Saturday, April 30, 2005

Why Two Personas?

Call me confused.

I am pretty much myself here on my blogs. I may take up different topics depending on where I'm blogging, or seek different audiences based on what material I'm working with. I may be very passionate about one topic, less so with others, and range from amused to irritated to irate to cynical or sarcastic. But it all feels to me like shades of me, not different person's.

I've been taking the opportunity to get to know my bloc-partner here at Debate Space, and following through with some of his links, checking other blogs that link to me through NZBear, etc. And I'm confused.

How can someone have what seems to be a civil discussion, wanting to talk back and forth with arguments, and facts, with basic discourse, then walk back to their own bloc and pick up with hateful venom? (My MILBLOG friends would say, I told you so. I'm not so sure, but want to ask some questions.)

What exactly is the point of this mutual exercise, from your standpoint? I know what it was from mine. Lively debate. Passionate argument. Reasoned analysis. Discussion, consideration of an alternative point of view.

LiberalAvenger's Response #1:

There is only one me - not two person's. I am passionate about my beliefs and I believe that in my own small way I am accomplishing something good through my writing and blogging.

I don't buy the "hateful venom" label. I think what you are encountering are my strong feelings about issues that are of prime importance to both of us. Because our respective positions on these issues are likely polar opposites you may be misinterpreting my rhetoric as "hateful venom."

As is clearly the case for you, my positions on issues aren't self-serving. I believe in the things I believe in because I am concerned for our country, for our children, for the people of the world... Most of us liberals recognize that our conservative counterparts believe deeply in what they are saying and doing. It is a constant source of frustration for us to be dismissed as "America-Haters." Conservatives need to understand that we love America, too, and we believe that our causes will benefit everyone. Just like you do.

I am an atheist. This doesn't mean that I hate religious people. It does mean that political snipes asserting that godless people are incapable of morality or craven political maneuvering that uses faith as a wedge angers me deeply. I believe strongly in the "separation of church and state." I am concerned about what I perceive as a slow but determined trend by conservatives to move our government towards a "theocracy."

I am a pacifist. This doesn't mean that I hate people in the military. It does mean that I have fundamental moral objections to war and violence. This doesn't make me naive. You won't find me arguing against the United State's critical involvement in World War II or the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. It does mean that the messy way we got into Iraq and the messy moving target of justification for the war and the messy post-invasion planning disappoint me gravely. It also means that I am unable to accept terrible things being shrugged off as the unfortunate, inevitable consequences of war.

I have other pet peeves that will undoubtedly be exposed over the course of our discussions. I hope that I can get my points across without appearing to be hateful.

What do I expect to get out of these discussions?

I value having access to somebody on the other end of the political spectrum in Iraq with whom I can ask questions and expect honest, articulate answers. I don't pretend to know everything, and I know that whatever we hear about Iraq or the military or conservatism passes through misc. filters on its way to the American public. I want to understand more.

I am also excited about the reaction our initial exchanges received. That it was remarkable that two people from opposite ends of the political landscape were able to communicate without conflict is indicative of a larger problem in our society. Perhaps we can set an example for better communication between our respective "sides" in the great left-right ideology war. We are stuck with each other and we are all Americans, after all. There are some fundamental misperceptions on both sides that get in the way of communication. Exposing the fact that Liberals don't hate America and Conservatives don't hate Muslims would be a start.


Dadmanly's Response #2:

I had an interesting experience that past two days that I think bears on this discussion. (And, as in that situation, I think I need to rethink if not my opinions, then at least some of my attitudes.)

I do not talk much to my siblings. Two of my sisters are liberal (okay one and the other says she's further left than that). I have been emailing a lot of what I've been blogging to friends and family, and while I knew that some of what I wrote might upset, bother, or anger them, I kind of made a decision that I didn't care, that if they didn't like it, they would tell me. (I think I also felt that, as a soldier deployed to Iraq, they needed to cut me some slack and put up with my opinions. (My family has never been one to shrink away from debate or argument, so I thought they would push back if they needed to.

