Kathleen Parker riffs on why NYC helps her understand the partisan divide


Since syndicated columnist and co-host of CNN’s new prime time Parker Spitzer mentions us from time to time, it seems only right for us to return the favor (although must admit we have a few less readers). Here Parker makes some insightful points about how we find ourselves on opposite sides of the partisan divide, more akin to city mouse vs. country mouse than anything to do with party politics:

This is fundamentally where Democrats and Republicans face off. At what point is the common good bad for people?

Many so-called Everyday Americans who live in the oft-maligned red states essentially are people who live in more-open spaces and, therefore, see little need or benefit for government management of their lives. The frontier may be nearly gone, but the person who prefers wider horizons will have little use for bureaucrats bearing the latest government how-to (or how-not-to) document.

Those who have opted to live in densely populated blue areas need third-party authorities to maintain order and figure they’ll trade a little freedom for the convenience and cultural riches of city life.

These are completely different orientations toward life in general and the role of government specifically, and I’m not sure the two can be reconciled. City dwellers will never understand the folks who prefer the company of trees, and country folk will always resent the imperious presumptions of urbanites who think they know best.

Read the whole article HERE.



Us vs. Them: Should it be about pluralism?

‘We have to get the “us” and the “them” right. The “us” are the people who believe in the American promise of pluralism. A country where George Washington said that it would give bigotry no sanction, persecution no assistance. A country in which one of our earliest presidents, Thomas Jefferson, reverently owned a Quran, hosted an Iftar dinner. America is a great arc of inclusiveness. It envelops everyone. I want my children to contribute to this country just like the children of my Jewish friends just like the children of my evangelical and Catholic friends. The “us” are the ones who believe in pluralism. The “them” are the ones who believe in extremism. It’s that simple.’

Eboo Patel on This Week with Christiane Amanpour



Bob Schieffer on 9/11: Then and Now



Rhetoric that’s good for ratings, bad for the trajectory of our civic dialogue

Today on the radio Glenn Beck said that Americans are about to lose their religious freedom. He was actively rallying the forces to prevent it. Perhaps someone who agrees with his sentiment could help those of us who say “huh?”

There is a valid argument that legal secularism has overreached in working toward a “naked public square” (a term used by Christian writer Os Guinness, theologian John Neuhaus although I’m not clear of its genesis), removing faith from our public spaces, rather than aiming for a public square where all faiths – and no faith at all – are warmly welcomed into a rich conversation. The second option allows for the “constant clashing of opinion” that our Founders envisioned as a check on excess in the majority.

But the suggestion that there are vast and sustained efforts to subvert Christians’ religious freedom doesn’t seem to hold up. A drive through town on a Sunday morning paints a vivid picture of religious diversity and freedom, alive and well in America.

Overreaction on one “side” of an argument inevitably leads to an equal and opposite overreaction. Greater than the risk that Christians, though they are the vast majority of us, will lose their religious liberty is the risk that this sort of white hot rhetoric overshoots the mark enough that it will actually create what it fears. If you’re of a minority religious view, a wall of angry Christians coming at you (especially if you are not aware of any action against them) does little to make your religious liberty feel secure. Then you, in turn, feel the need to defend what you perceive as an assault. And so it goes, on and on in likely escalation if we don’t mind the exaggerations that come out of our mouths.

And this kind of “die on the hill” rhetoric also does what C.S. Lewis refers to as making “black blacker” as it creates an aggressive, powerful and villainous foe out of a largely disorganized minority of people. Read Lewis HERE.

While we’re on this topic, take a look at our We the Wiki Faith & Politics space. Feel free to add a topic and toss in what you think is important. Opposing views, when expressed with civility, are warmly welcome.



Dehumanizing comments like these are canaries in the coal mine of our civic life.

Two New Hampshire Democrats – one elected, one running for election – are in deep kimchi over their posted comments while discussing the death of former Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens in a place crash:

“Well a dead Palin wd be even more dangerous than a live one…she is all about her myth & if she was dead she cldn’t commit any more gaffes,” Horrigan wrote.

Horrigan was commenting on another post by a Democrat running for the state house, party activist Keith David Halloran, who found himself in hot water Wednesday after writing about the crash: “Just wish Sarah and Levy [sic] were on board.”

Any Democrats who think all the incivility flows right to left should reconsider. When you can no longer see people through the lens of humanity, you’re a bridge too far.



Wise words we’d do well to consider

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter to George W. Bush, on Face the Nation yesterday, said that too many of our political controversies today are a result of “too many Americans looking for excuses to justify their rage.” He explained:

It works because we’re a big country. We’ve got over 300 million people – if you’re an internet site or a cable network and if you set out to find an excuse, some incident to emphasize you can find one in America and run it over and over again It could be a picture at a tea party rally of a single sign or a video that had to do with the new black panthers and it makes it look like it’s a crisis of race when in fact, these are incidents in America. It exaggerates…



Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives

As promised at last night’s dinner. It’s long but well worth the watch, so prop your feet up, grab a cold one and listen up (conservatives hang in, in the long run you’ll get where he’s going.)



Donald Miller: Five Principles of Civil Dialogue

This is just so good, I can’t think of a single thing to edit out of it. Donald Miller writes on faith issues and he could possibly be a one-person Village Square all by himself: Donald Miller “has appeared at such diverse events as The Democratic National Convention and the Veritas Forum at Harvard.” (For those of you keeping track, this must be credited to (who else but) Internet Surf Queen Lea.)

