Editor’s Note: I don’t even pretend that I understand conservatives, especially the social conservatives from the fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party (is that redundant?). However, there are times that I don’t think I understand liberals either. Maybe it’s me ... maybe I’m just getting old. At least one reader of the newspaper really hated this article.

Questions for My Side of the Left-Right Chasm

Ralph Nader has repeatedly claimed there’s no difference between the Democrats and Republicans. His culpability for the tragic George W. Bush years may have made him this century’s most important politician never to have been called “Mr. President,” but I still have to question his political acumen.

The left-right schism in Washington is now so deep and so hostile that our government has been paralyzed. It’s reminiscent of the decade before the Civil War, when northern liberal abolitionists and conservative, pro-slavery southerners turned into mortal enemies, incapable of working together.

In 1856, South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks nearly beat abolitionist senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts to death on the Senate floor. Slavery supporters sent Brooks their congratulations, along with walking sticks to replace the cane he’d broken over Sumner’s head.

In our era of talk radio and Fox News, it’s easy to imagine such things happening again. The venom from the wingnuts on Facebook is so appalling these days that I’ve stopped conversing with many of them entirely. They make me sad and a little scared. And I’m guessing many of them feel the same way about me.

As a somewhat left-of-center Democrat, I find conservatives as incomprehensible as they are distasteful. House Republicans, teabaggers and fans of right-wing radio often seem like insane visitors from another century or another planet. I’m not sure whether they’re crazy (Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck), brain-dead (Sarah Palin and any of the “Fox and Friends” hosts) or just plain evil (Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Cliven Bundy).

What they share is fanaticism — from the zealots in the GOP’s Taliban wing and the science-hating fundamentalists who vote for them, to the antigovernment fanatics who sign Grover Norquist’s pledges never to raise taxes no matter how large the deficit grows. Others are simply haters — misogynists, homophobic bigots, birthers (e.g., Donald Trump) and mean-spirited racists who are irate that minorities have been given the vote.

I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I view a sizable portion of the 50% of Americans who vote Republican as soulless, brainless, and morally and/or spiritually bankrupt. Of course, if my emails are any indication, they see me as an atheistic, damnation-bound and degenerate socialist, rather than a tolerant patriot who bought an American flag after 9/11, loves his dog and has been married to the same woman for nearly four decades.

Ad hominem attacks from the religious right — liberal and moderate op-ed writers receive piles of insulting emails — tend to breed more name calling. Once a self-righteous Christian conservative has assured you that God hates you enough to send you to hell, or calls you a “faggot” or a “commie,” good manners seem just a tad superfluous.

However, a distaste for conservatism doesn’t mean I’m always on the left side of every issue. Someone who always thinks in the same direction probably isn’t thinking at all, and there are issues I have questions about for which I wish my fellow liberals had better answers.

Given the nature of Hamas and its recent aggression, what should the Israelis have done in Gaza, rather than what they’ve actually done?

Some leftists have called the invasion of Gaza an “overreaction” to the 3,500 rockets Hamas has launched into Israel. Would the “proper” response have been to negotiate with a terrorist organization whose charter explicitly calls for the extermination of Israel, and whose leader says he’ll never accept the existence of a Jewish state? It’s hard to watch innocent women and children die, but Hamas launched its rockets at civilians and based them in populated areas, so its leaders obviously don’t mind civilian casualties.

And while the rockets continued flying, should Israel have let the tunnels remain as terrorist conduits to its citizenry? The millions spent on the tunnels could have helped the Palestinians, but Hamas clearly hates Israel more than it cares about its own people.

Perhaps the Israelis should have packed up, moved back to where they came from and turned the only prosperous and civilized democracy in the Middle East over to the Palestinians, so there could be one more Islamic hellhole in the region. Would that have satisfied the leftists who hate Israel (and, by extension, America)? There are times when I don’t understand some of the people on my own side of the political divide.


Is it America’s responsibility to take in every endangered refugee in the world?

When unaccompanied children began crossing our southern border, it presented humane Americans with a dilemma. As is the case with Gaza, it’s painful to think of children being killed. We could grant asylum to this wave of illegal aliens, who are fleeing from narco criminals in their homelands; however, does this set a dangerous precedent for the next waves? I hate to sound conservative and coldhearted, but it’s a valid question.

If we take in this year’s Central American refugees, what about next year’s? Literally hundreds of millions of people are suffering worldwide. As Jesus once said of the poor, the endangered “will always be with us.” Is America responsible for all of them? Will it be possible to take in every at-risk child who arrives at our border, without turning the U.S. into a third-world country? And are we obligated to do so?

These are difficult questions, because, when your heart’s in the right place, you often find your head isn’t screwed on right, and vice versa. Just as Democrats and Republicans are very different folks, so too are the heart and the mind, and they’re often incompatible.

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