We have more in common than you think.

In following a friend’s blog I happened across an incident in which two people who had been friends IRL and online for years parted ways less than amicably over discussions of politics.

It got me to thinking: how different are the right and the left, really? And the more I thought about it, the more I came to conclude that any two people in the most politically distant “poles” have far more in common than they think. And I’m not talking about stupid stuff like “they breathe air” or “they like the flavor of cumin.” I’m talking about core values.

Who here does NOT value friendship? What about good health? What about peace of mind?

Who doesn’t enjoy (or long for) happy familial relationships? What about long-term sexual partnership?

What about the freedom to choose? The personal agency to make a considered decision for oneself?

The places where we differ seem to be in our beliefs about how to reach those things we value. And oddly enough, once we focus on implementing our values we conclude that anybody who wants a different implementation than we do must not value the same things we do.

That’s simply not true.

The avowed atheist and the devout christian (to pick a set of polar opposites) know that their beliefs differ regarding those things widely considered unknowable. What they forget is that they cherish and uphold the exact same principles. And so do lots of other polar opposites. And in their attacks on each others’ implementations (of the very same sets of values, don’t forget) they create these massive “logical” arguments which prove beyond any doubt that their opponent is somehow evil, or stupid, or both.

The greatest evils in this world are those which cause good people to hate each other.

58 thoughts on “We have more in common than you think.”

  1. Well said.

    Very well said, in fact. I know many people who have vastly different political beliefs (I live in Austin, which is where Texas crosses paths with rampant liberalism, with some interesting results) and in most cases the argument is rarely over what is the ends are, but rather simply the means for achieving them.

    1. Re: Well said.

      Ah, Austin. The chewy hippy center in the thick Christian shell. 😛

      I’m a Houston native, living in Abilene. I get into arguments like that all the time.

        1. Not okay with it, but maybe through friendship you can show them the error of their ways. If nothing else you may come to understand where their racism comes from.

          My grandfather was raised in the 1890s in Southern Missouri. That up bringing programed people with certain words and phrases they never seem to lose even if they live to be 99. It took a lot of patients to realize that my grandfather wasn’t near as racist as I grew up thinking.

          1. If you’ve met that type it’s difficult. It could be fundy xtian, neo-nazi, racist, etc. They are fine until you cross that line and then they become pre-programmed automata. Scary in some cases.

  2. Damn right!

    If there’s one thing I’m getting tired of, it’s people who think that nobody can, in good faith, come to an opinon that differs from their own.

    I’m a right-winger, but most of my friends are on the left. We get along fine, because we both respect each others common values and understand that we each came to our own conclusions in good faith and that we have alot to learn from each other.

    1. If you can agree on what the situation is, you can disagree about the proper remedy, or even as to whether there ought to be a remedy, perfectly amicably.

      Where you get problems is when someone is flatly insisting that things are other than they are (a disorder of both the right and the left, and not apparently ameliorated by intelligence or education), as though shouting down the facts can change the world. At that point what you’ve got is not an argument – which can be quite a civilised way to pass a long winter evening – but a bloody row and that’s no fun for anyone who’s wired right.

      1. Yep, that’s one of the major things that causes nastiness. It irritates me when people don’t understand the difference between assertion and fact and that the burden of proof lies on those who make assertions.

        Another is when people get on their “I am better than you because of what I believe and I must now punish you for your wickedness” high horse. I’ve had a few people who claimed to be my friend and say I needed to have terrible things happen to me in order that I may a lesson in humility.

        So far, everyone who has made that mistake has instead got a lesson from me on what “Nemo me impune lacessit” means.

  3. There is a dark side to this similarity, too. The more I see of those on the “politically distant poles”, the more I doubt that any of them believe anyone but themselves should have the freedom to choose. Everyone else should live according to the choices that those elites, who know better than us what is good for us, make on our behalf.

    The principal difference between those opposing poles seems to lie in which choices they consider it most important that the rest of us not be trusted to make for ourselves.

    The problem here is that not only do we all have different beliefs, but we all have different values — and those with the power to impose their values on others are generally unshakeably certain in their belief that their values are the only correct ones, and everyone else is wrong and will realize it when the error of their ways is eventually pointed out to them by experience. You can excuse an awful lot of things forced on other people if you convince yourself that it’s for their own good and they’ll thank you for it some day, and even more if, when you can’t convince even yourself that it’s for their own good, you can stand up and nobly say that sometimes the few must suffer for the sake of the many.

