Feb 14, 2023Liked by Ed Warren

Thank you for saying something good about this country and about its citizens. Robert Kagan, in a recent interview with Yascha Mounk, remarked (as I remember it), "That would mean saying something good about America, and that is impossible." The context of the conversation was the international order established after the Second World War, and the US role in creating that order. Almost any context could be chosen and the truth of Kagan's comment would be borne out. It is almost unthinkable, certainly on the "progressive" left, to say anything good about America. So, thanks. The people you mention are the people I know, the people I encounter when I'm out and about, in stores, on public transport, the people who volunteer, who donate money and time. I live in a city half of whose population is black, many poor. There is tension. There is anger. And whatever their races, people in the civic space treat each other with politeness and respect, offering seats on the bus, admiring babies, waving pedestrians across the street, passing a friendly remark. These are Americans, and they deserve to be seen.

Expand full comment

The author is refreshingly optimistic. HIs statement about neither party winning middle America is worth repeating because it is middle America, not the right or the left, that can be moved in large enough numbers by discussion, empathy and/or cogent argument. I have found that extremists on the right and left will sometimes stumble upon the truth, but they tend to pick themselves, dust themselves off, and proceed as if nothing had happened.

Expand full comment

Should have read "... pick themselves up..." RJH

Expand full comment

"This abandonment of classic values was not limited to the MAGA wing of the Republican party. I began to notice a broad contempt for “traditional American values” on the political left as well. It was more subtle and less egregious, but problematic in its own right."

Yeah, right. The scale is backwards. There is no real abandonment of classic values with the Trump platform and Trump supporters. If you disagree, please list them.

However, there is a massive abandonment of classic values with the Democrat party, liberals and leftists in this country. And if you disagree, they will be happy to destroy your reputation, cancel you, ban you and ensure you are consistently less free to oppose them.

Expand full comment

OK then, here’s a few classic values that MAGAs have largely abandoned:

-Telling or caring about the truth

-Caring about the welfare of others (evidence: mask and vaccine refusal in the midst of the most severe health crisis in a century, in which more than a million Americans have died)

-Caring about and demanding integrity from public officials (evidence: worshiping the most corrupt president in American history)

-Common decency (evidence: everywhere, but especially in rallies and public demonstrations and counter-demonstrations)

-Respect for others -- even those who are different

-Having an open mind (evidence: inability or unwillingness to consider new ideas)

-Devotion to the US of A (evidence: the ubiquitous carrying of Confederate Flags)

-Embracing immigrants -- people who, as the Statue of Liberty declares, “yearn to breath free”

-The ethic of “Live and let live” (evidence: lack of tolerance for allowing people to live as they want so long as they are lawful and not infringing others’ ability to do so.

-Democracy (evidence: the embrace of an authoritarian leader and a movement dedicated to the imposition of autocratic rule)

-Equality (evidence: wide-spread embrace of white nationalism; resistance of efforts to end discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, race, etc.)

-The Golden Rule

-The peaceable transition of power

-The right to vote

I could go on and on.

Expand full comment

“Telling or caring about the truth”

This must be your attempt at satire? You mean the truth about Trump-Russia collusion, Hunter Biden’s laptop, efficacy of masks, the fact that the mRNA jabs were never vaccines and people would still be infected, the closing of schools when the risk that any child would be harmed by COVID infection was de minimis but the harm to them from being kept from in-person instruction would be life-long.

“Caring about the welfare of others (evidence: mask and vaccine refusal in the midst of the most severe health crisis in a century, in which more than a million Americans have died)”

See the previous. Your cultist COVID narrative is false, extreme and more importantly it is NOTHING close to the classic American values you claim to have and MAGA supporters do not. Classic American values would never stand for the authoritarians to lie, shutdown the economy and force people to be vaccinated against their own healthcare choices.

“Caring about and demanding integrity from public officials (evidence: worshiping the most corrupt president in American history)”

This is just a stupid TDS comment. Means nothing.

“Common decency (evidence: everywhere, but especially in rallies and public demonstrations and counter-demonstrations)”

LOL. Yes, Democrats have been the model of common decency for their public demonstrations. Right.

“Respect for others -- even those who are different”

You mean respect for the working class that you and your Democrat friends despise?

“Having an open mind (evidence: inability or unwillingness to consider new ideas)”

My God… that is the most idiotic of your lines.

The rest of your list is just crap. It is amazing that any thinking person would even post a list like this. It is like you are in a mythological trance of media-propaganda and cannot access reality.

Trump supporters support the exact same things that the average Democrat supported a couple of decades ago. It is you left and Democrat freaks that went off the rails advocating for non-American values.

Expand full comment

Nothing in that list is real or it is too shallow in assessment to warrant any dialog. It is mythology and propaganda to help justify your hate of working class people.

Expand full comment

Your list is a mixed bag. Some of it obviously fits Trump and -- one has to assume -- many of his followers. Some, like "Having an open mind", is both amorphous and implausible, and some, like mask and vaccine refusal, can be explained more charitably.

I think your point is made regarding @Frank Lee's post, but you overshot the mark, and in a manner that runs directly counter to the theme of the essay.

Mr. Lee's claims that Democrats are as bad or worse on all these counts shares these problems and also don't directly address your comment.

Expand full comment

As many have said, the optimism here is refreshing and severely needed. The question is, is optimism enough?

"Of course, not everyone will focus on what binds us together. There will always be leaders that delight in divisiveness. So our role as Americans is to reject their offerings."

What if the answer isn't as simple as choosing to "reject their offerings"? For most Americans, the choice between divisiveness and respect is not a simple choice between A and B, but instead more akin to "choosing" to give up drug addiction or alcoholism. Humanity's propensity to subconsciously seek out and revel in tribal identities and extreme negativity is well established, but it is also left out of polarization discussions all too often.

While Ed's optimism is refreshing, I'm worried it's akin to softly urging an alcoholic to quit drinking. For many Americans, the subconscious allure of tribal divisiveness and negativity has become an addiction. This addiction is rooted in evolutionary phenomena that are much more powerful than our rational conscious self. The solution for many then might be closer to a comprehensive rehab program than it is to simply urging respect and restraint.

Expand full comment

It’s a great point. Mutual respect is not sufficient but it is necessary. The point of this piece was to point out that necessity. There is a lot more structural work that needs to be done to change things long term. Economic and social empowerment is a major undertaking. Civil service programs, broader-based education and training programs, economic reforms to unlock upward mobility, etc...

This piece was already too long to include those thoughts ;)

Expand full comment

Ed, thanks for the article. In general, I agree with your writing and it is good that you share your personal experience. It is important that more people share democratic values worldwide. The thing is also that we can have the same values regardless of citizenship and social identities.

At the same time, the thing is that "national values" as "American values" rhetoric, it is a slippery slope and double egged sword. I mean, would you tell a hard-core Trump supporter who participated in the Capital Riot that he or she is not an American? Because by making some values as "American" you end up in nationalist and collectivist behaviours that damage even the people you care about.


Expand full comment

The author's optimism in American civil society is welcome, but unfortunately misplaced. The civil society which long made possible the common-sense virtues which he extols- service clubs, churches, families, adult recreational sports leagues, etc.- have been in a state of decay for decades. Bowling Alone, written by Robert Putnam, catalogued this decline more than 2 decades ago, and if civil society was damaged then it is practically comatose now.

Expand full comment