I was recently reminded of words I penned 13 years ago. What has changed? Just the names. The activists have only gotten more overt about their dishonesty. Change the names to Travon or Sacco & Vanzetti if you want to rewrite this for today or for the 1920s.
If you sought a one-word characterization of recent politics, polarized might come to mind. We're seeing the extremes of left and right going beyond saying the other guys are wrong to saying they are evil. And you see this online with one side calling the other "wingnuts" and the other side calling their opposites "moonbats."
Why is this?
For one thing, the stakes have been raised. A lot of folks believe we're only one Supreme Court Justice away from resumption of the Salem Witch Trials.
A lot of other folks believe the Axis of Evil will enable someone to create a mushroom cloud over Manhattan. Because the stakes are so high, we're disinclined to shrug and go back to ignoring the politicians.
We're in an environment where you simply cannot talk to some people. I think this is because we disagree about what some words mean. For instance, I think everyone from the most moonbattish to the wingnuttiest believe in "liberty and justice for all." But what does liberty and justice mean?
Some think that "liberty" means freedom to be left alone. Others think that "liberty" means being able to be self-actualized. Freidrich Hayek would say that liberty means that one is free to starve to death.
Conversely, Thomas Merton would say that I am not free if my brother is in bondage. Some think that "justice" means that the law should apply to everyone equally. Others think that "justice" means that everyone should play on a level playing field.
Thus Michael Moore speaks of clean water and universal health care when he's thinking about freedom because he's thinking about something completely different from Charleton Heston when he's asserting the second amendment.
To half of America the term "economic justice" means that everyone should be taxed at a fixed rate and no rich person should be taxed more simply because he can afford it and no poor person taxed less simply because he can't. The other side believes there is no justice if anyone in society doesn't have a satisfactory standard of living.
Take the words "good" and "evil." The moonbat's good is the wingnut's evil and vice versa. Is it evil to allow people to starve? and good to force others to pay to feed them? If you say, "yes" then what if that person being starved is in a permanent vegetative state like Terri Shiavo?
I leave as an exercise to the reader finding an equally ironic formulation of the wingnuts involving pro-life, Scott Peterson and the death penalty.
The problem is that it does not suffice to form up sides and throw rocks at each other. There are insights in each partisan position that the other side must aggregate to understand the world as it is and to refine the quality of his own thinking. That's the genius of democracy. People disagree, but a democratic process forces disparate voices to be accommodated and extreme voices of wingnuts are cancelled-out by the extreme voices of moonbats.
Neither side should be given the power to silence the other, and each side should thank the other side for serving to refine their own thinking. Peruse the Socratic dialogs and you'll see Socrates thank those who contradict him most sharply. They call to his mind the parts of his thinking that need work and create opportunities to elaborate the parts of his thinking that aren't immediately obvious.
I think that my own position is most strongly vindicated when I talk to someone on the other side, and instead of hearing reasoned arguments, I hear abuse and insult. Maybe I'm wrong, but I know that the other fellow won't set me straight and I can go on from there.