A onetime red-diaper baby, Danusah Goska, lists ten reasons for abandoning the Left:
In the late 1990s I was reading Anatomy of the Spirit, a then recent bestseller by Caroline Myss.
Myss described having lunch with a woman named Mary. A man approached Mary and asked her if she were free to do a favor for him on June 8th. No, Mary replied, I absolutely cannot do anything on June 8th because June 8th is my incest survivors’ meeting and we never let each other down! They have suffered so much already! I would never betray incest survivors!
Myss was flabbergasted. Mary could have simply said “Yes” or “No.”
Reading this anecdote, I felt that I was confronting the signature essence of my social life among leftists. We rushed to cast everyone in one of three roles: victim, victimizer, or champion of the oppressed. We lived our lives in a constant state of outraged indignation. I did not want to live that way anymore. I wanted to cultivate a disposition of gratitude. I wanted to see others, not as victims or victimizers, but as potential friends, as loved creations of God. I wanted to understand the point of view of people with whom I disagreed without immediately demonizing them as enemy oppressors.
I recently attended a training session for professors on a college campus. The presenter was a new hire in a tenure-track position. He opened his talk by telling us that he had received an invitation to share a festive meal with the president of the university. I found this to be an enviable occurrence and I did not understand why he appeared dramatically aggrieved. The invitation had been addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. X.” Professor X was a bachelor. He felt slighted. Perhaps the person who had addressed his envelope had disrespected him because he is a member of a minority group.
Rolling his eyes, Prof. X went on to say that he was wary of accepting a position on this lowly commuter campus, with its working-class student body. The disconnect between leftists’ announced value of championing the poor and the leftist practice of expressing snobbery for them stung me. Already vulnerable students would be taught by a professor who regarded association with them as a burden, a failure, and a stigma.
Barack Obama is president. Kim and Kanye and Brad and Angelina are members of multiracial households. One might think that professors finally have cause to teach their students to be proud of America for overcoming racism. Not so fast, Professor X warned. His talk was on microaggression, defined as slights that prove that America is still racist, sexist, homophobic, and ableist, that is, discriminatory against handicapped people.
Professor X projected a series of photographs onto a large screen. In one, commuters in business suits, carrying briefcases, mounted a flight of stairs. This photo was an act of microaggression. After all, Professor X reminded us, handicapped people can’t climb stairs.
I appreciate Professor X’s desire to champion the downtrodden, but identifying a photograph of commuters on stairs as an act of microaggression and evidence that America is still an oppressive hegemon struck me as someone going out of his way to live his life in a state of high dudgeon. On the other hand, Prof. X could have chosen to speak of his own working-class students with more respect.
Yes, there is a time and a place when it is absolutely necessary for a person to cultivate awareness of his own pain, or of others’ pain. Doctors instruct patients to do this — “Locate the pain exactly; calculate where the pain falls on a scale of one to ten; assess whether the pain is sharp, dull, fleeting, or constant.” But doctors do this for a reason. They want the patient to heal, and to move beyond the pain. In the left, I found a desire to be in pain constantly, so as always to have something to protest, from one’s history of incest to the inability of handicapped people to mount flights of stairs.
9) Selective Outrage
I was a graduate student. Female genital mutilation came up in class. I stated, without ornamentation, that it is wrong.
A fellow graduate student, one who was fully funded and is now a comfortably tenured professor, sneered at me. “You are so intolerant. Clitoredectomy is just another culture’s rite of passage. You Catholics have confirmation.”
When Mitt Romney was the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, he mentioned that, as Massachusetts governor, he proactively sought out female candidates for top jobs. He had, he said, “binders full of women.” He meant, of course, that he stored resumes of promising female job candidates in three-ring binders.
Op-ed pieces, Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon posts erupted in a feeding frenzy, savaging Romney and the Republican Party for their “war on women.”
I was an active leftist for decades. I never witnessed significant leftist outrage over clitoredectomy, child marriage, honor killing, sharia-inspired rape laws, stoning, or acid attacks. Nothing. Zip. Crickets. I’m not saying that that outrage does not exist. I’m saying I never saw it.
The left’s selective outrage convinced me that much canonical, left-wing feminism is not so much support for women, as it is a protest against Western, heterosexual men. It’s an “I hate” phenomenon, rather than an “I love” phenomenon.
This is all very well and good. But I note, with mingled amusement and contempt, that of these 10 reasons, only Nos. 2 and 3 have much to do with the only thing that should matter from the dialetical perspective: “It doesn’t work. Other approaches work better.”
So what does this tell us? Nothing that Aristotle didn’t already inform us more than 2,400 years ago. For most people, dialectal reasoning is only ever going to be part of the holistic super-rational process that wins people over to the truth. Rhetorical factors that appeal to people’s emotions on some level are usually going to be more important. This is a hard lesson for some of us to learn, a hard reality for those who pride themselves on their logic and clear-sightedness to accept.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for pure dialectic. But so long as men are not creatures of pure energy and reason, rhetoric will be the more powerful tool for reaching them and convincing them. That is where the Left, despite its irrationality and logical incoherence, has an advantage. Being limited to the rhetorical level, it should be no surprise that they are generally more comfortable operating on the only level they know, whereas due to the Left’s limitations, the finest minds of the Right are forced to engage on ground that is not of their choosing and where they are often distinctly uncomfortable.
And yet, once the necessity of operating on the rhetorical level is fully understood, the Right has an advantage because dialectic ultimately trumps rhetoric, which is precisely why the Left so often, and so dishonestly, rhetorically proclaims its dialectic superiority while voicing its pseudo-dialectic. Dialectic is supremely useful in puncturing and exposing false dialectic, but it must be understood that this is primarily a rhetorical device and is best exploited on a rhetorical level.