Should we debate with our liberal relatives?

James P. writing at The Thinking Housewife (“Rule No. 1: Seek Friction”) urges that conservatives not shrink from political arguments with their liberal relatives, however unpleasant the consequences may be. He says that conservatives’ failure to stand up to liberals assures the defeat of the West, Christianity, and America.

I don’t know about this. My basic feeling is that liberals are so far gone, so immersed in evil lies, that nothing is to be gained from conversing with them. No matter how good your arguments and facts are, they will not take it in. Instead, they will only be confirmed in their picture of you as a right-wing bigot. It’s one thing to be Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena when there’s at least a reasonable chance that one’s efforts may bear fruit. But I don’t think that such a reasonable chance exists with regard to today’s liberals.

My feeling is that conservatives should put the truth out in printed form, so that it’s there for liberals to discover when and if they are ready for it, but that conservatives should not get into personal discussions with liberals. Let the liberals stew in their own juice. Let them continue in their folly and receive in their persons the due results of it.

That’s my view based on my experience. But I may be wrong. There may be liberals who can be reached by rational argument.

- end of initial entry -

Henry S. writes:

My feeling is that our enemies are destroying themselves and that, to paraphrase Napoleon, don’t stand in your enemy’s way when he is destroying himself.

Today I read in the NY Times that Thomas Jefferson was “a creepy, brutal hypocrite.”

I used to argue with people like that. No longer. I now say, “OK, boss, if that’s what you believe.” I say this to save myself the agita, but also because I’m secure in the knowledge that this corruption can’t sustain itself. It will fall.

By the way, the author of above article asserts that Sally Hemings was Jefferson’s mistress and that her children were all Jefferson’s. This is now part of the liberal canon. DNA evidence does prove that Hemings’ youngest son, Eston Hemings, was fathered by a Jefferson, but which Jefferson, we do not know for certain. As for the other Hemings children—I have no idea where Finkelman asserts with such certainty that they were fathered by Thomas Jefferson. I suppose that’s part of the liberal canon now.

According to this, it’s “the new consensus.”

But I don’t see any DNA evidence offered for it. I think it’s all nuttiness. It’s liberalism in full decline. But it’s strong enough to take an entire country down with it.

LA replies:

I agree. Genetic evidence established as a possibility some years ago that Thomas Jefferson may be the father of one of Hemings’s children. This possibility was then instantly transformed into the received and blessed-by-consensus “fact” that Jefferson was the father of her children. Even Jefferson biographer Joseph Ellis, a man I otherwise highly respect, went along with this garbage. As I keep saying, reason has been openly abandoned. America, even (or rather especially) at its established heights, is a mob. Do you argue with a mob? Or do you just get out of its way?

Let’s put it this way: America 2.0 is a lynch mob. And whom is it lynching? America 1.0. But nothing can be done about this, because America 1.0 is actively cooperating in its own lynching.

Alan Roebuck writes:

I don’t have an authoritative answer. But if it will help keep your spirits up, and you don’t think you’ll be wiped out, then, by all means, attack. An army is demoralized if it never goes on the offensive, even when the enemy is stronger. Pick your battles, but fight on.

That said, I don’t argue with my liberal relatives. I pick other fights.

Alan Roebuck continues:
I just read James P.’s post at TTH to which you referred. It contains the line, “When we remain silent, the left wins by default, and young people do not hear any alternative to the leftist propaganda in which they are immersed.”

I decided several years ago that if I were at a family function, and if my son were following and being influenced by the liberal ideas being expressed, then I would oppose them openly. My demeanor would be polite but firm.

I have a duty as a father to protect my son from toxic ideas whenever possible.

James P. writes:

The purpose of standing up to liberals is not really to convert liberals to my point of view. I certainly make rational arguments and defend them with facts, but I cannot control whether or not liberals accept them, as indeed they often do not.

The purpose of standing up to liberals is to:

  • Assert truth and virtue for its own sake, whether or not the recipient is willing to believe it.

  • Avoid the psychological discomfort, even self-loathing, that comes from listening passively to another person’s lies without responding. Make the liberals suffer this themselves! [LA replies: I completely agree. If there is political discussion going on, then one cannot avoid responding to it. I only meant that it is better, if possible, to stay away from such occasions altogether, or to have an agreement with relatives that politics will not be discussed at family gatherings. For example, my late sister and I had extreme disagreements which became very unpleasant. After years of this we basically agreed to avoid political discussions. That more or less solved the problem. And that is what I would recommend, that conservatives say to their liberal relatives, “There are extreme disagreements between us, and it would spoil our family gathering to get into them. I think we should all agree to refrain from political discussions.” However, if that is not possible, and liberals (whether our relatives or not) are spouting their evil ideas in our presence, then of course one cannot in honor remain silent.]

  • Avoid the development of what the Germans called “scissors in the head”—i.e., mentally conditioning oneself to avoid speaking “taboo” subjects. Again, make the liberals suffer this themselves! If you never voice your true thoughts that reflect your beliefs, ultimately your thoughts and beliefs will change.

