I’m tired of being mad at the state of the world. But I am absolutely furious that I’m still being told that the only way to make progress is to replace anger with politeness and respect.
Not everything is good. Some things are objectively very bad. In some situations, it can be counterproductive to respond to a supporter of a bad thing with polite, indifferent consideration of their ideas.
I would like to specifically refute this plea to “agree to disagree” as it relates to modern political discussions. There is a time and place for debates in which each perspective is equally weighed, but given the danger our current president poses to our nation, we don’t live in that place right now.
G.E. Moore wrote “The Subject Matter of Ethics” to discuss the meaning of “good” in its most basic form. He concludes that good does not have a definition; it is just something that we all understand. If you tried to explain the meaning of “good” to someone who had never heard it, you would quickly resort to giving examples or to contrasting it with something very bad.
Our mutual understanding of good must be the beginning of the conversation, the thing that we can return to in order to keep the debate civil. There are experiences that we all share, and observations that we have all made, of things that are consistently good or bad and that cannot be described in any other way. We understand them, even though we cannot put words to them other than “good.”
In recent times, I have observed plenty of bad things. This country just faced its worst week yet for COVID-19 cases, and there are active, legitimate concerns about voter suppression occurring in several places, just to name a few. Unfortunately, there are some who think that it is not bad to vote for a president whose choices and rhetoric are very closely linked to those two issues.
Clearly, this is subjective, and my understanding of good and bad could differ from that of those people. But in order to engage in a polite conversation with them, some might argue that I would need to establish a middle ground for the discussion by entertaining their views on what is “good.”
And I am not going to do that. I refuse to give those people a reason to think that I might agree that those issues are anything other than bad. Doing so would bring us even further from making progress than we already are.
So the next time someone tells me that I should be having polite, civil discussions about individuals whose ideas directly challenge my understanding of what is fundamentally good, I will politely tell them that they’re being counterproductive. When we can all agree that avoidable deaths and voter suppression are bad, then we’ll talk. I’ll wait.