May 8th, 2016. I believe this day will be pretty historic in the long run, though many who don’t keep up with the ideological shifts of the West won’t notice much. Specifically, I’m referring to the NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof’s piece “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance”. It’s a piece I would say is a long time in the making. Actually, one could argue it’s overdue, but I won’t be doing that here. I’m quite sure there are many on the right who will do that. However, I’m guessing this will set a lot of tongues wagging, on both the Left and Right. It’s fuel that I believe needs to be added to a conversation many have not wanted to address for some time. A conversation that will likely open the door for many others.
I found the piece to be quite excellent. Yes, obviously I agree with a lot of it because I’ve thought about, and experienced much of what he has written for years, but more so because of who the author is. It’s one thing to have a person from the Left write something I, a person from the Right, agrees with. It’s another thing entirely when that person from the Left is as established as Mr. Kristof is. His credentials are more than just a bit admirable. Granted, I’m quite sure there is much I wouldn’t agree with Mr. Kristof on in a cocktail party setting, but I would never be foolish enough to deny that he has gone out and done what he believes in. And that is admirable in my book.
Few will be surprised to see the usual suspects from the Right take Mr. Kristof’s piece to beat their opponents on the Left over the head with. I don’t think that’s at all helpful. In fact, I believe that’s helped get us where we are today: as polarized as I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Perhaps it’s because I’m older, but I’ve learned that friends appreciate respectful conversation a lot more than degrading accusation. And there’s a heavier price to be paid for things said fact-to-face than there is in the comments section of some blog or web site. That’s worth remembering.
As I wrote, I found the entire piece to be quite excellent, but there was a particular paragraph that jumped out at me:
“I am the equivalent of someone who was gay in Mississippi in 1950,” a conservative professor is quoted as saying in “Passing on the Right,” a new book about right-wing faculty members by Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. That’s a metaphor that conservative scholars often use, with talk of remaining in the closet early in one’s career and then “coming out” after receiving tenure.
As a black, Republican, from Harlem (New York), who is also a Greek-Orthodox Christian, ex-pat living in Stockholm, Sweden, I can honestly say I’m probably about as much of a minority as you’re going to find where I am. Had I been a homosexual there would be zero doubt. In a nutshell, I understand more than most what it’s like to be on the outside in the world of ideas. I’m smart enough to know when my friends from the Left simply agree without agreeing. All it takes is to see how courageous they’re not being when they know their side is wrong. After all, our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts very often reveal more about us by what we don’t post than what we do.
I believe Mr. Kristof’s piece, if read with an honest and open mind, will likely cause many to stop and pause. I certainly hope that’s the case for most. Besides, it’s rather difficult to simply attack the guy who’s known for not just writing about helping the world’s poor, but going out and laying it on the line for them. Armchair trollers beware, he walks the walk. But I think we’re overdue for someone to cause us to stop and pause about such matters. That said, I really hope you read his piece.