…then how do we proceed as a nation?
That’s essentially the question I am posing in my column at First Things:
Perhaps projecting their passions on to me, both sides assumed that whatever I was writing about Palin was meant as a political manipulation against them. If I tried to offer balanced criticism, Palin fans accused me of “hating her from the first.” When I—because I detest bullies—defended her from an unconscionable assault by supposedly “liberal” people and the press after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, I was derided, even by progressives whom I considered real friends, as being a “secret Palin lover.”
A good-faith assumption that I simply meant the exact words I wrote, in either case, and nothing more, was not permitted. It was deemed not possible.
Ms. Noonan’s dictum that people could disagree and still be “decent people” began to take a real beating, and things have only gotten worse, since then. Lately, I admit, my willingness to assume good-faith of others, particularly of the administration, has collapsed, mostly thanks to the HHS mandate and the shameful willingness of some to mischaracterize the church’s opposition as being about something other than a genuine concern for first-amendment freedoms, and to play along with the utterly false, media-contrived, so-called “war on women” narrative.
I don’t like feeling like this; I don’t like surrendering that “good faith” instinct—and I most certainly do not like being in discord with fellow Catholics, many of whom I have long liked and respected, over a matter of policy.
We are at each other’s throats, both in the church and secular venues; in government neither side knows can tell if they are dealing with honest brokers who are working in good faith.
I think what is becoming a true sticking-stone for many is the sense that the administration, and the press that supports it, have not displayed much evidence of “good faith” themselves—not last November when Nancy Pelosi groused about Catholics having “this conscience thing”; not in January when George Stephanopoulos pretended that someone, somewhere was suddenly scheming to “ban contraceptives”; not when President Obama told then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan that he considered the conscience “a sacred thing” and then actively moved against it.
I would like to believe that Obama spoke to Dolan in good faith. In fact, a progressive friend insists that Obama did mean it, but that he was swayed against his own best instincts by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and others.
You can read the rest here.
If good-faith assumptions cannot be well-founded, what does “civility” serve beyond the preservation of polite fiction?
Perhaps it becomes a branch we cling to, so we may not be completely washed away in our storms?