Thursday, April 27, 2006

Politics and Civility

When I was younger I used to enjoy watching the The McLaughlin Group with my father. We enjoyed the debate and the humor and we also enjoyed the obvious friendship among many of the participants, men (and later women) with quite different views on many things. On the show, they'd something go at it hammer and tongs. But you knew that at the end of the day, John McLaughlin, Robert Novak, and Jack Germond might find themselves having a drink together and swapping stories and laughing together.

Where has that gone? Oh, it can still be found, but as I look around I see so much rancor in so many places. And so little civility. Have we really come to a place where there is no reasonable disagreement? Where everyone who fails to acknowledge that I'm right is in bad faith---a liar or worse? Isn't it possible to be well intentioned, honest, honorable and wrong?

In a few minutes I'm going down to dinner with two friends. One is a fellow Christian, though from a very different tradition (he's a devout Quaker) and the other is an atheist. One is a strange amalgam of federalism, Midwestern chauvanism, conservatism, liberalism, and insanity. The other is a fairly orthodox left-libertarian, though sympathetic to current mainstream left-liberalism. And I'm a fairly standard moderate conservative, though colored by Catholicism which moderates the worst excesses of my politics (one really should care for the poor, one way or another; war may sometimes be just but had best be rare as Hell; killing people needlessly is never right, etc.)

And we're all opinionated. So we argue and we'll probably argue at dinner. But we're also all futurists of a sort, share a love of technology and science fiction, and we all, above all, believe that civility, honor, and fair play should hold despite disagreements. We see each other as more than just the sum of our politics.

After all, shouldn't everyone?

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