“Calumniate, calumniate: something will always stick.”
Beaumarchais, Le Barbier de Séville (1773)
“I am French, I am Chauvin”
Cogniard, La Cogniard Tricolore (1831)
Orthosphere gadfly a.morphous opines in recent comments that liberals are vastly more rational and empathetic than conservatives, forgetting to mention better looking and more skillful in both bedroom and kitchen. He also says that conservatives oppose progress, offering their opposition to Hillary Clinton as evidence. If the thought that Hillary Clinton might be president made you throw up a little in your mouth, he evidently believes you must also sputter and spit every time you think of anesthetics, steel bridges, or toilet paper on a roll.
The comments in which these opinions were expressed related the horror a.morphous feels whenever he thinks of Donald Trump. Trump is, for a.morphous, hideous under the strong definition I gave that word in a recent post, so that the President’s voice and visage fill a.morphous with a sickening despair. I can empathize, having felt a similar nausea when I heard the voice and saw the visage of Trump’s predecessor, and so I “feel his pain.” I would feel it even if he were suffering, as I suffered, in silence.
The notion that conservatives lack empathy is somehow connected to the idea that their opposites are “bleeding heart liberals.” I deny that liberals are uniquely prone to coronary hemophilia, or that petrifaction is the outstanding characteristic of conservative hearts, and assert that liberals and conservatives get choked up over different things. They have different sensibilities, so that different things cause them to get lumps in their throats, or to wipe tears from their eyes. They both have soft spots, but their soft spots are in different places.
I would not say that liberals are especially rational or irrational. They sometimes draw correct inferences from evidence, and sometimes refuse to draw correct inferences from evidence. Contrary to the title of their flagship radio news program, they do not consider all things, and do not always fairly consider the things they do consider. I do not say this while making any chauvanistic claims for the intellectual powers of my own team. But this is partly due to the fact that classical conservatism taught me to be skeptical of any strong claims to intellectual power. Classical conservatism taught me that all serious thinking begins with the axiom that it is dangerous to take thinking too seriously.
I was not being altogether facetious when I wrote that liberals might claim to surpass conservatives in pulchritude, culinary skill, and sexual dexterity, for chauvanism seems to be inherent to the liberal creed. For all their talk of human equality, liberals obviously believe they are superior to conservatives in almost every way you can imagine. I have mentioned their immodest claims to moral and intellectual superiority, and would here add their claim to superior taste. I actually share many liberal tastes, but find this liberal snobbery tasteless. I would much rather paddle my canoe on a quiet river than skim over a lake in a roaring motorboat, but I do not think this makes me a better person than those who prefer to skim.
I recently mentioned that I have a new neighbor who is liberal and much given to yard signs. One sign reads:
I Will Vote
Faith not Fear
Hope not Hate
Love not Lies
I find that this sign is being marketed to liberal Christians by an outfit called Vote Common Good, which aims “to change the too commonly believed narrative that people of faith must support Republicans.” It evidently proposes to do this with the calumny that people of Faith who do support Republicans are not, in fact, people of Faith, but are, rather, stupid and despicable psychotics. I do not believe I have ever seen a more calumnious or chauvinistic yard sign.
Calumny is defamation with false charges, or what the Bible describes—and denounces—as whispering and backbiting. As my epigram suggests, calumny works best when the false charges are multitudinous and oft-repeated, since most people operate on the smoke-means-fire principal, and when enough dirt is thrown, some is sure to stick. To casually psychoanalyze one’s political opponents as savage and deluded madmen strikes me as egregious calumny
Chauvinism is a greedy claim to have a monopoly on virtue, or what the Bible describes—and denounces—as boasting and being puffed up for one against the other. The word comes from the name of a sergeant in Napoleon’s army who combined personal and partisan conceit to an extraordinary degree. Virtue was the exclusive possession of France, and Chauvin was himself outstanding evidence of this virtue. To casually arrogate faith, hope and love strikes me as egregious chauvinism.
We should, all of us, eschew calumny and chauvinism, and do our best to see the virtues of our enemies and the flaws in ourselves. Everyone who votes in November is hoping for some sort of progress, and is acting with some degree of goodness and intelligence. Everyone will no doubt cast their ballot with a peculiar mix of faith and fear, hope and hate, love and lies. We have enough to divide us without puffing ourselves up or biting one another on the backside.