It's difficult to remember now, but long ago when we started Scragged, we believed that our politicians were corrupt but most ordinary American people - yes, on both sides of the political aisle - were generally well-intentioned. Therefore, if we debated the issues in a clear and coherent way, common sense might ultimately prevail. If we could not agree, at least we might be able to find the foundational disagreement, mark it off with hazard tape, and continue to find common ground.
For example, the core disagreement on abortion is crystal clear: Is an unborn fetus a human being, or not? If it is, then killing it is obviously murder. If it isn't, then what happens is obviously nobody's business but the woman and maybe her doctor if she chooses not to take the OTC "morning after" pill. Regardless of that, all sane human beings can agree that murdering babies who have been born is horrifically ghastly and deserves to be punished with the full force of the law.
Well, all sane human beings save Barack Obama, who voted against laws requiring doctors to properly treat babies who are born alive. Even lefty writers agreed that the odious abortionist "Dr." Kermit Gosnell is in fact a murderer who deserves his conviction for that crime.
The trouble is, our politics and cultural climate have become so poisoned that it's difficult for ordinary people to discuss things they agree on. Consider the mass murders committed by the mentally deranged Elliot Rodgers, who slaughtered a bunch of college kids in an orgy of psychopathic bitterness and resentment.
His crimes have been seized on by both sides to promote their views regardless of the facts. Gun control advocates once again demand that the Second Amendment be scrapped even though Mr. Rodgers killed more people with knives than he did with guns. Gun rights supporters blame "gun-free" zones even though the murders were committed in a number of places with no particular special legal protections. Some pro-gun folks consider the entire state of California to be a gun-free victim disarmament zone, though Hollywood depicts it as anything but.
The true problem, of course, is that Rodgers was a dangerous nutcase, as everyone from his own parents to his roommates to the local cops were perfectly well aware. And yes, even the NRA is fully in favor of the mentally deranged being denied firearms. The real problem is that America has no sensible procedures for dealing with the mentally ill until they've already murdered someone, at which point it is too late.
Most Americans agree on this. The media and talking heads are obsessing about something else, naturally. Alas, it seems like most online commenters are also missing the point, instead choosing to obsess about our toxic youth sexual culture and how it was the true cause of the tragedy.
I'll go out on a limb here and say: Sex and dating had nothing whatsoever to do with it. If Elliot Rodgers had gotten laid twice daily by supermodels, he still would have been a dangerous nutcase who would have murdered somebody eventually. Yes, he blamed his rampage on his inability to end his virginity, or more accurately, on the unwillingness of any hot babes to end it for him - but half the people he killed were male, including his nerdy roommates who weren't getting noticeably more action than he was himself. Sex was a pretext, not a reason.
And that, in miserable microcosm, is what we see all across the fruited plain: We don't see the underlying causes of observable reality and are left boxing pointlessly at shadows.
This is bad for America, bad for conservatism, and bad for human beings in general. Fortunately, however, it's something we can all work to fix, individually and collectively.
Let's take another example, the recent rash of conservative speakers disinvited from college commencements, several of whom happened to be both female and black as well as superlatively accomplished. Yes, it's a lovely schaudenfreude moment where conservatives can assault the loony-left ivory towers as being racist and sexist as well as being intellectually biased.
Some conservative writers pointed that out. Nothing wrong with that, but what was more useful was those who built bridges with people who are, politically, on the other side, but who believe in freedom of speech.
We see an example in former Princeton president William Bowen's excoriation of the Haverford College students who forced the disinvitation of Robert J. Birgeneau. Everyone involved is among the furthest of far-lefties, but Bowen at least shares the common ground of believing in the First Amendment.
By lambasting the "immature, and, yes, arrogant" protestors who "should have encouraged [Birgeneau] to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments," Dr. Bowen probably did more good than any number of editorials by Sarah Palin or Ann Coulter, as right-on as they may be. Nobody at Haverford or any other elitely corrupt institution dares publicly acknowledge that any infamous right-winger might have a point, but Dr. Bowen is acceptable enough to be listened to. If he is listened to, then maybe there will be more opportunity for students to hear politically-incorrect opinions and perhaps reach politically-incorrect conclusions.
Why does this matter? Because reality matters. You can deny reality, but if reality is denied long enough, it always comes back to bite you in the end.
As long as we blame senseless massacres on guns, we'll continue to experience them, because the reality is entirely different.
As long as our institutions refuse to hear the truth about Islam from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose moral authority to speak on that topic ranks with Solzhenitsyn speaking about Stalinism or Elie Wiesel describing the Holocaust, the world will continue to suffer from terrorism because we refuse to recognize its cause and insist on nonsense like blaming it on poverty and inequality.
Reality even matters when it relates to things that are, by definition, not provably real. Is there in fact a devil, and does a Black Mass actually call on anything at all? Most students and faculty of Harvard would answer both questions with a resounding "No." It was nevertheless a highly educational experience for their campus to be invaded by hundreds of peacefully protesting Catholics, for whom the Devil is very real indeed and for whom conducting a Black Mass would be unimaginably offensive.
There are a lot of Catholics in the world. If the eggheads at Harvard aren't able to figure out that conducting a ceremony whose very purpose is to insult and demean those things which are most holy to Catholics is a Bad Idea, then clearly that lesson was urgently needed. Apparently it was learned: the Black Mass was cancelled, and we hope to see many more such protests in the future.
Because the ultimate, bottom-line reality of life in these United States is: we are more different from each other than we have ever been and getting more so by the minute, and there's a lot more of us too. We have to be able to learn to leave each other alone, and for the government to realize that it has no business telling people what to do, believe, or think.
Otherwise, violence will be the only result. The reality of centuries of human existence teaches us that "live and let live" is the only way to avoid a lot of people dying.
Some people on all sides are starting to realize this. Let's encourage it as best we can, being careful to distinguish between those with truly evil motives versus those who have been ill-educated or indoctrinated but are generally well-meaning - a distinction that's not always easy, but is essential if we're ever to be a majority "big tent" again.
And while we do this, we should keep an eye out for the legendary "common ground." It demonstrably doesn't exist in politics, but in individual daily lives it makes up most of the ground, even today. It may have been a lefty who said "All politics is local," but that doesn't make it any less true - and the first step to traditional Democrats voting more conservatively is for them to realize that their conservative neighbor doesn't actually barbecue babies or lock his wife in the basement as advertised.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.