Translate

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Thinking About Emotion In Politics

I got to thinking about this because I have noted my own intellectual journey from one rooted in emotion and tribalism, to one more open to reason, and then as one who sees the possible error of ignoring feelings--from oneself or others--in an alleged devotion to "facts" and "logic" that is in fact another form of emotional tribalism.

It's a sobering thing to realize in one's mind, My "enemy" has made an argument, the moral force of which I have yet to take account. The "Left" does this all the time. I had become so adept at expressing outrage against the murder of children in the womb, and the sexual libertinism that leads to it, that in large part I simply ignored whatever a "liberal" said. I sneered at his morality, I seethed at it, I did everything except take his moral claims seriously; that is, as they are offered in good faith. Then I begin to think, "Hey, man, you were just a kid," and yet I answer, "No, I think I was about 34."

That is to say, I might be angry about the overvaluing of spotted owls, or dogs, relative to people, yet the stubborn intellect rouses itself to ask, "What is my position on spotted owls? Or climate change, or subsidized child care?", or dozens of other things. We had become so fond of marinating in our own certitude of rightness that we ourselves had become lazy. Satire in moderation may be useful, and even hilarious, but it's not argument, as such. Have you seen anything in the body politic that isn't contempt, or withering sarcasm?

I push so hard against the "Right" because that was my native land. I'll leave others to break their friends out of "Left" intellectual prisons.

I can't just say, "I'm a man of the Left," because I don't know what that means here today. If you figure out what the common political descriptors actually mean, you'll let me know, won't you? The only thing I know for sure is that I'm a Catholic in a world that couldn't care less, while fitfully yearning for that which it has rejected.

I still don't trust people without hearts. Maybe in that sense I was always a "liberal," in the reductionist parlance. I need to hear a person say, "Of course I agree that treating immigrants inhumanely is wrong," or, "I don't want poison in the air and water," full stop. And then you'd better be prepared to show how you're not advocating for something opposite of what you've said. Most rightists don't do that now, it seems to me. Too many wear a hardness of heart like a badge of honor, as if compassion itself were proof of error. We cannot disagree about prudential means to ends, if we do not agree on the ends. And we'd better be prepared for the fact that a Catholic anthropology is not identical--or perhaps even consonant with--these American political philosophies we've stewed in our whole lives, great as America is, in many ways. We need real leaders, whose vision is clear, and whose hearts are full. We cannot meme or tweet our way to the kind of political life we want. We must give truth when we find it, but we also must receive it, in humility, from our brothers and sisters, no matter how unexpected the timing, or the source. Anger and resentment are understandable, and even just, when injustice is present. But a politics of resentment does not become any people that aspires to be truly free.

No comments: