An open letter to Republicans, I never thought I would write a letter like this but these are trying times for American democracy and I felt the need to let you all know what I think.
If we differ on policy, I have no issue with you. I think taxes can and should be raised on the wealthiest Americans because we are currently stealing from future generations. I think we can cut defense spending, as I do not see the world as a horribly dangerous place where the threats are coming from all over. In fact, I see many of the threats as predictable consequences of our actions.
I think we need to have a national conversation about our history of race and that as a white American, I have benefited from a system of racial oppression, first through slavery and then through segregation.
I don’t believe that a society works best when everything is about making a profit and rewarding investors. Some things are better when there is a profit motive but some things are not. Therefore, I think we need a national health care system where every American has access to high-quality health care at a price they can afford and I think education should not be a profit-making enterprise.
I think our drug problem is immense and that not only destroys the lives of the users and their families but those consequences are compounded by the way we as a society seek to solve the problems of drugs through a drug war that is enforced in racial and classist ways.
I think that we are probably causing the earth to warm by the use of fossil fuels and this will probably have dire consequences. But even if we aren’t, I think we should find more modern forms of renewable fuels that do not use up resources which we know are finite.
I believe a woman has a right to control her own body but I am also very uncomfortable with abortion as it does end the life of an unborn baby. I don’t know how to solve this dilemma but I do know that making abortion illegal will lead to back-alley abortions that cause women harm and it will not eliminate abortions. Nor do I believe that a woman who was a victim of rape or incest should be forced by the government to carry a child to term. Like these issues, I am sure there are many others on which we disagree.
If you had asked me for a list of things I believed 30 years ago, you would have gotten a much different list. I voted for Ronald Reagan. I believed tax cuts would spur economic growth and bring in more revenue and balance the budget. I believed that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” I supported increased defense spending and believed that spending a little more then, would yield a peace dividend that could further reduce the deficit. The last 38 years of my life showed me I was wrong about some of these things. Tax cuts haven’t helped balance the budget, a rising tide only lifts the yachts, not the dinghy’s, as wages have remained essentially flat over the last 40 years.
I have realized the market can’t fix every problem and nor can the government. There are problems with the “free market” like externalities, asymmetric information, tendencies toward monopoly, collective action issues, and conflicts between short-term and long-term interests. I thought government spending could and should be constrained and I have continued to believe that. There was never going to be a peace dividend because I came to realize that power provides an unequal playing field and it ensures some interests prosper at the expense of others. My thinking has evolved and changed over time as my ideas collide with the changing world I live in, the experiences that I have in that world, and new evidence that I discover.
Life is not fair and powerful interests who profit and benefit from the way society works in their favor are going to do everything in they can to keep the status quo. Some people say that is just the way the world works. Well, I do not believe it does have to work that way and I believe we can make the world operate differently. More fairly, more justly.
You do not have to agree with me on any of these issues, I do need to have your affirmation. I read and seek to be informed on issues and I would be happy to have a conversation about these or any other issues. I can explain why I think the way I do and provide evidence and the reasons for my thinking. When presented with persuasive evidence and thinking, I am not opposed to changing how I think. I have in the past and I am sure I will in the future. You may not agree with me and I may be baffled at how you cannot see the world as I do. That is OK. A long time ago, I discovered that I am not always right. A long time ago, I discovered that I do not need everyone to agree with me. A long time ago, I discovered that reasonable people can disagree and it is OK. Disagreeing doesn’t necessarily make you stupid or evil, although you may be. If your opinions are based on evidence and reason, it just means you have different priorities, different values, and different life experiences.
If we talk in a civil manner we may find that we share many of the same concerns and have agreement on some steps that we can take to solve some of the problems that afflict the country. We might be able to come up with some compromises that we can both live with to fix our society. There is not a person on the left that I have spoken with who wants to see people abuse the welfare system and live better than those who work hard day in and day out to provide for their families. Likewise, I have not spoken to anyone on the right that believes that children in America should be homeless and starving. We can figure out how to solve disagreements about welfare policy without doing either of those things if we try.
However, if you think I am a “Libtard” for believing as I do then we have a problem. If you believe that the “caravan” is right on our doorstep and people in it are carrying smallpox(eradicated on earth since 1980), then we have a problem. If you believe Donald Trump won the majority of the popular vote with 63 million as Sarah Sanders claimed then we have a problem. If you believe that a bill to spend 6 billion on the opioid crisis passed with little democratic support when the vote was the final version passed the House 393-8 on Sept. 28 and the Senate 98-1 on Oct. 3 and all 9 votes against the measure in both houses were republicans then we have a problem. If you believe that the bombs sent to prominent Democrats were a liberal false flag operation, then we have a problem. If you want to believe those and other pieces of misinformation, then you don’t want to live in a world with facts. You choose to live in a world of illusion. We can’t talk if your beliefs drive your facts rather than the facts driving your beliefs. We can’t talk if you engage in childish name-calling and you question the sincerity, patriotism, morality, or intelligence of people who disagree with you. If we can’t talk, democracy can’t work and our problems won’t get solved.