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Decent people may disagree and still be decent people

Decent people may disagree and still be decent people March 29, 2005

I heard Peggy Noonan speak that line on a discussion panel some years ago, during the Clinton Administration, when “scorched earth” was the policy and when suddenly, it wasn’t enough to disagree with someone – you had to hate them, too.

Decent people may disagree and still be decent people.

I’m wondering if maybe that’s not a bumpersticker we need to see made.

I wonder if we’ve had enough scorched earth, yet.

I’m not talking about making nice-nice and smoothing over disagreements, pretending they aren’t there. I’m not even talking about allowing a writer to get away with foolishness when he or she is being plain foolish.
Heck, if we had to do that I could never write about Maureen Dowd again. And some lefty bloggers could never write about me, either! :-)

I admit, on this blog I have had some tart-ish times. And a time or two, in the throes of excitable passion, I have overdone it. I a hothead, and sometimes I just get rambunctious with the verbal slice-and-dice. :-)

But I happened to be driving my son somewhere tonight and when he took his CD out of the car, Mark Levin popped up on the radio, announcing the death of Johnny Cochran. And he was respectful and gentlemanly about it – saying that although he and Cochran were certainly in disagreement about many things, Cochran was a gentleman, himself, and a thoroughly decent human being whom he respected and liked personally.

My son said, “that was a classy thing for Levin to say. Do you suppose if President Bush were to die tomorrow, Imus or Stern would manage it?”

I don’t know. I don’t think the two deaths would be comparable, to begin with. I also don’t know if that question even matters. There is another question that does.

Why do we have to wait for someone to die before we can admit to their basic decency as a human being?

I remember reading lefty folks who hated Reagan (back after I moved right and stopped hating him, myself, finally coming – too late – to appreciate him) who said they kept champagne in their fridge waiting for the happy day when RWR would die. Even in death, many in the press couldn’t move beyond acknowledging that Reagan “was cheerful and optimistic” as president…and not much else.

Decent people may disagree and still be decent people.

We’ve really gotten away from that – I have too, I admit it. But it doesn’t behoove us to do so. It coarsens discourse. It inflates common differences of opinion into matters of urgent emotion when opinions are simply that: opinions.

Both sides do it. I have done it. You may or may not have done it. Maybe we should stop it, finally. I am going to try to scale back, myself, and try to separate the person I am writing about from their opinion. I do try to do that now, but I will try harder to do so.

Although their actions are something else again. Goofy actions are goofy actions. Crybaby whining is crybaby whining. Paranoic writing is paranoic. It’s fair game.

But opinions are something else, again. Mere opinions, given freely, the simple exchange of ideas, shouldn’t result in people consigning the other side to hell.

Purgatory, maybe. ;-)


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