The Pledge of Acceptance

To the right, I’m just another soy boy libtard. To the left, I’m everything from sexist to Nazi. So are most of my friends, as we discussed at dinner last night. We had a wonderful dinner, with caviar, shrimp and brie before a dinner of rib eye and lobster tails. It was at the Hamptons home of an old, dear pal, who has largely abandoned his Manhattan townhouse due to COVID, crime, garbage and overly-aggressive homeless who now own the streets when the streets aren’t otherwise occupied to mostly peaceful protesters destroying other people’s property.

Like me, he’s of a certain age, and will never miss a meal no matter what the next administration decides to tax or give away for free. Like me, he’s got kids for whom he’s worried. Like me, he’s known Trump long before his presidency and is well aware of who he is and what he cares about, which isn’t my friend or me or you. And like me, he’s aware of the next battle after Trump’s demise. As has become commonplace, he has a gun. If nothing else, the protests have turned New Yorkers into gun owners.

Assuming, arguendo, as we did around the dinner table last night, that Trump will lose the election, and potentially lose the Senate for the Republicans as well, will that offer the opportunity for people who don’t suffer TDS (which goes either way, whether as “delusion” or “devotion”) to release the hatred that has turned them toward viciousness and consider that people who don’t share their religion might be decent human beings?

Pamela Paretsky proposed to the twitters a pledge, With Malice Toward None.

I’m not big on pledges, particularly pledges that have no cost. If I took the pledge and broke it, what would they do to me? But the message of the pledge, can’t we all get along, seems both worthy and benign. What could be bad about such a pledge?

I’ve long been an open advocate for returning to the premise that people have to be able to agree to disagree. And yet, that platitudinous notion lacks the nuance necessary to be helpful. I will not agree with those who are racist or sexist, whether from the right or the left. I cannot agree that authoritarians of either stripe should dictate what we can say or do any more than who someone chooses to love. I will not acquiesce to those who want to curtail our constitutional rights, our freedom, because they deem freedom too hurtful or harmful.

Can we agree within rational parameters? Sure, but then, my rational parameters and yours might not be the same. And as experience over the past few years suggests, many people are going to dispute my views on the rational parameters of public policy and discourse. Hey, if I’m a racist for promoting racial equality rather than the critical race theory solution of being racist in favor of black people, where is there middle ground to be had?

After dinner, with my pal sipping Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and me making do with McCallan 12*, we came to the realization that our old liberal values were now derided as centrist at best, and the source of all that’s wrong with society according to both right and left dogma at worst. We were now the outliers, even if most of America was still moderate and differed at the edges about how to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happiness, I’m told, is no longer something that every person can pursue, but a zero-sum game. Both sides want happiness, but only for themselves and want everyone not them to suffer. Here we were, my dear, old pal and I, enjoying a life we never dreamed we would achieve as we were poor kids from poor families with no expectations except that our efforts and sacrifice might enable us to someday sit in a house in the Hamptons and talk about liberal values over whiskey.

America has been very good to us. We want it to be just as good to everyone else by offering everyone the same opportunity we were given. Everyone won’t get there. The promise is opportunity. You get to pursue happiness, not have it handed to you on a silver platter. And neither your race, gender, sexual orientation or your failure to adhere to whatever orthodoxy your tribe prefers should stand in your way.

I don’t want to know who you vote for or why. I can accept that there are non-hateful reasons to vote either way, or not vote at all. But I can’t pledge not to be critical, even harsh, when it comes to anyone who demands that others should suffer so they can be happy. My pal and I hugged as I left his home for the drive to mine. I had a lovely evening, even though America is going through hell at the moment. I hope you did too. Everyone.

*My pal emailed me this morning to chastise me for taking literary license with the scotch he served. It was Johnny Walker Blue, but I didn’t want to shame him with his taste in scotch, so I fudged the detail because he swore he had McCallan 18 somewhere but just couldn’t find it, so I split the difference. I apologize for my gilding his lily.

34 thoughts on “The Pledge of Acceptance

  1. Richard Kopf

    Scott,

    Beneath the facade, you are a gentle man.

