Yesterday there was a big discussion here about one of our perennially favorite topics—liberals, and whether or not they really have good intentions.
For example, Steve G. wrote:
Most people are of good will and that includes having good intentions. But…[t]o acknowledge that liberals have good intentions is to buy into their mantra. Liberals are haters and control freaks, because they are “smarter” and know better than you how to live your life…I have been called a nazi because I questioned a liberal acquaintance how his liberal ideas could work in the real world, and this most offensive word rolled so effortlessly out of his mouth that I almost missed it. Liberals don’t realize or even care how offensive they are.
LIBERALS NEVER HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS .
LIBERALS ARE EVIL BUT HAVE NO IDEA WHY.
LIBERALS LEAVE ONLY MISERY IN THEIR WAKE.
Well now, I find I have to do at least a little bit of defense of the liberals I know—and I know an awful lot of them. First, a caveat: I believe there is a distinction between liberals and those on the far Left, and although it’s a continuum and it can be difficult to draw a clear line between the two, there is a difference.
Most of my friends are liberals, with just a few segueing into the hard Left. Most of them are also women, so perhaps what I’m describing is the subset “female liberals.” All but one were Obama supporters, and remain so (the one was a Hillary supporter who distrusted Obama from the start), although some are disappointed that he hasn’t accomplished more of his agenda, and a few have become skeptical and consider him more of a typical politician than they once did.
But in general they have good intentions. Very good intentions. And in fact, as individuals, some of them actually do a great deal of good in the world, and not only on a personal and familial level. They contribute to charities, some of which don’t just give handouts, but teach people skills and promote cottage industries that help them economically for life. Some of these friends have actually gone to Africa to put their mouths where their money is. Some are in the helping professions, and they really do assist their clients or students to build better and more productive lives.
But yes, they support public policies that, as Steve G. said, leave misery in their wake, and they are completely unaware of this and resistant to evidence that it might be so. Almost to a woman, they also sprinkle casual putdowns of the United States into their conversations when one least expects it. And many (not all) have a real hatred of what they consider the Right, an anger they manfully (womanfully, that is) attempt to swallow for my sake when I’m around.
As far as I can tell, all of them get their news from the liberal press. They read liberal newspapers. They watch CNN, if they watch cable news at all. They listen to NPR. They go to Michael Moore movies. They don’t read much about history and may not have studied it since college or even high school, where they got the usual cursory smattering of platitudes. They hate war and killing, which is another sign of how nice and how well-meaning they are.
Most of their friends think likewise, and so most of the conversations they engage in feature views similar to their own, voiced by other kindly, well-educated, well-meaning people who are liberals too. No doubt they also are acquainted with a few people on the Right and even some conservatives (besides me, that is; I’m a special case and a conundrum because they know I used to be a liberal too, and by some mysterious process I’ve unaccountably gone over to the dark side). But those conservatives tend to either be sensitive to their own odd-man/woman-out status within the group, and politely quiet when the conversation rolls around to politics, or loudly bombastic and unconvincing.
I mentioned that my liberal friends often diss America. This happens so often that it is almost a verbal tic. Often, their fellow countrymen/women are contrasted to those wonderful Europeans, who are (take your pick): cultured, sophisticated, linguistically diverse, international, pacifist, non-imperialist (now, anyway—since history began post-WWII). Americans? The opposite.
Therefore, one of the things my friends love most about Obama is his European-style America-bashing. They see it as a refreshing breath of much-needed humility, a realistic assessment of how America has behaved for at least a century, and a requisite redress of the wrongs that have been perpetrated by an arrogant and powerful nation. The fact that Obama projects a dangerous weakness, and that America and its actions may have often been a force for good in the world—a sort of “good cop” that has helped peace and freedom rather than hindered it—is too paradoxical, too foreign to the way they think.
If someone tries to point out certain things that are unequivocally and more conventionally “good” about America, such as the fact that the US was in the forefront of international relief after the tsunami, it is brushed off as a very small and insignificant matter compared to the manifest wrongs we’ve committed. Their belief in the general evil perpetrated by the US around the world is not built on a single event, nor can it be eradicated by pointing out a single fact, or even a few. It is a huge edifice built on thousands of smaller bits of supposed knowledge, and to mount an assault on it would take several courses and piles of reading matter, and might not be successful even then.
I know. After all, I was one of them once. And I know how much it takes to effect a change in perspective. But I also know that the sort of liberals I describe here are very well-intentioned indeed—for what that’s worth. Unfortunately, it’s not worth a whole lot, when the results so often are bad.