More responsible than a third grader?

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

A metaphor comes to mind when I look across the divide between liberals and conservatives. It is one we can all understand because we experienced it in third grade. Well-behaved third graders went to class with the intention of cooperating with the teacher. Uncooperative third graders went with the intention of disrupting the lesson.

At some point in their young lives, the first group internalized the philosophy that we all have a responsibility to one another. Disruptive students had not yet learned that lesson. But they were in third grade. Some people take longer to internalize basic life lessons.  

Here is how Melinda Henneberger of the Kansas City Star describes Mike Pence being like an uncooperative third grader, when he violated hospital policy by not wearing a mask at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota:

More than a million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more have already died of it than we lost in the Vietnam War. If our leaders can’t put up with even so minor an inconvenience as a mask in response, then the message is that we have no real responsibility to one another. (4/30/2020, AC-T, p. 7A)

The third-grade metaphor helps us understand why Pence did not wear a face covering. It was not because he wasn’t infected. And it was not because he is the president’s sniveling sycophant, as Jenifer Rubin argued:

It was because he represents the Republican Party, which believes “we have no responsibility to one another.”

The Environmental Protection Agency rule rollbacks Trump has recommended, without a peep from Republicans, illustrates that belief. They believe government is not responsible for cleaning our air or water.

The divide within our country is simple, fundamental, and deep. It is the same divide we experienced in third grade. Liberals believe we have a responsibility to one another. Republicans do not.    


#1 Mark Steger on 05.03.20 at 8:00 pm

“Liberals believe we have a responsibility to one another. Republicans do not.”
That’s one way of putting it. I think Republicans would put it another way. They would say they support giving people the control and the power to make their own decisions about what’s best for themselves and their families. They probably won’t put it to this next extent, but I think they would extend that right to giving people the power to make bad decisions that negatively impact their own health and safety, as well as their families’ and communities’ health and safety.

#2 casey on 05.03.20 at 9:57 pm

I know you’re not making the Republican counter-argument, but you’re pointing out that they see it differently. And yes — I wrote another rather extreme blog because I want my place on the internet to have attitude, so people will respond. So, thanks for responding.
Cal Thomas’ point in today’s editorial — “Once upon a time in another America” makes your same point. He wrote:
The issue is what is government’s responsibility and what is the responsibility of the individual?
Then he went on:
Today’s government thinks it can make people happy by dishing out gobs of cash with no end in sight. It is a form of vote buying designed to keep politicians in office, enjoying benefits unique to them.
Then he described what happens in times of crisis:
Politicians then seek to outbid each other to prove their “compassion” and the debt grows with no end point. Massive debt has contributed to the collapse of great empires and superpowers in the past and there is no guarantee the U.S. will escape a similar fate if we don’t change our ways and expectations.
He concluded:
If we don’t do something to reverse the debt, other than raising taxes on the productive in order for Congress to continue its irresponsible spending, America as we know it may cease to exist. In fact, America, like great nations of the past, may expire.
It is clear from Cal’s article that Congress’s “irresponsible spending” is all the entitlement programs.
So — there you have it again. Conservatives believe America is endangered by all those poor people needing government assistance, but it is not endangered by trickle-down economics (talk about buying votes!), or the military industrial complex (talk about buying votes!).
Cal must know a lot of poor people who have had all the opportunities rich people have had, but they they squandered them.
I don’t know any. There is your divide, again.

#3 Mark Steger on 05.04.20 at 9:04 pm

Conservatives like Cal Thomas see “government” as some outside evil force. Liberals see government as our collective selves. Our government’s founding document says, “We the People…” Lincoln asked us to resolve “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” And that is the fundamental divide between conservatives and liberals. Personally, I stand with the Founders and Lincoln.

#4 casey on 05.05.20 at 7:37 pm

I agree. There are several perspectives on the difference between liberals and conservatives. I find George Lakoff’s (Moral Politics, 1996) to be interesting because it is another metaphor. He says conservatives want government to function like a strict father. You can see that in Cal Thomas’s article. Liberals want it to function as a nurturing father.

#5 Mark Steger on 05.07.20 at 10:29 pm

Maybe a tangent, but this reminds me of Erich Fromm’s “The Art of Loving” (1956) that we read in high school.

“Motherly love by its very nature is unconditional. Mother loves the newborn infant because it is her child, not because the child has fulfilled any specific condition, or lived up to any specific expectation.

Fatherly love is conditional love. Its principle is “I love you because you fulfill my expectations, because you do your duty, because you are like me.””

Applying this to politics, I’d say liberals long for motherly love. Conservatives were imprinted with only fatherly love.

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