  • Deter them from thoughtlessly spewing their bile on me.

  • Provide a stalwart example to any other listeners, liberal or not, especially if they are young and impressionable.

I do not agree with Henry S. that liberalism will self-destruct. Liberalism needs to be pushed, and deserves to be pushed. More importantly, what will replace liberalism even if it does fall of its own weight? Will traditionalists suddenly leap forward, after decades of silent cowardice, and become bold leaders? One hardly thinks so. The habits of cringing servility and passive silence will not be cast aside so easily. If we show some positive leadership, even at personal cost, during the time it takes for liberalism to collapse, can we make a claim to leadership afterwards. If not, then we are hopelessly compromised.

The replacement for liberalism is most likely to be a belief system with outspoken, aggressive leaders, invincible certitude in its correctness, unwillingness to tolerate the least slight or contradiction, and followers who are willing to die or go to jail for it rather than submit. (Note: liberalism itself was like this for many years before its present triumph.) Liberals will fear this belief system, not hate and despise it as they do conservatism today. As you know, a belief system fitting this description already exists today.

Karl D. writes:

Once when I was younger I tried debating my now deceased grandmother. She was an old school Jewish liberal raised on unions and 1930s progressivism. I told her I was a Conservative. She just looked at me for a second, snorted and said, “What do you have to conserve?” I never bothered again.

Karl D. continues:

I spent this past Thanksgiving on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was seated at a table with four female relatives. All young professionals in their mid twenties, and all liberal. If I stopped to argue every time I heard the words “racist,” “women’s rights,” and “religious right” I would have never had a mouthful of turkey. It was pointless to say anything. These four women were a microcosm of the young liberal white women who put Obama back in office.

LA replies:

Why not just say, “This is a family gathering. Let’s not talk about politics”?

Laura Wood writes:

James P. was specifically addressing a case of a woman writing on the Internet, not a confrontation with relatives in person.

In general, I think it is inappropriate to turn family gatherings into political debates. One can simply assert disagreement but not expand on why.

David B. writes:

I have a very liberal relative, namely my brother. He is an attorney with a major firm and is a skilled trial lawyer. You can picture what a debate with him would be like. We get along by not talking politics.

When I wrote articles about the Christian-Newsom torture murders in Knoxville for a blog, my brother was concerned it would “encourage neo-Nazis and Klan types.” He did praise what I wrote.

My brother did a little criminal defense work when he started out. He would get appointed to represent defendants for whom a public defender wasn’t available. This sort of work involves negotiating plea bargains with the DA’s office. He saw what criminals were really like, very scary. For this reason, he stayed with civil practice. My brother did try one criminal case before a jury. He won an acquittal for a defendant he believed to be innocent. He said would never defend “guilty jerks” like the Knoxville Atrocity killers, but wouldn’t mind prosecuting them.

It would be a waste of time for the two of us to debate.

Jeffrey W. writes:

Does this mean we should refrain from debating with right-liberals (libertarians, mainstream conservatives) as well?

Daniel M. writes:

The Jefferson-Hemings controversy is one of my favorite topics.

It’s a favorite because this is an example of how political correctness crept into a fairly unblemished and factual field of genealogy, in which I have a lot of experience.

In the world of genealogy, bastard lines are considered broken lines. The strictest genealogists will even doubt commonly known illegitimate parentage such as the Beauforts, William the Conqueror, etc.

Here’s what’s known about Sally. There is strong evidence of promiscuity on her part. Jefferson’s nephews, the Carr brothers, admitted to having liaisons with her. Also not mentioned in the liberals’ Hemings-Jefferson story is the fact that one supposed son was disproven by DNA and quickly forgotten about. Male line descendants of yet another son refused to be tested, in my opinion because it may have shown Carr Y DNA or perhaps some other line.

But even the known Jefferson DNA doesn’t prove much. As you alluded to in your post, all it proves is that the father had the same Y chromosome. There is no proof what generation of Jefferson’s that father belonged to. It could have been in Jefferson’s father’s generation or before. But even assuming it was in Thomas Jefferson’s generation, it doesn’t mean much because the Monticello household had many Jeffersons in and out who carried the same Y chromosome. Claiming that because one child may have been a Jefferson descendant means that they ALL are, even with evidence of promiscuity, is bad genealogy, period, and the genealogists who jumped on the Jefferson-Hemings band wagon should have known better.

If I were a black man trying to prove my descent to Jefferson, I wouldn’t feel confident in it at all. The father(s) of Sally’s children are unknown and actually will never be known.

BC writes:

In response to James P.’s assertion that we should speak the truth for its own sake, I had the opportunity to do just that while at a busy shopping venue yesterday. A young female activist from the ACLU asked if I would like to sign a petition supporting gay rights. I responded, “No thank you; I don’t support sodomy.” The look on her face was priceless.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 03, 2012 01:54 PM | Send

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