I’m actually proud of this resistance. I am proud that many Americans are providing sanctuary for some of our more vulnerable neighbors. I am proud that so many citizens are flooding our representatives with strong messages that advocate Liberal values.

But I AM sorry for the times when our passion has vilified you, our Conservative friends. I’m sorry when we disrespect your sincerely held beliefs and question your integrity. I apologize when we fail to live up to our own liberal ideals.

We are family and neighbors and co-workers. We sit on the same church pews and share the same restaurants. Our children play in schoolyards together and our grandparents live in nursing homes together. We have many of the same needs and loves, the same concerns and challenges. I am truly sorry that too many people are building barriers instead of building bridges.

I invite you – both my Conservative friends and my Liberal friends – to find your own “Janie” and start a conversation. Like we do it – writing to each other across the miles. Or by sharing a cup of coffee or sitting down to a meal together. Or you might try joining a cyberspace living room for a Living Room Conversation.

We all need to learn to listen to each other better. We need to learn to speak without blaming. We need to learn how to craft creative solutions in the communities where we live and for this nation that we love.

I think our civil servants have forgotten how to do these simple, civil things. We need to show them the way.

 

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

 

31 thoughts on “An Apology from an Embarrassed Liberal to my Conservative Friends”

  1. I wanted Sanders, but voted for Clinton because the only other choice was Trump. I do not like Clinton she is a minion of her buyers, but Trump??? I would never feel clean again if I voluntarily voted for him.

    However, Trump and his gang of bullies are getting a reaction. Individual States signing onto the Paris Climate Accord, States refusing to build walls… Beautiful and Inspiring! Every action will have an equal reaction… We are in for a wild ride, I hope we can get hold of the reins and get out of this alive.

  2. I completely agree. I’ve seen some of my fellow liberals engage in narrow-minded, black and white, rigid thinking against conservatives – and even against other liberals who don’t march in 100% ideologically PC “pure” lockstep with them and may differ to some degree in opinions on certain issues. They seem to have the notion that if a person doesn’t agree with them, then that person has forfeited any expectations of courtesy, whatsoever. And, of course, many conservatives have this same notion.

    But when we engage in conversation with people with different opinions, our hope or our goal is to persuade them to adopt our opinions. But, really, has anyone ever got another person to change their opinion by insulting them? Once a conversation has descended into the firing of ad hominems and has turned into an “insult-a-thon”, all hope of persuasion has gone out the window, and the other person will naturally dig their heels in and become even more intransigent and convinced that those on the other side are all a bunch of ignorant haters.

    Of course, there are some people who aren’t worth trying to debate because they aren’t listening, but the best thing to do with them is not engage at all. It’s a waste of our time to get down into the gutter with them and trade insults because it accomplishes nothing.

    But there are lots of people with differing opinions who are well worth engaging with, because they do listen, when they are treated with respect. We may not understand where they’re coming from with their opinions, but if we ask, we might find out why. I have conservative friends with whom I’m able to have good conversations and have found that with some stuff, at the root level, our concerns aren’t so different after all, even though we’ve differed on just what is the best way to address those issues. I don’t need everyone in my life to rubberstamp everything I say. I learn more and keep my mind sharper when I’m challenged every now and then. And I understand that there will always be things we’ll have to agree to disagree about.

    I think it’s counterproductive for people to live in totally separate liberal bubbles or conservative bubbles, as it feeds the Us vs Them fire.

    1. Well said! As Janie and I have done this shared blog now for this past year, we both recognize that we understand each other better AND we understand our own positions more clearly. Thanks for reading and thanks for the conversation. Peace…

  3. I read your blog with admiration and appreciation for what you are trying to do, and I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written about in this post about how Liberals are not all the liberal. That said, I’d just like to add something here that I feel is missing–the emotional aspect and empathy. You write “Since this administration and this Congress have been in power, many Liberals have moved from disbelief to rage. Our exasperation is about policies and approaches that we absolutely believe are harmful to America.” Again, I agree. What we on the Liberal side need to understand, though, is that while Obama was in the White House many Americans, not just out of racism, felt rage and exasperation and absolutely believed that the policies and approaches of his administration were harmful to America. I think the conversations we might have with “the other side” will be more effective if we accept this as we start them.

