The BLOG: Voices

A ‘bleeding-heart progressive’ reacts to a viral conservative blog

(Adobe stock photo)

(Adobe stock photo)

This article by Kyle S. Reyes has been shared by several of my conservative-leaning friends over the past couple of days. I read it because, in spite of my wild-eyed bleeding-heart progressive ways, I do respect my conservative friends and appreciate their points of view.

The Reyes article made me think — and made me hopeful for a way forward in this divisive political atmosphere. The piece is a cry for sanity and perspective, and an indictment of the media-politics industrial complex that thrives on conflict, identity politics, fear and hyperbole.

You should read the whole article, but the gist of it is this: Ginned-up media controversies take voters’ attention away from legitimate problems that are making Americans’ lives harder. Amen, sir. That is a point I can endorse.

Of course, Reyes’s conservative take on what the problems are don’t align perfectly with my views. But I want to defend his larger argument. And because his article made me think, I want to thank him and share some of those thoughts here. First, where we agree:

— Our political polarization does, indeed, make us less able to deal with the challenges of the world. Political leaders who exploit these divisions among Americans do so at the expense of our national security and the greater good.

— A sense of entitlement among Americans is a legitimate concern. Not everyone deserves a trophy just for participating.

— Re-litigating old battles in the public sphere doesn’t get us closer to solving some of the most pressing problems of our country.

— Government representatives should truly represent the interests of the American people. They have an important job to do.

— We defend our parties and interest groups without thinking critically about solutions, and without being willing to have difficult discussions.

— Health care hasn’t been fixed. The cost and quality of care and coverage are still huge problems.

— Veterans still get the shaft when it comes to government actually serving those who served the nation.

— Our immigration system is broken, unfair and a risk to public safety.

— Our mental health system is broken and that is an important piece of the gun violence problem.

— Our food banks and homeless shelters need more support.

— American excess is immoral in light of how many struggle to find food, housing and medical care.

— Medical marijuana should be legal.

— Parents need to practice what they teach their kids — that racial discrimination is wrong.

— Members of the military deserve better pay, and should not be a political football in budget debates.

— People who fear a terror attack could happen in the United States are not unreasonable.

— A middle ground in politics — rather than polarized extremes — is a good thing that serves the public interest.

— It’s essential to take a break from the media/politics circus to remember what’s important in life — achieving a better future for our nation.

— That is a LOT of agreement! This is why people I love and respect shared the article; these are just some of the many things I have in common with these right-leaning friends.

I’ll keep my disagreements brief.

— Keeping America safe doesn’t just involve military force. Foreign aid is a tiny percentage of our national budget and can address dangerous situations that, if left unattended, could result in losing American blood and treasure. “An ounce of prevention,” so to speak.

— Finding alternatives to military force doesn’t make us “pansies.” The problems of the world are complex, and brute force tends to create MANY more problems than it solves. Using our military judiciously is respectful of their sacrifice.

— The problems minorities have in this country — because of their sexuality, gender, religion, race or ethnicity — are real. Just because it doesn’t impact you doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

— There’s no War on Christmas. Really. There’s just not.

— Arguing about our history may not help us solve current problems, but acknowledging past mistakes is essential to preventing the repeat of those mistakes. Ignoring past injustices is disrespectful to those Americans who were wronged.

I’m legitimately surprised that Mr. Reyes and I agree on so much and disagree on relatively little. A deeper conversation would reveal myriad devils in the details, I have no doubt. But that’s the conversation Americans should be having — the big tough conversation about governance and the greater good.

We can’t have that conversation — about fair tax rates, reasonable gun laws, effective health care reform, public education, justice system reform, and all the other important issues — if we are name-calling and perpetually offended.

We can’t have that conversation if we see our fellow Americans as evil. As dupes. As sheep.

So, thank you conservative friends! I’m glad you shared Mr. Reyes’s article. And I’m glad we’re friends. And I look forward to having the tough conversations, never doubting that we are all people of good will, who have a lot to learn from one another.

Lori Henson is an assistant professor of journalism at Indiana State Univeristy. Follow her on Twitter at @write2lori.

This article first appeared on Medium.