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.
David Gushee recently penned his own op-ed voicing similar concerns: “There is plenty wrong on the right. But there is plenty wrong on the left, too. Each side needs to get its act together. If there is a sensible, grown-up center to American public life, it’s about time it showed up…”
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.