A story that gives me hope

In case you are wondering, this is a picture of Andrew Breitbart, Jamie Weinstein, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Tucker Carlson who all had a jolly dinner together a couple of months ago, which Ayers writes about quite beautifully here.

What’s striking to me is how Ayers describes the tribal fears and hostility he meets from his particular lefty tribe for the sin of eating Republicans and sinners and refusing to hole up within the tribal cocoon. What’s also striking is how everybody involved–particularly Breitbart–came away liking everybody else, including dreaded incarnations of evil Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn (and Ayers and Dohrn came away liking them, including Breitbart).

It accords with my own experience of face to face encounters with people vs. written encounters. There’s something about actually meeting people that tends to form bonds while arguing with them over written or electronic media tends to introduce barriers. Not sure what to make of that. But it confirms the odd sense I keep getting that if lefties and righties talked over a beer or some spare ribs rather than on the internet they mostly find how much they have in common and how much they can’t help liking each other. Reminds me of the lovely afternoon I spent with Matt Talbot of Vox Nova a couple of years ago. A fine fellow with a heart as big as all outdoors and an ornament of the Church.

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  • Dan C

    Again, I note the committed and dedicated Robert George who has nothing but publically collegial and respectful interactions with Penn ethicist Art Caplan over what is thought in blog land to be the nuclear topics of stem cell research and abortion. The tone is dramatically different than, for example, the harsh tones of Wesley Smith.

    • Mark Shea

      George has a very nice entry on his FB yesterday with a picture of him and Cornel West at some young girl’s (baptism/confirmation/first communion?) at his parish. Very nice to see.

      • Dan C

        That is awesome!

  • Bob

    Surely, Ayers wasn’t faulted for eating republicans and sinners? 😉

    • Margaret

      Oooh! The ultimate leftie vegan dilemna– is it ethical or not to eat republicans?

  • rob

    Interesting. I’ve also heard this is why new priests never accomplish what they set out to accomplish when they go to a new parish. A young priest who is on fire for Orthodoxy gets to a new parish determined to bring back a certain level of Orthodoxy and goes to dinner and coffee with the old guard of the parish and ends up changing nothing. I’ve had this happen in my own life. I’ve heard women tell me some pretty convincing situations they have been in where an abortion seemed their only ‘choice.’ I try to remember the devil can smile. But its also good to humanize the perceived enemy.

    • Faith Roberts

      New priests often don’t make any changes because they are young and inexperienced and yet convinced of their own superiority, so they come in and try to tell everybody else what to do. They need lessons in humility and diplomacy. They’d get lots more changed if they could be less obnoxious about it.

      We really are commanded to love our enemies, you know. So ‘humanizing the perceived enemy’ might be the more Christ-like way to go.

    • Spastic Hedgehog

      Because treating your parishioners as “the army of the enemy!” is what really makes good and lasting change in a parish.

  • My current priest (http://walter-nagle.blogspot.com/) frequently tells a story of a Seminary professor who was in the habit of identifying those students most opposed to each other and then inviting them to dinner and forcing them to sit next to whoever they appeared to dislike the most.

    For my own right, my best friend (after my wife) is a flaming liberal. It’s the humanity (i.e. the image of God) in the other that results in treating their thoughts with respect.

  • Rock

    That’s a really good point about the difference btw the kinds of encounters. Definitely have experienced that myself.

  • dpt

    “What’s striking to me is how Ayers describes the tribal fears and hostility he meets from his particular lefty tribe for the sin …”

    Living in the Bay Area California, I can only shake my head at the rigidness and blinders that some so-called progressives live with. Of course, I have also met conservatives equally rigid towards the enemy.

  • Ted Seeber

    Dorthy Day had a similar revelation, which is why she abandoned socialism in favor of distributism.

    Real human contact adds a dimension to any human transaction that the autistic media of the internet and the free market is simply missing. Might actually *be* body language- which would explain how a face blind and body language blind Asperger’s high functioning autistic like myself is actually more likable in cyberspace than in meatspace (I’m getting better as I get older- for the first time in my life I have a position of popular power, having just been elected Grand Knight of a new Knights of Columbus Council that I personally recruited 24 out of the 32 members for).

    • Congratulations Brother Knight, and Worthy GK!

    • Congratulations, Ted!

    • Dan C

      I am loathe to permit the frame of politcal-economic thought of Dorothy Day be too hijacked. She termed her approach “anarchism” and pursued and desired what is sub-classed “anarcho-communitarianism.”

      Of significance is the emphasis on “community.” Distributism, particularly in its form represented by the right wing, focuses on the family.

      While excesses of communitarian focus leads to concerns of communism, if at the local level, I remind individuals that Ayn Rand’s form of libertarianism suggests that the family (the clear central focus of distributism) forms the “selfish unit.” Distributism, again in its current and even Chestertonian formulation, has less focus on “community.”

      Day’s anarchic tendencies had sympathies to anarcho-syndicalism (with her attention to union strikes), but ultimately rest in anarcho-communitarianism, with experimental farming communes.

  • Man did not make the family, but he did invent the syndicate.

    Plus the Dumb Ox got the Immaculate Conception wrong, horribly.

    • Mark Shea

      Must everything you say be in the extreme superlative? He did not get it “horribly” wrong. He fully accepted the sinlessness of the Virgin. He simply made a bad call on how she got that way. Getting an A instead of A+ is not “horrible”.

  • Yes, everything I say is in the extreme superlative. Luckily, most stuff is awesome or extraordinary, and very little stuff sucks horribly.

    But I never have a ho-hum day!

  • Matt Talbot

    Thanks for the kind words, Mark – and would that I merited such praise!

    I know what you mean about face to face versus internet combox interaction. I have an aunt and uncle who are ranchers in rural California, and she, especially, is about as diametrically opposite of me politically as it is possible to be. They are very anti-union, and both of them read and enjoy Ann Coulter’s foamy-mouthed rantings books, while I’m very much the (old-fashioned) liberal – pro-union, pro-New-Deal and so on.

    So, when I go and visit them, we keep the conversation on areas we are likely to agree: we all like the Latin Liturgy, my uncle and I both enjoy hunting, all of us are pro-life, and so on.

    Online discourse lacks the non-verbal cues that would let you know when the point has been reached that further discourse is likely to be useless; the virtue of mercy is much harder to apply.