You can all just kiss off into the air

15 04 2009

Since the Femmes worked so well for me last night, why not again tonight?

The post title is offered in a kind of resigned cheer, a reminder to myself that for all my words about arguing and then eating pie, sometimes all one can do is argue. And then walk away. Perhaps waving a finger or two.

I’ve been teaching a democratic theory course, and have been using Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson’s Democracy and disagreement as my main text and whipping boy. They lay out an argument and a procedure for dealing with moral disagreement in politics. It appeals to my pie-eating sensibility, even as I distrust their bland, mm, blandishments on behalf of their version of democratic deliberation.

The distrust wins out. While the notion that morally serious people could find away around their disagreement appeals, it also repels: Let’s just all make nice, shall we? Or, to put it another way, I don’t think it works, and it conceals a fair amount of coercion, to boot.

The problem isn’t the coercion so much as it is the dishonesty regarding the coercion. There are winners and losers in politics, and pretending that the losers did not, in fact, lose—or forcing the losers to pretend that they didn’t lose—is to engender precisely the sort of dishonesty which leads to a repudiation of politics as such. Given that politics is one of the few ways we citizens have to disagree without killing each other, such alienation is dangerous.

No, don’t worry, I’m not about to head off into another rhapsody on the magical powers of politics. Rather, this is all a too-long preamble to a consideration of combox wars.

I’m a regular reader of and irregular contributor to the comments sections of a couple of conservative blogs, and even though I ought to know better, I am sometimes shocked—yes, shocked!—that reason and evidence do not always prevail.

Many issues, of course, do not turn on reason and evidence. You think the fetus is a person deserving of rights over and above those of the woman who carries it; I do not. You think that the alleged personhood of the fetus means it must prevail; I think that even if the fetus is a person, it does not automatically prevail.

I speak in terms of liberty and equality; you speak in terms of slaughter and dismemberment. And on it goes.

And when I suggest that we simply disagree, you call me and others like me murderers and Eichmanns and the worst this country has to offer. I decline to write (in the combox) what I think of you.

This isn’t a pity party for poor ol’ me, nor even a slam against the other side for their unreason, not least because my side (and, shockingly, I) have engaged in our/my share of unreason.

Nope. This is simply to note that reason has its limits, and passions its pleasures. Because as pissed as I can get at political opponents (see various rants), I also thoroughly enjoy ripping through the other side.

In addition to all my reasons, it’s also what makes me want to win, and to want to see you lose.

This, too, is politics: deep passion, surging forward, beaten back, never reconciled.

So, yes, let’s all make nice, shall we? And let’s be honest when we won’t.

*Post script

So y’all understand as I laugh about tea bagging and 2M4M and NOM, and hope as I rarely hope that the right somehow finds a way to make use of ‘tossing the salad’ and ‘watersports’.

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