Title’s Interpretation: You don’t have values, but if you did, mine are better.
Today I want to bring up a politically-charged conversation that I had with a friend of mine and analyze how it turned into tit-for-tat. It is not anyone’s job to criticize another person. But as writers, it is our job to entertain and inform by pointing out faults, usually with sarcasm, ridicule, or mockery. I won’t be doing any of that today because I like this person. I will gently, however, point out faults of theirs. Perhaps I should be tough on them because they are loud and proud about their values and are amused at how sensitive and serious I can get. In fact, I think they enjoy ruffling my feathers. To me, she was belligerent and crossed my boundaries.
This is meant to be instructive and not retribution for a gripe. But, honestly, what do we do when we find out that a friend likes DeSantis or Trump? Maybe for many, it is not even an issue although doubtful. What do we do when we find out that Jesus is more important to a loved one than we are? The former is particularly tough if we think Jesus is a father-like attachment figure who has been passed down as a meme. This is why I think it is important to be mindful of our speech and tone when conversing with others that have opposing values and viewpoints. The conversation I had is below, followed up by how I think we should relate to others.
The Conversation (text message)
Melinda: I like DeSantis because he has strong values and military background. We have many threats abroad and need a strong military presence to protect us.
[People vote on how a candidate makes them feel, which inevitably entails them having similar values, and then back it up with rational reasons so they can appear informed. This is just how the mind works. Moreover, conservatives’ values revolve around “strength”, responsibility, self-reliance, order, and authority. It permeates all of their beliefs and reasoning. So I can understand why a conservative may be preferred over a liberal as commander in chief. It is not that liberals do not exercise these values but rather they do not give it the same priority. For a detailed analysis of all harmful entailments of conservative values, see here.
It may, however, be naive for us to think that other nation-leaders share liberal values which prioritize such things as empathy, equality, self-awareness, and empowering others through assistance. I like to think that liberals, certainly not all of them, are enlightened thinkers. They formed at a time during the Enlightenment when there was a realization that conflicting values and beliefs will always exist and that we should do what maximizes the happiness of everyone. This requires that others have the same political outlook since self-interest and our own values seem to take precedence. But, in sum, it is natural to like DeSantis for war.
And there are legitimate threats out there. But conservatives have more of a history of hyping threats, warmongering, and flagrant violations against human rights. Those who do not think so do not know the history of United States’ foreign policy. The irony is that those who balk at the idea of us being self-critical are the same people who worship Jesus. The same Jesus whose writers had him say from Matthew 7 15, “How can you take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye if you can’t take the log out of your own?” If we value human life, then we must be self-critical of our past as well as resist the urge to engage in preemptive strategies. This pre-condition that I impose would be less likely to be followed by a conservative leader versus a liberal one.]
Musings: I once was a conservative and shared some of the same beliefs as you do. I don’t think you are wrong to share DeSantis’ values, but I do feel there is a lot of American history that I can share with you that may cause you to rethink your position.
[Notice that this is an indirect criticism. I am saying that she doesn’t know a revisionist’s history of America’s foreign policy. This probably got her upset, which I wasn’t even conscious of until now. Criticism, implicit or not, is a sure way to get someone defensive and throw the conversation into a tit-for-tat match. ]
Melinda: you irritate me, lol
[Notice the “lol’ which is meant to cushion the blow of me receiving the message that I am “irritating” her. In text messages, there isn’t body language and we can’t pick up on “vibes” to interpret the intention of the individual. I interpreted it in a way that annoyed me. I got annoyed because I am sharing something of value to me that irritates her. How dare her. But I let this go and gave her the benefit of the doubt.]
Musings: Promise me that you will read this post because it explains how often our foreign policy is not for human rights, disrespects sound international law, and how often America does anything they want, which is called American exceptionalism. The post shows how we cloak our military presence in the name of freedom and democracy, which are ideals meant to rally our tribal instincts. But as history shows, it is always the most dominant country that does most of the killing and damage.
[I was trying to get her to rethink her position on a preemptive foreign policy or “tough on evil” or however a conservative chooses to market their terror on Others. I don’t think I was being aggressive or obnoxious, but it resulted in the following response. She probably interpreted it as intense and intrusive because I kept peddling “my truth”. ]
Melinda: blah, blah, blah
[At this point, I took this personally because she is clearly being obtuse and dismissive of my earnest attempt to share something that was important to me. I then proceeded to share my feelings and ask why she is being dismissive. My mistake was that I described her responses akin to a teenager who receives information that is over their head.]
