The most forgotten phrase in US politics

“Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39)

There was a time when both my Christian and non-Christian friends appreciated the value in this principle. But (trigger warning: equivalence coming) now if you are on the left, you can be kicked out of the club for being insufficiently hateful toward Trump and the right. (I myself have been exiled from the club for this very reason.) Not to be outdone, those on the right are kicked out for being insufficiently hateful toward liberals.* I don’t find the platforms of the two sides equivalent, as I definitely favor one of them in terms of policy. But sufficient hate is now the measure of allegiance on both sides. I am fed up. Remarkably, through these semi-private blogs, I find that LOTS of other people are fed up with “split-screen America,” fed up with all the hate-shaming (i.e., guilt-tripping people for not being hateful enough toward the other side), fed up with the zero-sum partisan death spiral. These people have no voice in the media or halls of government, but they are there in large numbers. So let’s go. It’s time to break the back of the whole left-right spectrum. Throw it away and start over. Where to start? Matthew 22:39 — if you truly, mindfully practice it as a daily habit — is as good a place as any.

x x x

*Apologies to my neo-Marxist friends in the David Harvey line, but I use “left” and “right” as they are commonly used in the US, as quasi-synonymous (in most cases) with “liberal” and “conservative,” albeit with a stronger ideological accent. E.g., calling Reagan neoliberal may make sense in Europe or in the parlance of a particular political theory, but ask anyone on the US streets and they would say, “Reagan was the conservative and his Democratic opponents — Carter and Mondale — were the liberals. Reagan was supported mainly by those on the right half of the spectrum, and Carter and was supported mainly by those on the left half.” I am not discrediting Harvey and friends — the theory is internally consistent and probably makes good sense in the UK and in the larger sweep of history — but it is an awkward metric for common usage of the terms in the US. (“Libertarian,” as distinct from “liberal” and “conservative,” might better fit everyday US usage — at least in some contexts — to describe what Harvey and others call neoliberal.)

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33 thoughts on “The most forgotten phrase in US politics

  1. You’re right. We need to dial down the hate. We don’t function well as a country when we act like two warring tribes. I notice I’m tuning out the politics more these days because it’s toxic and I just don’t want my head in that space all the time. I don’t respond to trolls and do a lot of blocking. I no longer read Facebook at all. I only post links back to my blog there. Twitter has turned into a vicious cesspool. We’re doing to ourselves what no external enemy could do.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I agree with you that the need of the hour is a common language that breaks down the walls of the polarized (and increasingly, armed) camps and speaks to everyone in language they can understand. (Maybe we can find it in music.) But all the fake news stories are working against this, deliberately fuelling conflict; and naked Fascism (sorry, but some things just have to be named) must be challenged; how can there be accommodation made for it?
    Thanks for raising the subject.
    Such a worrying time.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m with you josna. Luckily, giving up the hate and challenging the injustice are compatible. I have no preset hate for my friends who differ politically from me, but I challenge them all the time (and they challenge me). I take for my model figures like Gandhi and MLK, who absolutely challenged injustice but not because they hated their enemies. They were not trying to destroy their enemies but to effect a shift in consciousness that brought everyone along with it. They challenged but from a position of love, not hate. Or Mandela, who was so confident in the justice of his cause that he never gave up on his racist guards on Robben island, eventually “turned some of them round” and invited them to his first inauguration.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tribal, yes, that’s the real problem. I have no issue with people staking out views that are far from moderate. Many of my own views are far from moderate. But I’m always ready to discuss and compromise in good faith with those whose views are different than mine. Hell, I LIKE having lots of far-flung, immoderate as well as moderate postions on the table. I am the exact opposite of tribal, and that has pretty much got me blackballed from the left, right, and middle. But at least I pass the Halbarbera test and that’s good enough for me 🙂

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      • Thanks. Have you ever viewed a Jordan Peterson video. Right now, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson is the world’s most-read Canadian author. Given that he also narrates his own audiobooks, it’s possible he may currently be buzzing through more earbuds than any other Canadian voice.

        Although he first rose to international prominence as an opponent of gender-neutral pronouns, Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life, is largely his take on what is most “valuable” in life. And it is tearing up the charts, with Penguin Random House already deeming it one of their top performers with over 3 million copies sold.

        He is an outstanding speaker like no other!

