A Spoon Full Of Good Faith Makes The Medicine Go Down

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Do liberals demonize conservatives?  As a liberal, I rather think so.  And at least one scientific survey agrees with me:

They asked two thousand Americans to describe their political leanings (liberal, moderate, conservative) and fill out a questionnaire about morality, one-third of the time as themselves, one-third of the time as a “typical liberal”, and one-third of the time as a “typical conservative”. The clear answer was: self-described conservatives and moderates were much better at predicting what other people would believe. Liberals, especially the “very liberal”, were by far the worst at guessing what people would say, and especially bad at guessing what conservatives would say about issues of care or fairness. For example, most thought that conservatives would disagree with statements like “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenceless animal” or “Justice is the most important requirement for a society”.

Here’s the thing, you lovely lefties; I am one of you.  And holy God, if I ever disagree with you, it’s usually because I’m an evil asshole who’s out to repress and destroy everyone you love.
The assumption that “Hey, we share the same goals of equality and justice” usually doesn’t get brought up.  If I don’t think something is X-ist, or think that the solution to solving X-ism isn’t the one you’re currently flouting, well… the proposed reason I disagree is often because I’m a big fat X-ist, and a jerk, and clearly a big secret hater.
Not because, you know, I think your solution isn’t going to work.  Or because I think you may be jumping to conclusions.  No, it’s gotta be that I am against equality.
I know, I know – the conservatives do it, too!  But they don’t claim to be inclusive.  We do.  And further, looking at my cocktail party history, I’ve had a lot more productive conversations with right-wingers where they’ve pish-toshed my views as hopelessly naive – which is irritating, certainly, to be told that I don’t really understand the world.  But at least they give me the benefit of the doubt of wanting to change it for the better.
Whereas a lot of liberals assume that if I disagree with them, I’m basically a little mini-Hitler.  You know, someone who doesn’t mind hurting defenseless animals.
Conservatives get a bad rap because, well, a shit-ton of them are actually goddamned crazy.  Yeah, all the Tea Party racism and hatred is fucked-up, and certainly Rick Santorum’s ugliness can’t be excused.  They’ve been getting batshit crazier over the years as they’ve been preaching to the choir and reducing their message to a soupcon of “all taxes are evil” and “all government is always more incompetent than free enterprise!”
But most of them mean well on many issues.  They don’t want to make the world into starving orphans; they genuinely think that handing out welfare leads to making people flabby, dependent, and reliant on the government, which hurts people more in the long run.  They aren’t against universal health care because they want gramma to die in the streets, but because they feel that all of these pesky rules and regulations are keeping us from having the cheap and clean health care that you can get in, say, India or Mexico.  They’re not slashing funding libraries for libraries because they hate free speech, but because they think that free enterprise will handle education better.
Those are differences of opinion.  Yes, some conservatives are deep in the pocket of Big Industry and paid mouthpieces, but most of the line-item soldiers want the same things you want – they just don’t think your way of doing it will get there.  It’s a big difference, yes, but the goals are the same.  And you liberals often have a stiff-necked, inflexible, unarguable morality that’s the equal of anything a right-winger can give.
And here’s the thing: a little good will gets you a long way.  I know, it’s a crazy thought, but giving the benefit of the doubt whenever you can afford to allows you to meet in the middle and potentially change someone’s mind.  As I’ve said over and over again, yes, 99 out of 100 people aren’t reachable, but a single percentage point in an election can make all the difference.  Accusing someone of ill faith off the bat is just going to teach them that yeah, liberals really are crazy moonbats.
(Note the “whenever you can afford to” in that last sentence, by the way.  I put that in there for a reason.)
Like I said: I’m a liberal, and there are too many days I’m accused of ill faith for what is just a different viewpoint, and that bothers me.  Assume your opponent wants justice and doesn’t want to go kicking kittens in the gutter.  Is that too much to ask?

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