They didn't. I underestimated to power of guilt and feeling obligated to listen to the poor army guy thousands of miles for home and away from his family. My Christian writings also bothered them (their faiths are different), but they didn't feel like I would accept or appreciate an argument about my faith.

Of course, that's not what I thought. I knew it was a lot of other family dynamic issues, and maybe some of that is true, but a lot is just what I've said: guilt, unease, and not feeling right about saying, "I don't think that's true."

In the end, my big sister stepped in and extended an olive branch of love, cutting through a lot of the deadwood of the past and inviting us to do the same. Our relationships are born anew, and we have an opportunity to move forward with more honesty, openness, and trust than we've had previously.

I guess I want to say I think I overreacted and misjudged what I read, or at least the motivations behind the words. There is some truth to the idea that "hateful venom" may often be translated "diametrically opposed to my view."

I think its true, we both are passionate about our causes and beliefs, and that we both want what's best, but see very different views about what that would be and how to get to that better place. When Conservatives see a liberal viewpoint and immediately brand it anti-American, that's wrong, counterproductive, and eliminates the possibility of dialog.

Our last discussion dwells in greater depth on matters of the "wall of separation of church and state, I won't repeat it here. I do think any perceived movement towards theocracy is all possibility and perception and no fact or actual movement. In fact, I would argue we grow more and more secular every day, and have begun to be antagonistic towards religious expression in the public square (unless it's multicultural).

I can respect a pacifist, even more, one who can acknowledge that some wars are necessary against extreme evil. I do think we are in such a struggle, but I can accept those who feel otherwise. That's the beautiful thing about America, and hopefully something about which we can both agree.

I very much appreciate your answer to the question, "What do I expect to get out of these discussions?" I think it is exceptional that you value opinion from someone who is here in Iraq, and that you want to understand more. I would hope I can say the same, I can't say I wanted to beforehand, but value the opportunity now. And I absolutely value the opportunity to help get the soldier's point of view out there, less filtered than might otherwise be the case. Thanks for the opportunity.

I too am excited about the reaction our initial exchanges received. I also think that the very fact our conversation and debate is so unexpected and rare is very indicative of a chronic problem for our society. We can set a better example, and resolve to foster more communication, less insult, a full hearing out of ideas, and a civil exchange of views. We are all in this together, we have this marvelous and precious legacy, this inheritance of liberty, that we might by contention and bitter argument separately destroy what we might otherwise jointly preserve.

23 Comments:

At 5:54 PM, Blogger 74 said...

I'm somewhat curious of Liberal Avenger's age. Why? Well, I'm not an atheist, but I am a confirmed agnostic. I'm also nearly sixty, so I can remember the U.S. before Vietnam and the sexual revolution. A lot has changed in public attitudes during those many years. Anyone my age who suggests that we are slowly sliding into a theocracy has either a very poor memory or is placing his/her advocacy before the truth. Fifty years ago, no one would dare to suggest that a Nativity scene at the town hall or a Christmas play at the public school was inappropriate. Its not that liberals didn't exist then, its just that people who were liberal then could probably be defined as center-right today. People who call themselves liberal today would probably be called socialist (at the very least) in those days. If you doubt me, just rent a few movies that were produced in those days. Just go to Lileks' page here:
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/05/0505/050405.html
and read the second paragraph for an example.

 
At 7:02 PM, Blogger Adam Gurri said...

I respect and admire you both.

It certainly is amazing how difficult it is to simply utter the words "I don't think that's true", isn't it?

You both remark on people's surprise towards this blog as a sign of the difficulties that open discussion is facing these days. My grandmother (a Cuban-American) calls it the Cubanization of America--it's no longer "you're wrong" but rather "you're and idiot" or "you're a traitor" or something along those lines to many.

What you two are doing here is a wonderful thing. I hope we can see more of it--from you and from others following in your example--in the future. Fighting the forces that block open discussion is one of the most worthy causes that a citizen of a Democracy can take up.

I will definately be a loyal reader.