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        • From what little I know of Peterson, I think I’d find his psyc/lifestyle stuff worth pondering, would probably not agree overall with his political slant but would find his political ideas worth engaging, and probably would find his voice a nice addition to my round table of diverse voices. If I had a round table, that is 🙂

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          • Hal, I seemed to have hit some “nuclear option” button that trashed your last comment and I have no idea how to retrieve it (or even how to find the button I hit). But to your question, I really don’t know enough to say. I just recall hearing blips from time to time and thinking, “You know, I don’t really agree with this guy but he is raising good points for futher discussion.” Other than that, I’d have to research it. Unfortunately, Peterson is in a long line in that regard.

            Liked by 2 people

  3. A long line of what?

    He’s not conservative, Christian, or whatever! He talks a lot about Freud, Jung and other philosophers left or right or neutral. He is not a nice addition, he is the main one. And if you really watch him you should see the real Peterson. Not the one told to you by those with a slanted political slant!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post Daedulus + I agree we need to practice what Matthew said daily!

    Yes…we seem past the point where we can easily follow Matthew to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Societal splinters in America the past 25-30 years are too strong for that. And I wholeheartedly agree that having sufficient hatred of a political enemy is now a litmus test on both sides politically. Indeed, many of us – on all levels, are fed up with how the current level of hateful rhetoric is leading to an entrenchment of stereotyped responses.

    As for how we got here, there are many ideas. I’ll just highlight a few we’ve talked of.

    • The repeal of the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987 created a mixed bag of results. Although conservatives felt mainstream media too liberal in the 80’s, their drive to repeal the doctrine has maybe led to an increase in liberal media dominance. As a result, presenting both sides of a political issue fairly has been lost. Ironically, in an attempt to maximize revenue on both sides of the media spectrum, the subjectivity + raw emotion of modern media is starting to mimic the chaos exemplified in the 1976 movie – “Network.”

    • The left the past 20 years grew tired of their perceived lack of political power. This led to a hyper-intense leftwing approach that marked a change from their previous style. As an active member + Precinct Person of the Democratic Party in Southern Oregon from 2003 to 2008, I witnessed a liberal change in attitude brought about by the Iraqi war. No longer were liberals content with their standing. As a result, liberals worked hard to trap conservatives rhetorically + to set the verbal stage. As a result, liberals nowadays quickly paint conservatives as racist, misogynist, xenophopic, anti-gay, etc. In the past, liberals were content to debate issues more + seemed reluctant to name-call. As a lifelong liberal, I grew uncomfortable with this hard-nosed approach. Even though liberals saw conservatives as historically comfortable with name-calling, I questioned whether this was a good approach for liberals.

    • The failure of both political parties to adequately explain + embrace the effectiveness of the “Social Democracy” economic model. Since “Social Democracy” seems the most effective + mildest form of socialism, it holds much promise + is tacitly embraced by both major parties. However, the current political dynamic often involves conservatives disavowing socialism of all types rhetorically while liberals sometimes couch complaints of capitalism in a Marxist-influenced rhetoric that bypasses the effectiveness of “Social Democracy.” Therefore, the current political dynamic results in a cancel-out on this issue.

    • Many current issues that are controversial are related to the subject of how much globalism to embrace in the modern age. This topic involves much cancel-out by both sides. However, in favor of globalism, the history of free trade has created a cross-pollination of positive ideas. And regarding the nation-state + local control, we need to acknowledge that just as the organic food industry emphasizes local aspects, a certain amount of local political control is valid.

    Thx for posting this Daedulus! As usual, you give food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Perry, as always. I think you and I share a 1960s Civil Rights/hippie radical point of view – always been alienated from the right and now alienated from the left and middle as well. If I ever write a book on how we got here, I want you as a co-author! My overarching idea is that we made good gains in collective consciousness for a couple of decades after those 60s movements – unsteady maybe but the trajectory was good. Then the right and left formed an inadvertent coalition to destroy that trajectory, and they have been largely (though not completely) successful. That’s what we’re up against now – the inadvertent coalition of left and right to block our path toward greater social harmony. But you, you have the newspaperman details. Maybe you should write the book and I’ll just be the helper 😊
      Footnotes: (1) Do you know Zizek – that modern-day Marxist (in my sketchy reading) who blames “how we got here” on the identity politics hijacking of the left and on the left’s inability to marshal a viable alternative when the time was ripe to do so? (2) Southern Oregon? Near Ashland, home of my recent radio interview? Gary

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  5. Hey Daedulus – Gary! Yeah, we do have a similar history regarding the Civil Rights/hippie point of view, + thx for the offer to work together sometime. 🙂

    I definitely agree w you about the gains in collective consciousness that were made in the couple of decades after the 60s. Back then, there was a certain optimism on both sides that a blending of ideas from the left + right could form a society that would encourage a cross-pollination of ideas.

