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Monday, February 25, 2013

Sequestration, Bipartisanship, and Every-Day Civility

In light of the potential sequester cuts from the federal budget, one would hope that there was more bi-partisanship between Republicans and Democrats. However, can we really expect them to be civil with one another given the lack of everyday civility between people of different ideological beliefs? I routinely come across examples of people on the left and right slamming their ideological opponents (enemies?), portraying them as stupid, immoral, or both. If we really want our representatives and senators to work together, maybe what needs to happen first is that we (i.e., everyday Americans) need to stop vilifying those with whom we disagree as if they are somehow less than human.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt's latest book: "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion." Note that the subtitle doesn't say "Why Good Liberals (or Conservatives) Are More Informed About Politics and Religion than Conservatives (or Liberals)." No, it says that folks on both the left and the right are GOOD people who happen to disagree about politics and religion. In other words, Haidt's asking us to adopt a position of moral humility and start seeing our ideological opponents for whom they are: human beings worthy of our respect.

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