Monday, June 18, 2018

loyalty is not black and white

A brief break from actively avoiding politics...

My soul is middle American and my politics are centrist. I can't stand the far left any more than I can stand the far right, and I definitely empathize with the disgust of the far left that led to Trump. I aggressively believe in trying to figure out what good intentions underlie things we disagree with, rather than being quick to attack. I aggressively believe in solidifying the common ground of worthy goals before arguing over how to achieve them. This is easier said than done but it's the standard I strive for.

With that said, I'm at a complete loss as to what good intentions could ever possibly motivate forcibly separating young children from their parents, not even to put the children in more nurturing environments (quite the opposite), but as political bait or threat.*

Thankfully (my faith in humanity is not yet extinguished) this policy has been rightly denounced along the entire political spectrum. Not so thankfully, 7% of Democrats, 28% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans say they support it**

If you are someone who is supporting this practice out of loyalty to leaders you trust, I'm begging you to please rethink your loyalties. I don't think you're evil; I think you're human. Humans of all political stripes rationalize the actions of the leaders and groups they are loyal to, so successfully that things like the Holocaust, the Gulags, and the Cultural Revolution can happen with the sanctioning of the general public. At this point in history, however, we as a species have enough self-awareness to recognize that process in action and course correct in time to avert disaster. But it takes self-reflection on an individual level to succeed.

Jonathan Haidt's research on moral foundations theory has found that conservatives place a much greater emphasis on loyalty than liberals. I'm agnostic as to whether that's a bad or a good thing in general, but in instances like this, it's critical to recognize that loyalty is conflicting with the other pillars of morality. Equally so, it's critical to recognize that loyalty is not all or nothing. It's feasible to fight against a particular policy without abandoning your entire party. It's ok to say "I voted for Trump but I didn't vote for this."

To those on the left, my plea is to graciously accept agreement from conservatives on this issue. Child abuse is something that should be trivial to rally against in unison, and gloating and blaming the other side and conflating an issue with an entire political philosophy is what will prevent that from happening.


* The qualifiers in this statement do not, at all, indicate that I'm ok with everything up to this line. They indicate that I'm confident that at least this is something we can all agree on and progress from.

** Note that the question (#25) asks about the practice of separating children from parents in the process of immediately prosecuting those who attempt to enter the country illegally. However, some children are also being separated from parents who are attempting to legally seek asylum at the border. Presumably, support for this policy would be lower across the board.

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