  4. Charlotte,
    I have had a love/hate relationship with Coffee Party for some time. I guess that really says something good. I have been ordained for 35 years in a conservative and theologically trained denomination. I am greatly encouraged by this post but I have some struggle. I guess politically I would define myself as a left of center independent. I have liberal leanings in terms of health care, immigration, etc but I am also by conscience pro-life. All of that means that I have no home in either current political party. But in terms of your article I would say that over the past 10 years I have found it easier to have conversation with those on my left rather than those on my right. What passes for “conservative” today would not have been recognized as that 20 years ago. Not sure where I am going with this except to say that I am stretched by your blog and the Coffee Party. I just wish that there was somewhere that I “fit”. The “tea party” frightens me (and I lived the past 15 years in Tennessee the heart of that movement) but I am also frightened of the hard progressives who are not willing to discuss abortion in any kind of rational way without name calling. I guess I have to ultimately admit that “this world is not my home” but I also know that one of the last statements that Jesus made was “Behold I am making all things new” and that gives me hope for the hear and now.

    1. I love your comments Lee! You seem to be very thoughtful and wise. A searching soul like me. Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting.

      As I do this work, I realize again and again that nothing is pure. There really is no such thing as pure Conservative or pure Liberal; each of us is a mixture and every party/group/position/ideology is mixed. Over LOTS of years, I made my journey from fundamentalist to liberal and I am grateful for that. Even so, I can see our own mixture; we do some things really well and we suck at some other things. I’ve really enjoyed my conversations with Janie because she is conservative Christian and we speak the same language even though we come to some very different conclusions.

      Coffee Party has been a good fit for me because I enjoy our diversity. Our Board of Directors is made up of Independents, Libertarians, Democrats and Republicans. We all keep learning how to work together because that is the model we keep offering to our society. It’s not easy; diversity is messy. But my theology teaches me that diversity is God’s plan, God’s design. We are all smarter and stronger when we figure out how to learn from each other.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the conversation. I really appreciate it. Peace…

  5. Thank you for this article. I am a conservative but I grew up in a Democrat home and voted Democrat in the first election I could vote in. I became a conservative when I was doing research on education and John Dewey. Since the election I have been appalled at the hatred and reaction of liberals. I felt so much like they do now when Obama was elected but most conservatives I know did not react with such hatred but accepted the outcome of the election even though many believed there was voter fraud. I confess that it puzzles me that the liberals are so adamantly against voter ID when so many other things require ID. All the reasons I have heard why they do not want it do not make any sense. Also the inconsistencies have not been resolved in my mind. Like supporting abortion with the premise that a woman should be able to choose what to do with her body (even though a baby is not her body) but they support mandatory vaccinations so in that case a woman or person does not have the right to choose what to put in their bodies? Like not allowing someone to make a cake for a gay wedding but saying it is OK to allow a store to not carry a line of clothing because she is related to the president? Isn’t that discrimination as well? But what bothers me the most is the hatred I have been hearing from people I once respected and did not expect it from. Even some of my family members. In my opinion there can never be a movement toward resolutions and peace in this country with that attitude — only more division. I hope your article will help to heal that divide. As the saying goes — “A country divided against itself cannot stand.”

    1. Some interesting thoughts Michele; you remind me why communication across our differences can be so difficult.

      For example, when Mr. Obama was president, there was widespread public hatred displayed, not the least of which was the entrenched birther conspiracy. (Remember the first State of the Union when a congressman shouted out “you lie!” in the middle of the president’s speech. It was unprecedented.) Maybe the venom didn’t come from Conservatives in your circle but it is well documented throughout his eight years. Your bewilderment at the Liberal resistance to Mr. Trump puzzles me. I can see pretty clearly what a con man he is; even some of his own supporters don’t trust him.

