The body of a letter to a professor at Stanford:


I just listened to your TED talk about how to improve political conversations.  I agree with most of what you said, especially about the importance of empathy and respect.  I agree with what you say about how important it is to move beyond ranting at one another, but not because doing so is what other people are entitled to.  Agree with you about the importance of finding ways of communicating with other people because doing so is the only way that we will begin solving problems that must be solved.


But I disagree with you in how you characterize the difference between liberals and conservatives.  You make it sound as if they are moral equivalents who are informing their political differences with different values.  Liberals prefer to base their values on caring for and protecting vulnerable people and the importance of fairness and equality.  Conservatives base their perspective on loyalty to group, patriotism, and purity.  Comparing the two groups is like comparing a preference for chocolate or vanilla and who’s to say which is better, chocolate or vanilla?  If you leave the matter at that, simply choosing between two different values, not even opposing, but just different values, you might be staging for conversations that might lead compromises productive of government policies that lead to solutions of national problems, but to say that conservatives and liberals are equivalents that base their political perspectives on different but equally respectable values abandons intellectual integrity.


I list here a series of statements that are simply factually incorrect, morally repulsive, or just plain crazy:

·      Dinosaurs were on board the ark that Noah built.

·      The earth was created on October 23, 4004 BC.

·      The Holocaust did not happen.

·      The Sandy Hook school shootings never happened.

·      The NASA moon landings were staged in movie studio.

·      Obama is a Moslem.

·      The founding fathers never intended to separate church and state.

·      Climate change is a Chinese hoax.

·      Defunding Planned Parenthood will reduce the incidence of abortions.

·      God hates fags.

·      In the rapture, 144,000 people will be picked off the face of the earth and taken to heaven.

·      Hurricane Katrina happened because God hates lesbians and abortionists.


Those are assertions that only conservatives will make.  Not every conservative will make every one of those statements, but you will never hear Senator Chuck Schumer assert that climate change is a Chinese hoax.  You will never see on the same bumper the two stickers “Hillary for president” And “Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out.”  I challenge you to produce a similar list of silly assertions progressives make.  Schumer might be wrong when he says that the answer to gun violence is fewer guns, but you will never hear him say manifestly stupid things like sending people to prison makes them become gay, as Ben Carson did.


So as a progressive, I am willing to listen to the ideas of conservatives because doing so increases the probability of the compromise necessary in solving problems in a diverse community.  I am willing to listen to conservatives because only by listening do I learn anything.  But there is such a thing as being wrong both factually and morally.  I mean, there are people who believe that the earth is flat.  Jiminy Crickets, what am I supposed to do with that?  I can conceal my scorn for people who say that Sarah Palin is an angel sent to the earth by God – not just a good person, but a real live, harp-strumming, bewinged angel sent among us by God – but I will not, I cannot respect, such a person any more than I can respect Heinrich Himmler or Charles Manson.


I can listen with an open mind and heart.  I can endeavor to understand, but there comes a point where tolerance and respect become foolishness and immorality.  I concede that the location of that point is up for discussion, but it exists.


The body of my letter to the editor of the Star Tribune after an article about the anti-abortion protesters at the capital:

I was delighted to see the demonstration Sunday at the State Capitol with signs urging people to protect life. It was an affirmation of the value of resisting laws that are perceived as unjust or immoral. Resistance to bad laws or incompetent leadership is patriotic. I look forward to seeing these protesters join other movements to protect life, such as efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, the death penalty, irrational military budgets, support for violent dictators, and the use of torture. If these people are serious about reducing the number of abortions, they will insure that Planned Parenthood is fully funded. Valuing life means making health care available to all people, “universal” in President Trump’s words, in the same way every modern nation in the world does. People who want to protect life are responsive to the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and value the lives of refugees, the poor, the indigent, the incarcerated, and LGBTQ folk. If these protesters do not value all life by supporting these other movements and values, their message to me is that they scorn women and sex.