    (It should go without saying that this is a rhetorical “you”, by the way, not a personal one.)

    1. What about us Libertarians?

      (Not actually registered as such, but I’ve started to believe they’ve got the right idea.)

      It’s funny that I should read this post today, as just this morning in the think-room (the shower) I was considering a domain like “NotRepublicanAnymore.com” — man, I hate the party system. I want to be so independently rich someday that I can… do… something huge.

      1. Libertarians?

        See, for the most part, I agree with the stance of the Libertarian party. However, when I looked into it, it seemed like most of the people there just wanted to legalize pot. Not an issue I agree with, so I’m stuck with the Republicans.

        1. Re: Libertarians?

          I’ve come to believe in legalizing drugs.

          Drugs are evil, they destroy lives through addiction, and the world would be better off without them. But I think that, like Prohibition, making drugs illegal is hurting us more than if they were allowed.

          If they were allowed, they could be better controlled, like alcohol and tobacco.

          If allowed, their prices would drop radically. Being affordable would mean less crime from those who rob to be able to afford their fix.

          If allowed, our limited police forces could go after more serious criminals.

          I’m sure you’ve heard all the arguments before; I just don’t think you can win the “war on drugs”, and legislating morality never seems to work.

  4. I had a brief taste of that driver last night, actually – and it’s the common ground that makes the difference in approach such a betrayal. After all, you’d expect somebody you like and respect, who has the same aims as you do, not to betray them (and by association, you) by acting in ways sure to compromise those goals.

    It doesn’t help that you can’t actually communicate how wrong and harmful the other side is being – that their actions are not just not helping, but harming, what you both want. Or rather, that you can’t communicate it in a way that’ll bridge the gap in world view.

  5. What about the freedom to choose? The personal agency to make a considered decision for oneself?

    Most people on both sides of the aisle support that in the abstract, but think other values trump it in certain cases. And there’s a lot of loud arguments over in which cases freedom to choose is trumped; most of the “the other side is evil” claims I’ve heard stem from disagreements in this area.

    But, back to your core point, most of the disagreements are indeed much smaller than they seem in the heat of argument. Usually they either stem from factual disagreements, or differences in assessing priority of values, rather than having fundamentally different values.

  6. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth.
    Nobody has the right to impose his beliefs on another.
    Everybody has the right to be wrong.

  7. The left and the right meeting in the middle

    My Friend Maggie aka MAX is a left wing liberal lesbian Pagan housemate and my friend Ray is a conservative Right winger Christian and my bestest friend in the whole wide world.

    They could not be more different but they have came together helping me get thru the death of my wife. I love them both all the more for their locking arms and working together to make sure I get the support I need. I could not ask for better friends.

  8. According to my Contemporary Criticism class the reason both “polar opposites” have essentially the same assumptions is that the individuals all live under the same dominant hegemony and were trained by the same repressive state aparatus, and therefore have no real choices about what they believe. The choice is all an illusion–in fact,the notion that we have a choice in what we believe is all just part of blanket dominant ideology we learn as Americans.

    I think it’s a bunch of crap, personally, but it’s interesting to throw around.

    And if you understood that, you can take my exam for me.

    1. I actually understood that. But no, I’m not taking your test for you. neener.

      Pretty much it’s saying that you grow up with the beliefs of the majority government…aka live in a fairly repressive society, you’ll get folks who are pretty cookie cutter. We’re not a fairly repressive society..though we started as one. /shrugs
      I hope I’m making sense. I should have been asleep a long time ago.
      If not..I could probably expand/explain further…preferably when my brain is working a tad better after some sleep.

        1. Unfortunatly, in many ways this has a grain of truth in it. Let’s face it…even this country has repression. Not everyone is allowed to do what they want when they want. Granted, if there was no repression….we’d have total chaos and anarchy.

          1. Right. What I don’t like about the theories we’re studying is that they don’t offer any alternative to the repression. It’s basically like “And you can’t avoid it. So you’re a pawn. The end.” Not the most productive line of thinking, if you ask me.

          2. Not productive at all. From the sounds of it they’re saying that you have no agency whatsoever.

            Anybody who is trying to get you to believe that has some agenda for wanting you to feel disempowered and choice-less.

