Me, Thomas Aquinas, and Why I Got No Time for All the “Let’s Understaaaaaaaaaaaaand” Sermons

First of all, understanding voting is hard. I’m not an expert on voting; I gave up on the social science on voting. Why? Because it’s vast, and when I was avidly following that literature, I found very few credible knowables for those outside party affiliations.

But I’ve sat through the last “We just need to understaaaaaaand each other” and “You liberals need to understaaaaaaaand all the pain of the white working class” sermons I am going to.


Look, people, I probably know more about the GOP platform that 90 percent of the people who voted for the GOP. It’s not that I don’t understaaaaaaaaaaaaaand them. It’s that I don’t want what they say they want.

Is that really so wrong? Is lecturing me on my need to underssssstaaaaaaand them ANY different or less patronizing than liberals who think people need to be educated? Is it really impossible to believe that I understand them perfectly well and still just don’t want what they want?

No, it’s not.

It’s not that I didn’t listen or that I don’t read other people’s sides. I do. I just think their policies are the wrong way to go.

So here’s the deal: I am the opposition. You win some elections, you lose some elections. My side lost this time. Ok. But there’s no “oohhhhhh let’s all get along and support the new guy.” I don’t wish him ill; I hope he doesn’t get any horrible disease from his can o’tan, and I also hope nobody tries to hurt him, or heaven forbid succeeds. I’m looking forward to whatever pretty outfits Melania plans to wear to all the tedious things she is going to have to go to now. I admit to some schaudenfreundish tee-heeing at how much less fun being president is going to be than running for president, but hey, maybe he will find hidden depths and wind up liking the job.

But I fervently hope they fail to implement every single thing they promised because I think every single thing PEOTUS has said in the last year, and just about every single thing in the GOP platform, are dumb things to do. I’m not going to help make those things happen. It’s not my duty to support what I consider bad public policy. I dissent. Period.

I don’t have to be a good sport. My side lost. The other side is in charge. They have their turn. They spent 8 years obstructing. That’s what opposition *does.* I didn’t expect the other guys to be *nice* when they were out of power. And they weren’t, in case any of you missed the bit where Charles Grassley and Mitch McConnell hosed the Dems out of a SCOTUS nomination. They had the power to do it, they did it.

That happens in politics. The other team has the ball. Maybe they will prove me wrong and all their policy changes will be wonderful.But I’m not going to help them find out. Not my job. It’s their job now. It’s my job to make their job hard enough that they want to make some deals to win me over. That’s my job now.

For all the liberal guilt everybody wants to drench themselves in, for all the gloating that “teh smug liberalz have been shown a thang or two—horsepoop. I have been scraping conservative social media feeds for 3 years (doing some work on open carry and assumptions about the public sphere) and plenty of these people are JUST as smug, snotty, patronizing, and insufferable as Matt Taibbi or anybody else people want to drub for smugness on the left. People who are convinced they are right about things are annoying, but it’s EVERYWHERE and neither side has a monopoly on asshats. Go look at #leftstupid if you don’t believe me. Ya wanna understaaaaaaaaaaaaand why they think you’re stupid? Because you don’t agree with them, that’s why. And that’s all.

Boy, howdy, deep.

It may be appealing to say that we need to understaaaaaand each other, but it’s also deluded at some point. America is pluralistic, and there are interests that are not going to be reconciled by kumbayah appeals to civil society. For somebody who believes life begins at conception, there is no amount of me explaining my side that is going to move them. We are not going to come together. I don’t think a person who believes that life begins at conception is a monster or an idiot (though, from what I’ve scraped from the web, plenty of those folk think people like me are). I just think they are wrong to put the well-being of what think is basically a group of cells over the well-being of a woman who is already in the world. They think I am wrong to weight these things the other way. I don’t want them to have their way in our collectively governed space. They don’t want me to have my way in our collectively governed space.

I’ve read Aquinas on when life begins and ends. It is remarkable–remarkable–thinking; and plenty of his interlocutors have built very good arguments for why the “at conception” people are right, and I am wrong. I read a big pile of it.

I clocked in the damn hours to understaaaaaaaaand.

But I still think I’m right to come down on the issue where I do, after all that anguished study.

That’s it. We understand each other perfectly fine. We just don’t agree. And that’s what we have to live with. Nothing more, nothing less.

As to the jerkfaces painting swastikas, I understand them, plenty. I don’t know how much of Trump’s coalition they represent; supporters tell me it’s a tiny fraction, teenagers engaging in youthful rebellion, etc etc…but even a tiny fraction is gross. To hell with them. I don’t owe them my time. If one starts choking next to me in Denny’s I’ll do the Heimlich. But beyond that, they can call back for my empathy when they aren’t celebrating a political ideology that killed millions of people. Toleration has limits.