      If you truly are interested in understanding some Liberal positions better (voter ID, abortion, religious freedom, etc.) you might try reading more of my blogs. I try to lay out my own position as clearly as I can, especially in light of my own journey from conservative religion and politics to progressive Christianity and liberal political perspectives. I don’t expect reading my blogs would change your mind but your questions seem honest and not argumentative; at least you might see another side of the issues that concern you.

      It’s not our different opinions that worry me; I am a great advocate of diversity and I think this is one of America’s great strengths. But like you, I am very concerned about the vitriol, blame and demonizing that is coming from all sides. We will never be able to address our challenges until we can sit down and have a civil discussion together.

      I really appreciate you reading and commenting. I doubt my article will do much to heal the deep divides but I keep doing the one little thing I can do. Peace…

      1. Thank you for you comments. I actually do remember the birther controversy and the comments at the State of the Union address. What I am talking about is the violence in the streets, the vandalism and the blocking of traffic and the comments like those who voted for Trump should be hung and that Trump is the most corrupt and stupidest president. Just so you know I did not vote for Trump but I voted 3rd party because I did not trust Trump to keep his promises and I am surprised he has done better than I expected. I have read some very angry articles about the president that are only opinion and nothing more meant to divide. I have read several liberal articles. I try to read most of what is put up by my liberal friends on facebook. I lived up in Vermont until 10 years ago so I am very familiar with the politics of Bernie Sanders. I have done much research on the Fabian Society of which John Dewey was a member of. I do not apologize for wanting less government in my life. Most of the socialistic policies we now have to live with I hate. I fear universal healthcare and also fear if we get it it will be like the healthcare the veterans have to deal with here in the U S. I worked as a cashier and saw great abuses of the Food Stamp program and nothing was done by those that were reported.

        I will however read your articles on your blog. I love to do research so reading both sides of an issue is natural for me until the articles start to be repetitive. I have actually changed my position a few times because of research.

        It is interesting you went from conservative to progressive liberal and I have gone from liberal to conservative in both political and spiritual arenas. With that in mind I am sure we will not change each others minds but it would be nice to at least try harder to understand each other rather than to use derogatory terms (like those who voted for Trump are stupid and should be hung) when we talk about each other. We may never agree but hopefully we will not hate each other for what we believe.

  6. I am disabled, poor, and aging. I take personally the fact that people voted for Donald Trump. There is no viable excuse for voting for this man.Having talked with many of these people, I have had to conclude that those who voted for him (Christians or not) were acting out of fear and concern for their own personal welfare at the expense of national dignity and regard for their fellow citizens. There is no good reason–there is not good excuse. In essence–a vote for Trump was a vote to completely destroy people like me. It came from a basic savage instinct that has nothing to do with faith in God or any civilizing influences.

    1. Oh dear Vicki! My heart breaks at your story. I do believe that there are some people who don’t care. But I have to keep believing many more do care. I hold on to hope that more of us will recognize the danger in which you live and most of us will surround you with protection and hope. Peace my friend…

      1. Just returned to this. I don’t want your heart broken over me. I want you to understand that I am only mildly representative of the hundreds upon hundred thousands in this nation who are seriously marginalized because their presence challenges a people group who are uncomfortable with their own mortality and seek to eradicate, one way or another, any reminder that the suffering person could be them. I am afraid that you are seriously overestimating the good in mankind. Witness the rabid hate language of the Tea Party members over the past 10 to 15 years. They aren’t going to make nice now just because they have egg on their face. They;re just going to get meaner. Have seen it happen.

        1. OK then Vicki, how about I say “my heart is sad…” I do volunteer work in my community that puts me face to face with the hardships too many people endure. And I share this experience with many other volunteers here in my very Red county who also really care about their neighbor – even as too many of them voted for this administration. Of course I may be overly optimistic about humans in general and Americans in particular. But I will keep on believing anyway and I will continue to try to find these kinds of partners and allies in the midst of our societal chaos. Rabid, hateful people may never change; those of us who care must overwhelm their dangerous ugliness.