  9. There are far too many people in the world that has a fundamental problem accepting that others don’t belive/feel/act/etc. the way the first person feels they should. In example…the rabid Born Again Christian telling someone they aren’t Christian because they’re Catholic. Or that a person will burn in hell because they’re homosexual. And these people KNOW they’re right and true. And the world is in a poorer shape for all these people that KNOW they’re RIGHT and TRUE and that the rest of the world is WRONG and must CHANGE. /sigh Too much intolerance in this world. Too many people that can’t accept that I’m different than you who’s different from her, ad nauseaum.

  10. Good thoughts and ideas. It reminds me of “God’s Army” in dealing with the Anti-mormon stuff. They pointed out rightly that in a world that is filled with a lot of poverty and war and other issues. Don’t people have better things to do than try to tear someone down who’s trying to do something right?

    Argueing like that is almost never productive.

  11. In following a friend’s blog I happened across an incident in which two people who had been friends IRL and online for years parted ways less than amicably over discussions of politics.
    Who here does NOT value friendship?

    Apparantly these two people (or at least, one of them).

    I agree wholeheartedly with your post, Howard.

  12. Sadly, it is human nature to scoff at someone that gives us information contrary to what we “know” to be true. That scoffing leads to a lack of respect and it’s difficult to remain friends with someone you do not respect.

    Human nature sucks. If you don’t keep an eye on it, it will get the best of you.

    1. Human nature sucks. If you don’t keep an eye on it, it will get the best of you.
      That’s why I recommend replacing your meat-brain with a positronic thought receptacle and joining the Collective. Freedom of choice is a burden we Borg need not carry.
      We used to go around saying “Resistance is Futile,” but it sure got you guys riled up. Now we just recommend you TRY being assimilated. If it’s not “your thing”… well, it will be soon enough.

  13. I agree overall, and it’s a powerful and thought-provoking statement. But, I have encountered a lot of people whose core values didn’t seem to coincide with mine much at all, and when someone is threatening me with death and damnation because I disagree with them, I can’t imagine we’re going to find enough common ground to work out a peace treaty. A lot of people believe I have the right to freely choose… but only from among a limited set of options which they provide me. Choosing not to have a family and not to have a long-term monogamous heterosexual relationship blessed by marriage (simultaneously) is not on their list of approved choices, which defines a difference in our core values that some people cannot get past.

    We all want those things you list, but we differ wildly in how we believe we may attain them. I imagine even jihadist Muslims agree with your list of important values, but they and I are never ever ever going to agree on how best to attain them. And while we may all want those things, a great many people believe that any and all of those things are of lesser importance than converting or destroying everyone who doesn’t agree with them. Hating someone and wanting to eradicate their kind from the earth just doesn’t yield to the thought that they love their children too.

    Alas, I think we’re doomed. At least some of us are doomed. The world has become too small to contain large groups of horrifically armed people who want to destroy each other. And the fact that some of those armed groups are indifferent to the fate of the world and would consider its destruction a small price to pay for the destruction of their enemies leaves no common-good to negotiate for.

    Maybe I’m just cynical.

    1. I don’t think my point is invalidated by the truths you’re presenting. The problem is that most of these “want to destroy each other” types simply don’t GET the fact that we’re more similar than we are different.

      Getting the word out is a real trick, especially when some of those folks will shoot you for evangelizing any culture other than their chosen fanaticist poison.

  14. I’d comment, but I believe that debate itself is broken. You seem to be trying to bring people together, and I wish you luck. But until intellectual honesty, fairness, and reason are restored to the general political arena, I don’t think you’ll have any.

  15. better late than never

    Politics are the *one* topic guaranteed to cause an argument between my mother & I.

    Mom thinks I’m a Leftist Liberal. (I vote Independent & I’m more Centrist than Liberal.)
    *I* think she’s been blindsided by what’s been put out both by the current Administration & Fox News. (She votes Republican.)

    So we comment on it for a while, argue for a minute (that’s all it takes to get to the point where I see two brick walls colliding, meaning a stalemate), and then I drop it and let her think she’s won that round.

    It keeps her happy even though we’re still at a stalemate.

    I’m just glad the topic of Politics doesn’t come up too often…. 😉

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