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger Toni said...

Dadmanly - you're a much better man than I (*yuck yuck* I know not a good analogy so sue me). I admit I have very little patience or inclination any longer to engage in these types of discussions. The extent of my generosity is to listen to Michael Medved who has leftwing loonies on every day. I can only handle about 10 min before changing the station.

 
At 7:27 PM, Blogger Adam Gurri said...

Toni: Do you think that attempting to better understand and respect an opposing position is really best labeled as "generosity"?

And they wonder why some of us are so concerned about the state of open discussion in America.

 
At 8:28 PM, Blogger Cheryl said...

I come from the conservative side of the fence, believing in our mission in Iraq, believing in the freedom of religion not of repression and most of the other "conservative values".

I am glad you two have started this blog with the intent to learn about each other's views with out spewing forth venom for the other's belief. It is refreshing.

Even, if at the end, you come to agree to disagree, hopefully we'll all understand the other side a bit better and learn to have more respect for those whom we disagree with.

I must ad, however, that there are those on the left who are "anti-American". They are the ones who always see America as the "evil Darth Vader" and nothing we ever do is right -- we're the cause of all the ill in the world. Unfortunately, like so many other things, liberals have been stero-typed by the left of liberal liberal who tend to get most of the press coverage.

The same can be said of the right of right who give a bad name to the conservatives.

Good luck gents. I look forward to reading both sides and occassionally kick in a thought or two of my own.

Cheryl

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger JimK said...

"I think what you are encountering are my strong feelings about issues that are of prime importance of both of us."

Oh really?

In a post titled " Why do neocons hate America?" you wrote "Wingnuts: Is it OK to pass sensitive intelligence on to a foreign government as long as that government is Israel? How does this compare with Sandy Berger's document foibles? Why do neocons hate America?"

That is spiteful, hate-filled vitriol and low-brow namecalling.

You are doing your own integrity a grave disservice by not owning up to the truth of your own attitudes about people who believe something different.

 
At 7:06 AM, Blogger The Liberal Avenger said...

Hello 74.

I am 35 years old.

I understand what you are saying, however "that was then, this is now."

More later...

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger The Liberal Avenger said...

JimK:

You've crossed the line, chief.

I'm not going to cherrypick through Dadmanly's blog to find posts that offend my sensabilities as a liberal and hold them against him and I expect that he won't do the same.

Neither of us are here claiming that we are going to change who we are. We have, however, agreed to discuss things in a civilized manner.

You, Sir, are the problem. I'm going to leave your comment here as a monument to the type of attitude that we are attempting to escape here. There are people on either side of this debate who are interested in only the fight between conservative and liberal - between Republican and Democrat - between Good and Evil. These are the people who are destroying our country and you are one of them.

Please go away and don't come back.

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger JimK said...

Hmm.

So rather than think about and potentially adress the issue I raised, you simply wish me to go away. Here, where you wear a polite facade, YOU (not me) raised the issue of what you post on your blog not being vitriolic but just strong opinion. I find it hard to respect what you are doing here when you aren't being entirely truthful. You resort to base namecalling on a regular basis. That's not strong feeling, that's precisely what Dadmanly was questioning in the first place.

One of us certainly *has* a problem (not "*is the* problem," which of course is just base namecalling in a polite wrapper). I'll leave it to the readers of this blog to decide which one it is.

In the meantime, I will continue to read, hoping that you be a little more honest with teh readers of this blog as you both work this experiment out.

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger Rhiannon said...

As a loyal reader of LA's I took his comment more as playful banter directed more towards our own talking-point-troll who is himself quite fond of asking "why do 'moonbats' hate America?" than anything with any real venom. You should not judge those you do not know jimk. Sound advice for everyone, including myself that I realize is difficult to follow when strong feelings are involved, but should be done all the same.

LA's right you should stop trolling around trying to start a R vs D (or vs versa) debate. That's not what this site is for.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger dadmanly said...

I agree whole-heartedly with the Avenger's point about rummaging through each other's rants.

