This article was originally published on Newsvine in 2010. The topic is even more relevant today than it was twelve years ago.
A while back I saw an article with the title, “Have all of you Progressive-Socialist-Democrats finally gotten the message?” The author then quotes someone making a case against social entitlements. Someone else left the following comment…
…merely because one worked hard all their life does NOT mean that, somehow, they become entitled to a damn thing…
I replied to that comment, and I feel my reply expresses my “Progressive-Socialist-Democrat” viewpoint pretty well. Well enough in fact, to use that comment to make a point in this article. Here is what I said, as a reply to the preceding comment and to the article as a whole…
I agree… Working hard and falling on hard times does not, by the confluence of those circumstances, endow any sort of entitlement. As individuals we make choices, and some of those choices may be the cause of the difficulties we encounter in life. Other difficulties may come to us through circumstances outside of our control. In either case, whether we are personally responsible for our difficulties or not, we still have no automatic entitlement to relief from those difficulties.
As individuals we also choose how we use our resources, including whether we want to use our resources to help those who have been less fortunate than we have been. As a society of many individuals we can decide to pool some of our resources to do things which are beneficial to the society as a whole, and of course we can opt NOT to do that as well. There are many different things that can be done with those pooled resources, including funding national defense, building infrastructure, and helping those who have fallen on hard times. Some people may object to using our pooled resources to help those who have fallen on hard times. They may argue there is insufficient benefit to the society as a whole or possibly no benefit at all to using our pooled resources in this way. They may also argue that there are people who will abuse such a social safety net, people who will make bad choices knowing the society will save them if they happen to fall on hard times, and even people who will deliberately defraud such a system. I agree, fraud and abuse is not only likely, but in society as large as ours, it is inevitable. This is true not only for social entitlements but for all the programs that use our pooled resources.
As a self-described “Progressive-Socialist-Democrat” I feel the objections to social entitlements of those who do not share my views are absolutely valid. My feelings about social entitlements are rooted in my personal ethics, the foundation of which is The Golden Rule. I cannot enjoy the benefits of my success knowing there are others who have worked as hard as I have but have not had the success I have had. I have no wish to support those who are abusing the system. By the same token, I do not want to penalize those who have done nothing abusive simply because others are abusive. Of course I want to do everything possible to stop fraud and abuse, but for me, supporting some who do not deserve my support is a price I am willing to pay in order to ensure that those who do deserve support get what they need. Other people may not share my feelings on this matter, and I acknowledge their feelings are no less valid than mine.
In a society as big as America it is inevitable that whatever choices we make as a society will not be fully satisfying to everyone. In fact, it is likely that everyone will be dissatisfied with at least a few things. If we want to have a strong society, and because our society is comprised of diverse ideologies, we must figure out how we can accommodate the views of those who are most different from us. This kind of accommodation must be done with genuine reciprocity.
So my fellow conservative Americans, what say you to the words of this “Progressive-Socialist-Democrat”???
That concludes the content of the comment I left in the other article. You may think this article is about Social Entitlements. In part, I suppose it is, but much more importantly it is about the choices we make when we interact with each other.
When we hear a viewpoint that conflicts with our own dearly held beliefs we can choose how we will react. The most common reaction seems to be disdain. We immediately counter with our own contrary beliefs, often times denigrating not only the opposing idea but the person who offered the idea. This usually doesn’t inspire much constructive discussion. This phenomenon pervades the blogosphere and has become commonplace even amongst our highest elected officials.
Vilification of “the other side” is bad! Why??? Because we are a nation of diverse beliefs and ideologies, and we gain strength as a nation by acknowledging and accepting the people in our nation who have different ideas… by working together. Of course, working together means recognizing we will not get everything just the way we would most like to have it. It means being willing to compromise. Here is a quote I heard from a well-known talk-radio pundit…
“Where is there room for any compromise with [insert names of “the other side”]? Where is the compromise with evil?”
There are very few truly evil people on either side. While we may have many disagreements, most of us want many of the same things. But if we start to believe the other side is wholly and fundamentally evil, then yes… “Where is the compromise with evil?”
I am going to go out on a limb here and say… I think vilification of the other side is actually being used strategically and very deliberately by some people who think they will get more of what they want in a divided nation. People who may say they are patriotic, but whose self-interests trump any patriotic interests they may have, people who are really trying to foment a Civil War using words in place of bullets. These people peddle fear and hatred, taking advantage of our natural tendency to react defensively when we feel threatened.
I have been trying to figure out how to thwart this Civil War of Words. I know I cannot simply fire back with my own hateful words. That will play right into the hands of the people who are trying to divide our nation. Instead of disdain, I figure I should respond with curiosity, respect, and a genuine effort to find compromise.
Regarding compromise: We have seen efforts by the President and the Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives to find compromise, and we all know what happened. When I say compromise, I mean real give and take by both sides. I do NOT mean to say, “I am here to compromise. Allow me to lay myself down in front of your steamroller so you can roll right over me.”
At the beginning of this article I provided an example of my plan for thwarting the Civil War of Words. I listened to the arguments of the other side. I made a genuine effort to see things from their perspective. I acknowledged the validity of the other side’s viewpoint, not gratuitously, but having come to understand their views, very genuinely. I also, presented my views… hoping I could inspire reciprocal curiosity and acknowledgement that might lead us to compromise.
So here is the primary point of this article… When we encounter people who have ideas that conflict with our own ideas we can choose how we will react.
Hate or Acceptance
Intransigence or Compromise
Disdain or Curiosity