        2. I am with you. I have a son on Medicaid, to which they are proposing massive cuts. I really have no interest in “commingling” with these extremists who voted for this con artist. Specially when they accuse a woman with stage four cancer of being a malingerer for accepting Social Security disability benefits. I suspect most of the country has been brainwashed by a conservative conspiracy run by people of the likes of Robert Mercer. Now they’re coming after my child, and I’m reacting like any mother would do.

          1. Years ago, I recognized the dangers of Ayn Rand’s Libertarianism. I knew it was an evil and a cruel ideology and was a very real danger to Christianity as well as our nation’s democratic principles. I’m not certain why it has taken me so long to realize that the reality of Libertarian dystopia is here right now. It has invaded our government and our churches. It seeks to demonize and eradicate the ‘hangers-on’ in society. Thus the poor, the sick, the aging, the ‘different’, and the helpless in our society are being savagely left out to die in a cold and a desolate wilderness by our fellow citizens and their elected officials just as uncivilized cultures historically have done and certain wildlife species still do. It is this to which we have come. It is evil, it is virulent, and it is here. If we tolerate these actions by engaging in polite conversation with these ideologues, we aren’t standing true to the command of Christ to help the very people whom they are targeting. We will be as culpable as the Germans who accommodated Nazi rule silently and politely and we will be judged accordingly by history and by God.

  7. You had me until the last paragraph. Why did you suddenly bring civil servants into this? Do you understand that civil servants include your neighbors across the country who are Park Rangers, food inspectors for the FDA, doctors and nurses at the VA, Coasties who patrol our shores and rescue vacationing boaters, and thousands of other civil servants? These dedicated civil servants take unwarranted verbal abuse from politicians during every campaign. Please do not aggravate negative press by lumping them in as a broad category when discussing civic discourse, polite or otherwise.

    1. Point taken Gretchen. What I want to say is that elected official are supposed to be “civil servants,” serving the people and not self-serving. It’s a play on the word “civility.” Sorry for the unintended swipe. Peace….

  8. As a liberal native Texan, I spent years being yelled at for being liberal. I could walk down the street and my neighbors would drive by and yell something nasty about Obama at me (I live in an affluent area mind you). Conservative family members told me to move to a blue state and don’t let the door hit you on the way out (but asked for money here and there). I meet racist and hateful over and over as I have tried to extend an olive branch by saying which republicans I admire and after years of trying, I am done. We are far past that now when Trump was elected, so we became outraged and now we are the bad guys?? We were blamed for troubles when they were in office and out of office and now they are back to blaming the “liberal” media for asking hard question.
    The bullied is finally hitting back and now we are to feel sorry for the bully and continue to let him beat us up after school and take our lunch money?? Nope. I think you got this one wrong.

    1. Maybe Jill. But I am not excusing the bullies in DC or in Austin by any means. Like I said, I’m proud of our resistance and I for one will continue to resist. I’m also not excusing regular every day bullies – especially those who use their religion to demean, diminish and disrespect other people. I’m a Christian minister who regularly speaks out against such blasphemy in the name of God.

      I have friends and family who voted for 45 and my mind is still boggled about that. Because these people are precious to me, I will do whatever it takes to protect our relationship. Sometimes we talk about it but mostly we don’t; we just keep figuring out how to love. People who are not in my circle are not my concern; I can’t change them and there’s no point in conversing with them about this. But then there are the Janie’s out there who – in my mind – are the authentic Compassionate Conservatives. If they want to talk to me then I will bend over backwards to talk to them – and to listen. I respect them even when I disagree (loudly and clearly) with their positions. Please take the time to read through a couple of Janie’s and my shared blogs; it’s one tiny effort and it won’t change the world. But if we are going to change America back to a place of compassion, it’s going to take some uncomfortable reaching across all our divides and building alliances. Thanks for reading and thanks for the conversation. Peace…

      1. We can speak with the conservatives but we can not and should not cover what is happening. We need to speak clearly against every injustice that is being committed by this 45. He is against immigration, health care for the poor and middle class, food stamps were reduced and the rich has a tax cut. We can talk to them but they do not want to listen. They call us weak because we want to help the more needed. We can work with them if they work with us!!! The fight is to make our nation more human but the ones that opposed this are in our way.