    As for the inadvertent coalition of the left + right to block social harmony, one of the things that may have led to this was how the Finance Reform of the 90’s created a cultural schism. Finance Reform, which led to the deregulation of banking, was a bipartisan affair that led to much economic change + what some saw as a rise in wealth inequality. As many know, the results of the 2008 Great Recession further entrenched the left-wing, while also emboldening some on the right. This had cross-currents affecting so much culture + definitely put a damper on the left + right working together.

    I was acquainted w the Zizek-Peterson debate + am aware there are many Marxist schools of thought. I do applaud Zizek in being wary of identity politics since it gets away from the main Marxist ideal of class consciousness. However, since Marxism has many schools of thought, it is noteworthy that the initial springing forth of identity politics in the late 70’s had a Marxist influence + that there have been attempts to identity politics through a Marxist lens. Since Marxism is a complex philosophical-economic theory with an all-encompassing view, its easy to see how there are different interpretations of it.

    As for Ashland, I went to college there + live 8 miles north of it. I totally enjoyed your interview w KSKQ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point about competing Marxist schools of thought. I just remember being in academia myself in the late 1980s and 90s, and although there was a similarity between Marxism and the emerging identity depts (insofar as both were interested in analyzing cultural artifacts with and eye on structures of oppression and how to combat them), the animosity between the professors on the one side and the other (based on whether you draw the battle lines in terms of class/ideology or in terms of identity) seemed to me more pronounced than any comaraderie. This may have something to do with the academic structure itself, as emerging xyz identity departments had to compete for funding (and the competition was fierce) and felt perhaps that their survival as funded departments depended on “proving” that identity xyz (rather than class/ideology) was the cornerstone of identity and struggle. But as you say, there were threads of agreement and threads of hostility. As for the rest, as usual, your granular mastery of historical detail humbles me and makes me feel like I am just voicing platitudes in comparison 🙂 If I ever come through Ashland to visit Derek, the radio host, you are now on my list 🙂

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  6. The hate, divisiveness, intolerance, violence… were among the issues on a very long list along with self-care and this boomer finally moved to where tranquility was the norm and I could heal from the past. Since becoming an ex-pat in 2007, my life has changed so much and more than I ever dared to dream. Life is too short. I walk out my door and cross the little road and see my reflection in the river. I’m surrounded by vineyards and so much more. I spend much of my time wandering in nature, writing, reading, painting, and yes, check out what goes on back there. Just because I left, doesn’t mean I don’t care.

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    • Good for you, Léa. I quit my corporate job 4 years ago and have hitchhiked 14 countries since turning age 60, with stops of a year each for univ. teaching jobs in Germany and Mexico. Lots of hitchhiking in Europe, though hitchhiked France only as far south as Haute-Savoie (but continued by train to your lovely Carcassonne). I still connect to many wonderful friends and places and countercultural threads in the US, but it’s true that they have to run under a cloud of divisiveness that is continually reinforced in the superstructure of media, academia, and rancid politics. On street level, though, I still find a lot of good crazy people and happenings — it’s just not visible from the aerial view. So who knows, I may return to my beautiful, beat, funk-drenched New Orleans one day. Meanwhile, I know exactly what you mean, with aimless hitchhiking having brought me to some lovely places in Europe and Latin America where a whole new and refreshing outlook on life seems possible. Gary

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      • France was a perfect fit. Although there is more of Europe I’d like to visit, I don’t want to leave France enough to go there. Perhaps I shall just wander around France…

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              • Carcasson isn’t far and I’ve spent time there but as an introvert, whose lived in NYC among other large cities, this is a perfect fit. Our village is the largest in a commune of thirteen villages. We have the commerce they lack. However, we frequently share in each others festivals and activited. 🙂 I like Carcassonne but prefer Narbonne which is fortunately, closer to me. 😉

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                • Sounds like a nice relaxing place for an introvert to escape NYC (I love NYC 🙂 ). I imagine Narbonne doesn’t have all the tourism hustle of Carcassonne (which doesn’t mean I don’t love Carcassonne 🙂 ).

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                • It is a perfect fit. NYC had buit-in baggage for me, my ex and his family… C’est la vie. I don’t like crowds so it was no place for me. You would be wrong about Narbonne. I actually reduce my time in the heart of town during the worst of the crowds but where we are has tourists year around. But the summer is the heaviest in that respect. 🙂

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