Mini-Feature: Living with the Opposition

Can't we all just get along?

Can conservatives and leftists coexist?

Sure, conservatives and people on the left can coexist. One question is whether they have a choice without massive population sorting. My Greek ancestors and their opposite numbers in Turkey did this after the First World War. It worked but it wasn’t very clean. There was another war.

Another question is whether the virtual world is powerful enough now that people with different politics can coexist only in the bare sense of living near or next to each other and never interacting because their community is online. This seems doable in one sense but in another online community is untenable as a foundation for a republic of citizens exercising agency amid contending opinions not just about big national or cultural matters but things like how to keep their neighborhood going well in the most practical ways. The wider the divide between virtual community and incarnate anti-community, the more we are pushed toward an in person reckoning.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things to do in the virtual world though. Our incarnate-word institutional superstructure has already been badly financialized, globalized, and virtualized in ways that patently hurt Americans and America. It’s time for money people and tech people to step forward, rise up, and forge parallel institutions that give Americans of any ideological tilt disfigured and deplored by our superstructure a direct opportunity to do and to live better.

Ultimately, however, it’s likely people with or without this kind of aid will continue to gather among their own kinds, as Americans have often or characteristically done. Our regionalism is likely to return, both online and off. People on the right have a demonstrable tolerance or satisfaction toward regional room to live and thrive. The left is dominated by people who despise such arrangements—as a matter of ethics or even religion they want uniformity for the country and the world. This is the main obstacle to the many types of coexistence Americans have enjoyed and worked to sustain from the beginning.

-James Poulos

You know, I come up with some of the prompts for these mini-Features and then find responding so incredibly difficult that the rest of my day is shot. This is another one of those times. 

Look, this is how I will put it. With each passing day we lose more of the common language and reference points that once served, however clumsily, to bind us with one another. We could assume children of a certain age knew—and appreciated—certain things about God, their Country, and baseball. And ha, ha, ha, Bahr certainly sounds like George Will here, but it’s true, and better still, it was productive of wonderful Americans.  

Today, everything is fractured; our language is increasingly unstable and unmoored from reality; children of a certain age can be assumed to know next to nothing about their shared heritage; and baseball ain’t the national pastime.  

With these obstacles how could there be rapprochement with the opposition. I don’t speak their talk and they don’t speak mine. Plus, I always suspect they want me dead or in shackles, and they suspect the same of me.  

Is there a way out of this mess? Some days, and after reading certain ancient historians, my outlook is bleak. 

-David Bahr

It's religious revival or nothing, I'm afraid. The reason we're on the verge of secession, or worse, is because we aren't disagreeing in the context of shared first principles. It's the first principles themselves that we're fighting about: are humans fundamentally equal? When does personhood begin? Can we stomach the fact that these equally personhood-endowed beings we call human are going to develop in very different and quite inequitable ways unique to their personhood, inviolable without serious harm? or is this basic fact of the natural world an injustice that we need to rectify at all costs?

The shared set of answers to these questions which we used to take for granted is now gone entirely. They are basic questions about metaphysics, ontology, and moral value--in other words, they are religious questions. Everybody's got a religion--something they value above all things which determines their understanding of all subsidiary phenomena. And the thing about religion is, you can't argue somebody into it. You can inspire them to conversion with demonstrations of faith and invitations to taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Or you can fight a religious war over irreconcilable differences in basic values which make each side look reprehensible to the other. Those are the options, folks. Get praying.

-Spencer Klavan