Sunday’s New York Times carried an op-ed by a liberal professor in Florida titled “I Want to Be Friends With Republicans.” A better headline would have added “But They’re So Misguided.”
David James Poissant began by describing his distaste for having to make friends with men who didn’t share his politics: “I had friends, plenty of friends. If I wanted more, they would be liberal, super-educated friends who could do rhetorical back flips over the Fox News jargon I was sure these husbands would spout if politics ever came up, which, were I to lead this group, would never happen.” Then he realized at least some conservatives were human:
I realize now that my prejudices against conservatives were, in many ways, just as uncompromising as the prejudices I’d often projected onto them. They were just people. Not issues. Not votes. People whose daughters go to school with my daughters, whose dogs run away and come back and run away again, whose hands found my shoulders and who didn’t judge, the night I wept over a friend who had taken her own life.
But his conservative friends need to listen to his liberal/socialist ideas:
Some say there was a time when Americans got along better by not talking politics or religion. But extending kindness doesn’t have to mean keeping your mouth shut. I want to be friends with Republicans, but I don’t want to be friends with Republicans if I don’t also get to talk about why I think food stamps and socialized medicine are good ideas. Sure, I like to fish, but I don’t want to sit in a boat with someone for hours if we’re forced to keep quiet on the subjects about which we care most...
We need to be able to say what we believe without belittling one another. We need to not pretend that things used to be easier when things used to be easier only if you were white and straight and a man. We need to stop imagining that things will get better if we keep hammering away at each other, because, every time we hammer, our resolve thickens and is harder to chip away at when we finally put those hammers down.
But, mostly, we need to listen. Not every conviction is worthy of respect, but when you hear someone out, you’re forced to acknowledge a person’s thinking and, thereby, his humanity.
Poissant has a serious problem granting humanity to conservatives. He patronizes -- they don't really believe this stuff, they're just regurgitating "cruel rhetoric" because they're inexperienced in the human condition:
If you’ve done it, you know it’s not easy. A guy in my group will say that people on welfare don’t want to work, and if they don’t want to work then they shouldn’t have kids, and if they have kids then those kids should be taken away. I’ll want to shriek, but I know this guy. If his sister lost her job, he’d take care of her and her daughter. If he couldn’t afford to, then he’d want the state to step in. No way would he consent to seeing his niece dragged away because his sister couldn’t pay her bills.
He’s not a cruel person, just someone who’s been taught cruel rhetoric. The failure isn’t one of empathy, but imagination. That single mom could be his sister. He just hasn’t seen that yet.
Perhaps Poissant should begin by listening to the reality that some people on welfare don't want to work. It's not just "cruel rhetoric." It's also a reality that people who roll out of bed in the darkness and go out and work hard all day might resent people who don't. Perhaps he will need to defend the idea that liberal really think it's best when there are no requirements that someone at least try to find work and try to prove they're poor before they get benefits like food stamps. He could even watch some Fox News.