I receive Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt newsletter in my e-mail each weekday, and I usually find it an interesting read, even when I’m not entirely on board with his positions. But in today’s edition, I found something that made a great deal of sense to me, to the extent that it’s the QotD.
When I’ve previously argued for Mondo’s Law, the idea that if your politics are bigger than your life, then you’re doing one of them wrong, I’ve been accused of being privileged (a term that I find to be a gimcrack version of Original Sin — an inherent depravity, a condition from which one cannot redeem himself except by accepting the tenets of a particular faith). In today’s Jolt, Geraghty talks a bit about that:
We’ve entered an era where one significant chunk of the American people – the passionate Left – have concluded that the driving force behind those who disagree is pure evil. Some might argue that this has always been the case, and that there are plenty on the right who perceive liberal Americans as pure evil.
[…] Folks on the Left are now arguing whether it’s okay to sucker-punch a Nazi in the face. Come on, now. Laws against assault and battery are there to protect all of us, even those with grotesque or abominable views. Outside of war or self-defense, the only Americans who should be punching Nazis are archeology professors on sabbatical. Once one murderous ideology justifies a sucker-punch without legal consequence, how do we rule out the other ones?
A little while back, Tim Kreider wrote in The Week, “A vote cast for Trump is kind of like a murder; there may be context to consider — a disadvantaged background, extenuating circumstances, understandable motives — but the choice itself is binary and final, irrevocable.” For most of human history, murder was perceived to be the ultimate crime, one of the few that even our compassionate society believed warranted the death penalty. Now we’re comparing the ultimate crime to a vote.
Over the weekend I saw some further social media discussion of the notion that “being apolitical is a privilege.” It’s not merely those who disagree who are being cast in the role of enemies, but even those who fail to care as much.
The easiest way to ensure that there is a violent conflict between Americans of differing political ideologies is to adopt attitudes like these. Blur the line between the genuinely hateful, dangerous groups and run-of-the-mill political disagreements. See anyone who disagrees or who could potentially disagree as a potential personal threat. Conclude that there is nothing redeeming or appealing about someone who disagrees with your politics. Ensure that the portrait of them in your mind is dehumanizing, with nothing worthy of respect. Contend that unprovoked violence against them, like punching them in the face without warning, is a justified response to how they offend you. Finally, adopt an attitude that anyone who is not explicitly with you is against you, just another part of the problem, and in need of reeducation.
We don’t have to go down this path. But to avert this, enough of us have to want to steer onto another one. [Bolding mine — Prof. M.]
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