        1. Agree. I will continue to protest and resist along with you. I will also continue to look for allies in the middle. Both-And. Thanks for the conversation. Peace…

  9. I did this work for years. Conscientiously, I sought to have reasonable conversations with reasonable conservatives. It may be possible in the abstract, but in effect, I found the pool of willing conservative participants to be almost dry. The lesson appears to be that efforts to engage constructively allowed blatant racism directed President Obama to flourish and Donald Trump to be elected.

    In truth, the real need is for conversations between conservatives, and most pressingly between mainstream Christians and dominionists.

  10. Your point is very well taken, but…. we are in a time where reality itself is in question. Conservative principles have changed drastically to be nothing more than apparent power grabs, and the conservatives of my childhood would not recognize what passes for Conservative today- the rejection of science, the belittling of people who are actual experts in a field, the feeling of “we make our own reality” is rampant.
    When you cannot agree on basic facts, it is hard to have a conversation.

    I have always prided myself on my ability to see something from a different viewpoint, but I simply cannot see what anyone sees in Trump, or can reconcile his words and actions with conservative principles.

    1. The Conservative and Tea Party Republicans in power are a huge danger. But the people who voted them in are a widely varied group with many different reasons for voting the way they did. I’m looking for conversation partners who recognize some of the same societal challenges I see and are willing to brainstorm for solutions. When we build alliances in the middle we will have a better chance of a different vote outcome next time. Thanks for reading Chris and thanks for the conversation.

    2. Well put, Chris. I consider myself a Progressive Populist, not a liberal. The right wing has turned “liberal” into a dirty word.
      They like to demean us with the term “libtard.” It is hard for me to reconcile with anyone who would vote for a despicable human being like Trump. He and the right wing wackos are bringing America down and making us the laughingstock of the world. Charlotte is a wonderful and forgiving person, but we must resist the march to fascism upon which our right wing Congress seems so intent. The enemy is WITHIN and we must RESIST, not capitulate !

      1. I agree James. We must resist the dangerous ideologies that are driving policies in this administration. I will continue resisting those who used their power for harmful purpose. And at the same time, I will continue reaching out to regular people and building alliances. They will recognize they have been had soon enough and I would like for them to find some bridges ready for them whenever they are ready. Thanks for the conversation.

  11. Ah, Charlotte, I’ve long wondered whether the “Charlotte” who suggests posts on the Coffee Party site was you. How lovely! Thanks be to God, “liberal” here in the UK hasn’t acquired the cloak of nastiness that it seems to have in the US. And that’s such a pity because, as your mining of the dictionary suggests, it actually has overtones of nobility, even. But I do think that many people of all political colours use words loosely, sloppily. Ah, if everyone were as literate as I am! Blessings on you.

  12. I found myself edging into this blanket “othering” of all conservatives and Trump supporters.

    Then my best friend of over 20 years, a loving intelligent, accepting man told me that he voted for The Donald.

    Well, I know my friend very well (I was his Best Man), so I was forced to consider that, perhaps, not all Trump voters are the raging, ignorant, bigoted people that my broad brush was depicting.

    I love this man as my brother. I refuse to turn my back on him as so many “Christians” did to me when I came out of the closet.

    We haven’t had a chance to connect again since he “came out” to me (Irony!), but when we do I plan to ask him to explain to me the reasons and motivation for his vote. Then, against my entire will, I will shut up and listen for awhile.

    And maybe, just maybe, I will learn something.

    *****

    I love you, Charlotte! Let’s plan on getting together soon when you’re in Dallas!

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