I think I can recollect at least a hadnful or too I would be embarrased to have him mention at the tea party, so to speak.

I did have a moment of choice, when I had spent some time down one of his comment chains, and thus posted my question here.

Since then, I've had some time to reflect and some reality check with family members who are similarly liberal.

We agree name calling, insults and dismissing points of argument with rhetorical zingers empty of meaning, while giving a false satifaction for the moment, have left our public discussions content starved and devoid of purpose. Hence, the Debate Space.

Otherwise, subjective adjectives? Excessive use of subjective generalizations? We can all slip into that mode, but we're after the crux, the true points of conflict within the issues we discuss.

When we can thus locate genuine differences, we can both agree, "that's right, those are the differences. Next topic."

And I think that's progress. So read the rules, and try to behave.

 
At 12:34 PM, Blogger 74 said...

A.L. you said "that was then, this is now" in reply to my observation that our society is much more secular than it was 50 years ago. That in turn was a comment on your post which said in part "I am concerned about what I perceive as a slow but determined trend by conservatives to move our government towards a "theocracy."". Lets use a stock market analogy. If the DGIA was say at 5000 in 1960, was at 11,000 four years ago, and is at 10,200 now; does the 800 point loss in the last four years prove a "slow and determined trend"? If so, you should dump your 401K now. My contention is that what you perceive as a slide into theocracy is more likely the other side pushing back against what they see as a long slow slide into a society that will no longer view anything as evil or immoral.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger wanda said...

I think the bottom line here is that our individual blogs are OUR personal blogs. We are free to express our feelings (even if they be rage) as we wish.
When we come here, we pick up the olive branch and attempt to have an open, honest but civil discussion. At least that's the way I see it.
I think this is a much needed step toward finding a middle of the road place where we can all feel that we are beginning to heal the wounds. If our leaders cannot bridge the gap then it's up to us to show them how.
Carry on gentlemen!

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger The Liberal Avenger said...

74:

The difference in time that I see has to do with the changing face of America over time.

When I was growing up in a blue-collar Massachusetts town in the 1970s, everybody was either Irish, English, German or Italian - Catholics or Protestants of one flavor or another. Everybody was white.

Now, 25 years later here in the same town things are very different. Parents' night at my daughter's school reveals the new America - white, black, brown, yellow - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew - and my town isn't unique in this respect. This is a transformation that has happened in communities throughout the country.

When I was young you could lead a roomful of people in a Christian prayer in my town and be pretty sure that everyone in the room with you was also Christian. Not so today. This is a big difference and it has nothing to do with good or evil or persecution - it is simple a matter of demographic shift. I fear that this is what escapes most people who cry out about imagined Christian persecution. "It's no longer like it was in the good old days." Well - times change. We are a country of immigrants and not all of 'em are Christian. Once people accept this they'll be a lot happier.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger The Liberal Avenger said...

Right on, Wanda!

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger dadmanly said...

It occurs to me why Evangelical Christians could see the U.S. as increasingly securlar, while liberals are alarmed at the "slide towards theocracy."

I think 74 is on to something. Call it the "Global Warming" phenomenon.

Whenever change is glacial (in the sense of slow and gradual, rather than ice-filled), what direction the flow is moving may depend on the length of timespan throuhg which you're viewing the "data."

Secularists, atheists, and "rights" activists have been very effective at chasing religious expression and observance out of the public square. Rather than merely avoid the establishment of religion, these advocate for an elimination of religious expression in any public space or by any public official as evidenced by comments here.

To point at some isolated efforts (with success far from assured) to maintain rights of religious practice and expression (and avoid a screen, blocking practicing members of faith from even holding public office) as a slide towards theocracy is extrapolating the Sistene Chapel from a fingertip.

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger Kristen said...

Congratulations to you both.

And thank you, Deadmanly, for recognizing that 'liberal' does not mean 'anti-American.' Stay safe.

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger Terry said...

