The left responds to most tragedies with robo-call predictability: it is time, they declare, that we finally have a national conversation about … guns, gender, race, poverty, etc.
The truth, of course, is that we seem to talk about little else. But to their mind, we haven’t really had a discussion until they have carried the day. Once that happens, everyone better shut up and toe the line.
This reflects a central contradiction of American progressives. They preach cultural relativism and embrace multicultural diversity. Who am I to judge? they say.
And yet, they also believe their views represent the single, absolute truth. This is what they mean when they insist their positions are on the right side of history. Eventually, everyone will be as enlightened as they are, as we move toward the great singularity of thought.
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This mindset has long informed most forms of authoritarianism – from the Christian millenarian movements that sprouted in Europe during the middle ages to communism.
A less coercive form of this idea has long shaped America through the evangelical fire for salvation that proclaimed society could be perfected if we all accepted the absolute truth of Christ.
American progressives have secularized and politicized that idea. Where Protestants speak of awakenings, progressives strive to be woke.
This inability to respect dissent from their ideas leads the left to damn their opponents in moral terms – as racists, sexists, bigots. Or, in a more generous mood, they claim they are just ignorant or brainwashed: You don’t get it because there’s something wrong with you.
Thus, their ugly response to the Las Vegas massacre. The panic had barely subsided, the still unanswered questions about what drove Stephen Paddock hadn’t even been asked, before the left went into full attack mode.
Late-night comics, who have become leading voices of the left – let that sink in for a second – immediately blamed Republicans for this tragedy. “They should be praying to God to forgive them,” Jimmy Kimmel famously said, “for letting the gun lobby run this country because it is so crazy.” For that slander, he was hailed as America’s conscience.
I have never owned a gun; I wouldn’t shed a tear if theSecond Amendment were repealed. But the idea that America’s extremely loose gun laws are due to a cabal that uses money to corrupt our politics is nonsense. Right or wrong, our gun culture is deeply rooted in the history of our frontier and revolutionary politics. In response, Democrats offer misinformation – there is no gun show loophole – and ineffective reforms because they know most Americans would reject more ambitious efforts. The timidity of their ideas is matched only by the thunder of their condemnation; they don’t think twice about essentially accusing the NRA and GOP senators including Thom Tillis and Richard Burr of mass murder.
Unable to acknowledge that millions of Americans might have good reasons for owning firearms, they trumpet malign forces to explain why their fellow citizens cannot see the truth about guns.
Attacking the NRA is old hat. The left’s response to the Las Vegas shooting also vented two new ugly avenues of attack that reflect its growing contempt for many Americans.
First were the criticisms of those who sent out “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. Of course that should not be the only response to such a tragedy. But to deny that faith has any meaning or role – that prayers are just words in the air – is to dismiss an essential core of identity and understanding.
The second was the transformation of Paddock into a representative of all white men. Articles focusing on his race and gender – most written by whites, many by men – are part of the larger progressive argument that we must embrace their reforms to free our nation from an ugly history not so much influenced but defined by white supremacy.
The same people who correctly warn us against judging African-Americans because of high crime rates in their community, or Muslims because of global terrorism, are quick to play the collective responsibility card when it comes to white males.
This is flat-out racism and all Americans should condemn it.
As our nation becomes ever more diverse, the political challenge of binding us together as a people will only become harder. It is tempting to avoid these complexities by dismissing different ways of thinking as false, beyond the pale.
That does nothing to encourage the conversations we ought to have.
Contributing columnist J. Peder Zane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.