    Who could ever imagine that the two of us, plus a very strange guy named Skink, could look out over the Gulf of Mexico and tell lies over bacon and whiskey* and enjoy our differences while each loving the combination of the two gifts from God.

    This was odd. Not one of us had ever seen each other in person ’till that wonderful “reunion.”

    Thanks for being you.

    All the best.

    Rich

    * Anyone who likes Scotch over Bourbon is warped, but there you go.

    1. SHG Post author

      That was the Gulf of Mexico?

      I don’t know whether people here realize how often we disagree about things, and yet how much we still appreciate each other’s views.

    2. Skink

      Shit, where have I been all day?

      As far as I’m concerned, you are the two gifts from God, even though you’re mostly wrong about everything.

      1. MollyG

        I am anti-racists, anti-bigots, against those who like voter suppression and destroying the environment. I am a liberal, and of course I am always right.

        1. SHG Post author

          I wasn’t actually asking you, but making a point that the nutjobs from both fringes sound alike. And you’re not a liberal.

            1. Hunting Guy

              MollyG.

              “ I am anti-racists, anti-bigots, against those who like voter suppression and destroying the environment.”

              Sounds like conservative values to me. Come visit our side some time. We have cookies.

            2. LocoYokel

              While I consider myself center-right, I also am anti-racist and anti-bigot. However, I don’t think those terms mean what progressives think they mean.

  2. Hunting Guy

    Off the top of my head, maybe 5% of the population would take that pledge. The rest are too polarized.

    And 5% may be high.

  3. L. Phillips

    Politically I’m just to the right of Attila the Hun but I hang around this hotel because you are worth listening to and both the articles and comments usually make me stretch my thinking.

    But I’m also the guy who gave a retiring officer who claimed to be a scotch man a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label as a parting gift. He almost cried. I thought he was happy, so what do I know?

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s okay that you didn’t like the guy that much. You don’t have to like everybody. And while you’re very conservative, you’re what I’m talking about when I say “within normal parameters,” so as conservative as you may be, you still ground your thoughts in facts and reason, even if you weigh the values differently.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      How about a modest pledge not to lock up the losing side in re-education camps or hold a kangaroo court “truth and reconciliation commission” to punish the other tribe or any of the other vindictive craziness trending on Twitter.
      I don’t expect love between Biden and Trump voters, or even civil conversation at Thanksgiving but going full on Cultural Revolution or even continuing the current pointless destruction is well over the line

      1. SHG Post author

        I can’t imagine the damage that a “truth and reconciliation commission” might cause. That might very well be the straw that breaks the nation’s back.

  4. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    Notwithstanding your protests, when I’m bussed in to vote this year, I promise to tell you who paid for the ride.

  5. angrychiatty

    Thank you for the positivity this Sunday morning. Too bad another pledge can’t take hold, such as: “I resolve to understand that unless I work in government and shape policy, no one gives a shit about my unsolicited opinions on politics and I should keep my mouth shut and talk about books, movies, music, or literally anything else.”

    1. SHG Post author

      There’s nothing bad about a politically literate and engaged electorate, but when politics becomes religion, then there’s nothing really to discuss.

      1. angrychiatty

        Of course there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not talking about the people who are “engaged” by busting their ass or volunteering some of their limited free time, spending actual energy to help with the process based on whatever they feel is best for the country. I’m talking about the people online and at dinner parties, who do nothing with respect to government or politics other than loudly broadcasting their opinions. And they do this despite not knowing any of the details on government policies; it’s just parroting whatever glib talking point they read on their social media feed. I’ve seen multiple friendships end over this crap, between friends who don’t volunteer or work for the political process in any way other than voting (and not always actually voting). It just seems a complete waste to lose relationships over this, and I wish it would stop.

  6. Lee King

    Unfortunately, I am faced with the prospect of being disowned by my woke, trans daughter if I admit to voting for the wrong person. Of course, Jo Jorgenson wouldn’t be the first Libertarian candidate I’ve voted for.

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