I am a regular reader of LA's blog, and I have a blog of my own (relax - I won't post the address). I clearly see LA's point about civility and language - our own personal blogs are just that: Personal. How we choose to phrase things there is our business, and if you don't like it don't read it.

This blog, however, has some ground rules, and if you're not willing to obey them, just move along. And obeying the rules doesn't instill anyone with a split personality. Behaving differently in different situations is hardly new - does anyone behave the same way at work that they do at a party? No one I know.

Here we play nice. We don't run with scissors, and we don't call each other names. If you don't like this state of affairs, just start your own blog, where you can make the rules. There's absolutely nothing stopping you.

And, for the record, I will quite happily continue to phrase things on my own blog in any witty, pithy, biting, irreverent and often vulgar fashion I desire. Here, however, I'll behave myself.

 
At 6:14 PM, Blogger 74 said...

L.A. Well, I grew up in Los Angeles. Even in the '50s it was pretty multi-cultural. I don't lend much credence to that particular argument. Sure, you have people of all different religious backgrounds, yet the vast majority still are (or were raised in) one Christian faith or another. I've lived in four foreign countries (two predominately non-christian.) I've lived my whole adult life as a non-christian. So long as I'm not actively discriminated against its a non-issue. I was no more upset seeing a Shinto fertility festival parading down my street in Japan as seeing the Catholic processions in Italy. My feelings about religion in public are more inclusive than exclusive. Rather than barring Christian events, include everyone else's. If religion X (through immigration, conversion, or natural increase) can garner enough support to influence our lawmakers into proclaiming a holiday for them; I say fine. If I'm visiting friends and they want to say grace before supper, I'll use the opportunity for some quiet reflection--not raise a stink. Compare, if you will, public policy about religion to a much smaller example--an inter-faith marriage. In the marriage, if the partners don't respect and make accomodations with each other's faith, the marriage probably won't last. Disclaimer: All of the above reflects my personal opinion only. Your mileage may (and very likely does) differ; but that's cool with me.

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger The Liberal Avenger said...

74:

I have almost finished writing a post on the topic. I will try to finish it and get it posted before the weekend is over.

I appreciate your input.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Ella's Dad said...

74's last point is a great one, and its name is "humility." It is humility that causes us to recognize that I'm no more important than anybody else, and what offends ME is no more a crime against all that is civil (or sacred) than what offends others. Humility calls us to save our protesting energies for those fights over things that really matter - violations not just of a personal nature, but a broader, moral/ethical/legal one that actually harms a person or group in the community.

The problem, as I see it, is the trend to tear down all notions of a recognizable, universal sense of Good/Morality/Truth (notice I didn't say religion/faith), while at the same time elevating everyone's individual tastes and opinions (many of which are so poorly-thought through it's shocking) through the notion of "rights" run amok.

Couple of examples: removing a stone idol to the 10 Commandments from a public courthouse isn't "persecution" or "discrimination" of faith, though it may be offensive to those of faith; pledging allegiance "under God" isn't establishing a state religion, though the atheist in California may find it offensive.

I think a lot of these problems would dry up if people would step back, muster up some humility, and save their energies for fights that really matter.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Stefan said...

I think what the two of you are doing here is commendable and much needed in our society. However, it does seem to be disingenuous to say that it is OK to have a civil discussion here but when you go back to your own spaces it is OK to go back to business as normal "us v. them" type writing. So on this blog you are part of the solution, but on your own blogs you are part of the problem?

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger dadmanly said...

Kokope11i,

I can't speak for the Avenger, but this joint effort and a related experience with liberal siblings has in fact caused me to rethink how I approach blogging.

I will still have strong opinions, and be assertive in arguing my points. I never really thought I was nasty or too offensive -- although my family thinks somewhat differently -- but I certainyl am more mindful now.

I think to myself, is there anything in this that insults such to insult, ore demeans, or diminishes someone's humanity? Am I trying to approach people who disagree with me in love? Can I find a way to turn the other cheek?

I definitelyt want to carry this sensibility into my other writing.

 

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