Thursday, May 2, 2013

An Open Letter to Conservatives

Dear Pennsylvania Citizen,

Thanks for writing.  We Liberals are stereotyped to be a literate bunch, and we greatly appreciate the time you took to put your thoughts on paper (virtual though it may be). Like you and your friends, we share a concern about how our children will grow up; like you we have favorite sports teams (mine is the LSU Tigers); like you food consumes an inordinate amount of our discussion time with friends.

And we do not hate you.

Let me say that again - we do not hate you, or your  family family, or your  business.  In fact, we'd like to hold companies like the one you describe as a model of what we wish other companies were.  The problem is that, in many cases, companies are NOT as responsible or as employee conscious as your are - and they often seem to have shareholders and corporate boards.  That you pay enough in wages (and I presume in benefits) to keep unions away is a good thing, but many American employers both keep unions away, and pay less then living wages with few or no benefits.  We liberals don't think this purpose-full impoverishment of the labor force is an economically sound approach, and so we ask government to intervene because markets writ large or small do not intervene themselves.

We do not hate you.

I too was raised Presbyterian - my paternal Grandfather and all three of my mother's younger brothers pastor in that Protestant tradition.  I too believe faith in God is a significant help to every one, and I lament the too often human derived and enforced schisms that exist between Christians, to say nothing of the wider schisms between peoples of all faiths.  It is my deep faith, and my strong adherence to God's calling, that propels me to seek societal intervention for all our less fortunate - including those without health insurance.

I am not happy with the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare's" actual name) because I think it leaves too much economic power over healthcare in the hands of for profit insurers, who are in the business of returning profits to shareholders, not delivering healthcare to every American.  Considering that healthcare bills owed are now one of the top factors in personal bankruptcy in the country, I cannot sit idly by while the market solution - which denied insurance to 35 Million fellow citizens - plods on.  In the end, if everyone has insurance, healthcare will be less costly, and less cost means more money for your company to invest in its own growth and security.  That said, let me reiterate that the market solution left 35+ Million Americans out of the system all together - and thus drove up costs significantly because they had to use emergency rooms for normal health services.  The markets wouldn't fix the problem, so the individual mandate (which as a Republican idea a decade ago)  was the solution our nation fashioned.

I do not hate you.

After the Newtown shooting in December 2012 I hoped and prayed - both for the victims, and for the Nation that we would perhaps finally be able to have a rational discussion about gun violence and gun ownership - and responsibility.  Sadly, we aren't doing that, and my side of the aisle is as easy to blame as yours is because we keep trying to ban weapons based on their looks.  As a gun owner and shooting sports enthusiast (and an urban dweller) I had hopes for universal background checks - a sensible solution that is neither liberal or conservative - but saw that too fail in a hail storm of lies about what the legislation actually did.  And yes, they were lies.  The federal legislation did not seize weapons; it didn't prevent or require background checks on family or friend sales or transfers, and it prohibited the development of a national registry or ownership database.  A specific group of people promulgated those lies, and I believe they should be held accountable.

I do not hate you.

I don't hate anyone.  I dislike, disagree with, and often am enraged by those whom you elect in your Party.  I am disgusted at their unwillingness to do any good thing with our current President (you may recall Sen. Mitch McConnell saying in 2011 that the Republican's #1 objective politically was unseating President Obama).  I am saddened that they refuse to listen to their own sensible leaders, like Sen. Marco Rubio, who is tackling undocumented immigration with approaches that can be built upon to bring dignity and consistency to all who come to our shores - but who is seeing his own Party begin to destroy his approach because it doesn't stick it to people and lIberals here first.  I'm angry that federal civil servants - all of whom are dedicated to helping and serving citizens like you and my are constantly derided to score political points.  and I am bewildered at the call for a "return to the Constitution" by a Party that has sough to hamstring it implementation when that implementation applies to people of color, women, and anyone not white, male, or upperclass. 

I do not hate you.

You are a dignified, proud human being.  No one who can claim those adjectives deserves hatred. And everyone ought to claim those adjectives.  But I will not stand for the solutions to today's problems that your purported Republican leaders support because they assault that dignity at every turn.  As a Liberal I do not believe government has every solution, but I do believe that history has shown us many times where government must craft a solution because markets will not.  And I will continue to call you, my fellow American, out for the words and conduct of your Party and your politicians (just as I do my own on this blog), since ultimately they have no power unless you elect them and send them to Washington.

I do not respect your choice to fictionalize your identity in order to create this conversation.  That was trolling of the worst kind, and while I am willing to debate your arguments on the merits, your choice to shield your real experience from me in that debate is a sure sign that you are not sure your argument could prevail.  It's also one of a series of common tactics I see daily from Republican political operatives.  Lying is lying - and it makes it impossible for us to trust or believe that we can have a substantive debate because we can't be sure who we're really debating with.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing so succinctly what I feel but could not find the right words for. It is what the dialog among Americans should be. The rhetoric, hate-mongering, and scare tactics that both parties use need to be dropped by all of us. We need to return to civil, respectful conversation. We also need to value compromise and diplomacy. I don't think one party or group has all the answers but when we could take the best from both and find a middle ground then we would have a better chance to find a win-win situation for our country. And isn't that what we should all be striving for: a solution in which no-one looses?

Michael Charney said...

Great response, Philip. I would like to run it my website on Saturday, as a guest post. It makes a great counter-letter to the fictional one I wrote. It shows exactly why NOT being cruel works... not everyone gets that message. (Oh... and BTW... the fictional Pittsburghian doesn't represent my views; mine are actually about halfway between that character's and yours....)

Michael Charney

Greg said...

An excellent post, and an excellent idea or follow up, MC.

Philip H. said...

I'm happy to have the cross posting, but as you'll see I chose to update my post this morning with a single paragraph at the end to more clearly reflect what I think about the whole thing. I am well aware of where your real views are - I wouldn't have you on my blog roll if I didn't. I am concerned, however, that you couldn't find a real Republican to write about their real experiences.

jg said...

Well said. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the problem with his fictional character. He wasn't talking about himself; he was creating a composite character to represent American citizens who are not public figures, but whom we might dislike based on their opinions. The point was that we demonize people we don't even know based their political viewpoints, instead of respecting their right to their opinions and trying to find common ground.

Philip H. said...

I have two problems with his composite character - first, I know actual Republicans who hold all those views, and have very similar family and work situations. Several of them are bloggers - so with just a little detective work Mr. Charney could easily have had an actual person with actual views who could legitimately make the claims his fictional character made. It was needlessly lazy trolling. My second problem is that MR. Charney - whom I do generally respect - has fallen into using fictional characters to debate policy and politics, and that's akin to the fictions that too many other Republicans seem to resort to when the facts don't fit their preconceived ideology. Again, it's unnecessary to use fiction or lies to have a debate on the merits.