The Right Way to Converse
Curtail the Use of Criticism
We all want to be heard, seen, and understood. We want to be seen as contributing to a conversation with worthwhile points. This is a facet of what it is to be human. When someone criticizes or dismisses us or our points, then we will either feel hurt feelings or anger. Research shows that most interpersonal interactions go awry when we criticize, get defensive, use contempt (mockery or name-calling), or stonewall. Of course, if we are in a relaxed mood and not too serious, then there is a reduced chance of us getting upset. But that is just it. We cannot predict what mood someone is in, so the rule of thumb should be to be polite and mindful of our speech and tone. If we must point out a flaw, then the best way to approach it is to subdue the criticism with the preface of “I feel”.
It Is Not “Tiptoeing Around”
A common retort is why should I tiptoe around people since I am proud of my values. If you are offended, then too bad. This reflects a misunderstanding of our evolutionary past as tribal beings. For most of our existence as homo sapiens, we existed in tight-niched tribes of no more than 100. We all shared similar beliefs, values, and interests. Sharing values makes us bind together, become self-righteous and blind to other values, and have hate for the Other. So it is not religion or politics in themselves that cause conflict; otherwise, how could we explain similar behavior of different nations or people with different preferences in sports teams.
Think about what happens when we proudly display a “Fuck Biden” or “Trump” banner or bumper sticker. The former banner right away will instill some aversive emotions in some, while the latter has a history of aggressive rallies which will do much the same. Saying that we should not tiptoe around is the same thing as Donald Trump saying that he doesn’t have time for political correctness, which is absurd. If we value a relationship, then why would we not want to use respectful speech and tone? Knowing how tribal and threatened we can get by the values of others, we are playing with fire when we are obnoxious about our values.
You Are Not “Too Sensitive”
If anyone tells you that you are too sensitive, this may or may not give you information. It usually is an attempt to excuse someone’s brazen behavior and deflect the problem. In fact, therapists call this “gaslighting” which is when we feel like we did something wrong even though we didn’t. It is a way to control and manipulate you. On the other hand, twenty percent of the population can be characterized as being a “highly sensitive person“. But what good is it telling someone when they get upset that they are too sensitive? They most likely already know this. You cannot change someone’s temperament. The most reasonable thing to do would be to be mindful of what we say and to be tactful. If we value the relationship, it does not seem like too much to ask.
Can We All Just Get Along?
Probably not because of our tribal nature. I suspect that the more we care and the more our identity is tied to our values, then the more likely we will get emotional and want to antagonize the Other side with our beliefs. Experts within moral psychology believe that we need to become less self-righteous and more open-minded. They really don’t know how to accomplish this though and realize that the more political we become then the more divided we will be. On the other hand, if we want to selfishly fight for our values and interests, we would prefer the take-no-prisoners route and shamelessly wave a banner at our opposition. But when it comes to personal relationships that we value, why even go there in the first place unless we have our delicate gloves on.
i) I would look at DeSantis’s stance on issues. Well, we do not even have to do that since he is a conservative which means we know his values and thus his stance on issues. The only positive thing I can say about DeSantis is that he admits that climate change is real although he of course refuses to be clumped into the “radical” environmentalists group. Otherwise, this guy is a typical authoritarian. If we do know what authoritarianism means then see here as well as references. As far as his stance on issues, such as family values, I have written about this already in general. Although I do not know the ramifications of teaching critical race theory, I would imagine that having an awareness of racism would contribute to seeing reductions in racism. In fact, there is evidence that biases almost across the board have been on the decline since 2007 according to large-scale studies, which may be attributed to political correctness and critical race theory.
As DeSantis is arguing, are political correctness and teaching critical race theory authoritarian and indoctrination? All of education and religion are indoctrinating. But if these beliefs are worthwhile, then they are worth teaching. Yes, the woke culture can be authoritarian because they shame people that don’t participate in it and create fear as a result. But if it is consensual, then conformity over a belief is not authoritarian. I am against the aggressiveness of the woke culture but for political correctness. I just do not have a solution for those not on board. I can go on and on about Desantis, for example, his science denial, etc.
The Righteous Mind. By Jonathan Haidt