Wednesday, December 08, 2004

 

We don't have to shut up

Matt Yglesias gets into stereotypes on both sides, although mostly rightwing stereotypes about the left.
Tone Deaf

The flipside of all of this is that cultural conservatives are remarkably tone deaf about, say, me. It's a little hard to get worked up about the notion that Hollywood, the news media, and homosexuals are going to destroy the American family when you grew up in a happy family where your parents worked in Hollywood and the newsmedia and you counted a lesbian couple among your neighbors. I'm aware that it seems "obvious" to some people that these things are dire threats to traditional life and values, but that just seems bizarre to me, in part because my tradition isn't the "traditional" one and in part because it simply isn't the case that the dire threat exists. Now as Will put it a little while ago, a bare counter-assertion of the legitimacy of my identity and personal narrative doesn't get us very far in terms of the fact that the like-me people are outnumbered by the not-like-me people, but it's hard to move beyond assertion and counter-assertion when you feel that the legitimacy of your identity is under attack, be it from the political system or the media-industrial context.
We none of us ever recognize ourselves in the descriptions of an outsider. A Jew reading Mein Kampf wonders what planet Hitler is finding his Jews on, since they certainly don't resemble any Jew any Jew ever knew.

I'm sure I embrace stereotypes about cultural conservatives (including fundamentalist Christians, even though the only fundamentalist Christian I actually know personally is in many ways very unlike the stereotype).

We're not going to get anywhere creating strawman versions of our ideological and political opponents so that we can trash them and prove our own moral and intellectual superiority. Liberals are not, I hope, trying to threaten conservatives. We simply disagree with them. We're not the ones, as far as I'm concerned, who have elevated these disagreements to the level of a holy war. If we have, and to whatever extent we may have, I think it's a bit of a mistake. But we also are under no obligation to back down from arguing in favor of what we believe simply because some conservatives think that by our so doing, we are in fact threatening them. Especially since some conservative spokespersons, attempting to play the PC card in reverse, think that merely accusing us of threatening their deepest beliefs is enough to impose upon us the moral obligation to shut up. We don't have to bow to that tactic.
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