Back when I was hanging out at Reed College, I was pleased to be in an environment where truth mattered more than ego, or rather where people didn’t associate their identity with their ideas. What I mean is, finding truth was more important than being right. And because finding truth was more important than being right, students were able to learn.

At Reed, discussing a philosophical or even scientific idea around a conference table did not look like a debate. Rather, it looked like a group of students attempting to put together a jig-saw puzzle. If a piece didn’t happen to fit, that was par for the course. You simply set it aside and worked together to make progress.

When we begin to associate our ideas with our identities (I am good because I am right) we lose the ability to be objective. And rather than learning to learn, we simply learn to defend.

To be certain, there are basic truths we must defend, but we don’t defend these ideas from our egos. Dr. Henry Cloud says that truth must go hand in hand with grace in order to be effective. There must be truth, but there must also be acceptance, regardless of whether somebody disagrees. This methodology frees the person to make an objective decision. When we become angry or condescending we take the truth and wrap it in a toxic-candy shell and get frustrated when people don’t like it. Truth wrapped in grace is more easily digested.

So my question is, do you take it personally when somebody disagrees with you? Here are some things I try to remember when engaging in a conversation in which there are differing opinions:

1. Truth is not My Truth, it’s Just Truth: My ideas were not really my invention. Even if I was the first person to consider an idea, it’s still something I stumbled upon. I shouldn’t take it personally when somebody doesn’t agree. They aren’t rejecting me, they are rejecting an idea.

2. Methodology is Part of the Message: When I get defensive and then condescending, what I associate my ideas with an offensive subtext, and that association is very strong to the hearer. Imagine having a conversation with somebody who has terrible breath, standing there and smelling their putrid hot air as they talk. It’s the same with your attitude toward somebody when you’re discussing an idea.

3. Without a Loving Heart, I am Like a Clanging Cymbal: If I don’t genuinely care about the people I’m talking to, I’ll be received like a guy standing there clanging cymbals together. The Bible makes a strong connection between a persons heart and their tongue. We tend to think we talk with our tongues alone, but the Bible says we talk with our tongues and our hearts. Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

4. The Other Person has Sovereignty: Even if I think the other person is completely wrong, they have a right to their beliefs. I can simply state what I believe and do so in kindness and that’s really it. If I’m trying to bully somebody into my way of seeing things, I’m not respecting the sovereignty of the person I am talking with.

5. I Could be Wrong: What we most want from the person we are talking to is for them to see things from our perspective and agree. That being said, though, are you willing to see things from their perspective? If not, try listening to their perspective then repeating it back to them. Ask them if you got it right, and if you did, say you will think about it. Then present your idea, too, and ask them if they understand your position. To be honest, they may not be as open as you, but once the conversation is over, I assure you they will have a new respect for you, and believe me, they will consider your ideas more respectfully. And besides, the truth is they could be right.



AP: “We’re a national people who increasingly get their information from people who already agree with us.”


… “Facts become fungible. Compromise becomes cowardice.”

Ron Fournier writes:

Charlie Crist’s departure from the Republican Party is not just a Florida story; it’s an American story – a tale of two parties driven by their ideologues, squeezing out moderate candidates, alienating independent voters and isolating the place in U.S. politics where most things get done: the middle…

No matter who wins a three-way race in Florida, the factors that drove Crist from the GOP are a microcosm of broader political and social changes contributing to polarization.

“We have a deadlocked democracy,” said Pat Buchanan, a conservative commentator and three-time presidential candidate. “Both parties, held hostage by their extremes, are incapable of tackling the issues that threaten this country.”



Hands off the mailman.


UPDATE: A very nice conservative friend of mine pointed out that this mailman story can’t exactly be verified. He’s right.

When you ride a powder keg daily, like we tend to here at The Village Square, its a sticky wicket to know how to navigate the partisan wars without looking – well – partisan. Sometimes we do it by biting our lip more rather than less.

There is a dynamic that results in each “side” noting only the worst in the other “side,” completely ignoring the copious evidence of normalcy right alongside the more rare extremism. I attended a tea party last week and I can personally attest that people were well-behaved, despite the fact that I later read a story that said that there was a sign there reading “We vote with bullets.” What the article didn’t express was this was not a representative sign.

While noting that it’s not in any way representative of the vast majority, I find this story about a mail carrier being harassed by some tea party attendees worth noting. How about we make it our low water mark where we agree that too many of us have simply jumped the shark (please do note the etiology of that term).

Let’s move up from here.

If we can’t change course now, when will we? And what will have had to happen to compel us to finally do it then?

(Photo credit.)



Seth Godin: There is no tribe of normal

From Seth Godin’s blog: People don’t coalesce into active and committed tribes around the status quo.

“The only vibrant tribes in our communities are the ones closer the edges, or those trying to make change. The center is large, but it’s not connected.

If you’re trying to build a tribe, a community or a movement, and you want it to be safe and beyond reproach at the same time, you will fail.

Heretical thoughts, delivered in a way that capture the attention of the minority–that’s the path that works.”

(Photo credit: David Spinks And thanks again to Lea who really needs to just start writing this blog since she finds all the good quotes.)