Arguments for the sake of truth, not ‘victory’

Arguments for the sake of truth, not ‘victory’

The High Holy Day season is a time for introspection. My family and closest friends tell me I have anger issues. I tend to agree with them.

When I started to write this column, a very close friend, who had looked at an Investor’s Business Daily editorial I sent out about the threatened Koran burning, said, “I hope you don’t support the burning.” My response was, “What in the editorial or what I said would give you that idea?” This made me angry.

Living in the New York metropolitan area, I feel that I am in a minority. In the liberal-conservative spectrum, I am to the right of most in this area. I also am less politically correct, more libertarian, and my economics more fiscally conservative. I am a hawk when it comes to American and Israeli security matters.

I am reminded of a joke about the late Sammy Davis Jr. When invited to participate in a celebrity golf tournament, he was asked for his handicap. He responded, “I am a one-eyed, Yiddishe shvartza, and you want to give me a handicap?”

I, and people who share some of my opinions, are belittled and excoriated by those who consider themselves politically correct, tolerant, and morally superior. They support diversity in everything except philosophies that diverge from their norm. This makes me angry.

There are different types of anger. Like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, famous for the five-stage model of grief, the anger-management website describes twelve common types of anger.

Three of these anger types seem to apply here. The first is “judgmental anger,” putting other people down and making them feel bad about themselves. The second is “retaliatory anger,” which usually occurs as a response to someone lashing out at you.

I believe that I and my philosophical confreres are routinely subjected to criticism and derision — judgmental anger, if you will — by the mainstream media and otherwise well-intentioned people, in order to make us feel guilty about our deeply held beliefs. These critics would be the first to criticize judgmental anger going in the opposite philosophical direction.

The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer wrote about this a few weeks ago as the Ground Zero mosque controversy was heating up. He pointed out that when people of liberal bent are on the verge of losing public opinion, out come charges of bigotry, racism, nativism, homophobia, and the latest charge, Islamophobia. Judgmental anger?

I will admit there are some who fit one or more of these categories, but not the majority. Take those who oppose the construction of Cordoba House so close to Ground Zero. No doubt, there are some bigots who are exploiting the situation. But the opponents of the project I know cut across political, ethic, and class lines, and their opposition is not based on “Islamophobia” nor, as some have suggested, sublimated anxiety over economic insecurity.

The fact is that on Sept. 11 people associated with an Islamic extremist group — which has declared war on secular, democratic Western culture — took over 3,000 lives on American soil. The same philosophy led to an attempt to destroy the same site in 1993.

People are angry not with all Muslims but with those who would do us harm. The majority does not oppose mosques, only the location of one because of the symbolism involved.

People are angry because they perceive a double standard at play, which leads to a third type of anger, “constructive anger,” the feeling of being fed up with how things are going, and the need to make a positive change. It is a key factor in driving people to want to join movements like the Tea Party movement, or the pro-Obama movement before it.

This was the substance of the IBD editorial. “When the U.S. Army burned Bibles in Afghanistan, no one said a word. When churches burn around the world, crickets chirp. Burning Qurans in Florida is stupid and offensive, but so is the double standard.”

My anger, and that of others, is a combination of retaliatory and constructive angers.

I would like to be less angry than I am. But I would also like to see those who display judgmental anger toward people who think like me moderate that anger and cease name-calling. We are not evil and we might even have a few good ideas.

According to a quote often attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” Today, too many opinions are being passed off as facts. Let’s settle on the facts and have discourse on opinions on the facts without derogatory characterizations. The free market of ideas is a wonderful place. It is the cornerstone of the First Amendment.

This will help me manage my reactive anger. However, constructive anger might benefit us all.

In the spirit of Yom Kippur, if this, or any of my other columns, has offended you, I ask for your forgiveness. G’mar hatima tova.

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