One of the signs of emotional maturity is understanding the ways in which you are screwing up personally. A functioning adult should be able to perceive not just their virtues — be it a strong work ethic, honesty, or great capacity for kindness — but also the aspects that are contemptible and need improvement, whatever they may be.
This isn’t a minor matter. You can’t be a productive member of society without acting as such.
A similar dynamic is required for being a serious political thinker. Every day we are surrounded by Republicans and Democrats who only see their tribe in the best light, while ascribing everything unhinged to the opposition.
What is desperately needed are those who have the capacity to understand what’s genuinely terrible about the party they belong to — and what must be done to make things better.
As a Democrat, I’ve given a great deal of thought to the ways in which progressives are contributing to the wreckage of the country.
This is, of course, a minority position among my peers. The typical social justice warrior sees him or herself as some sort of modern saint, battling against the forces of darkness. But it is precisely this mindset that allows activists to be blind to the ways in which we contribute darkness into the world.
Start with the fact that progressives are one of the most intolerant demographics in the country. Now in some situations, this attitude is appropriate. The world really is black and white, and it would be a crime to be accepting of opposing views.
There are no two sides to the question of anti-Semitism, for example. It is simply a moral poison.
But the left has the growing tendency to act as if every issue is simple and easy, with no room for nuance, critique, or skepticism.
On the question of the LGBTQ rights movement, for example, there seems to be only one truly acceptable opinion: full approval or else. Those who feel that support for gay marriage is incompatible with their faith, who aren’t entirely sure biological males should be sharing their daughter’s locker room or worry about the effects of teaching minors in depth about gender fluidity run the risk of being ostracized or losing their employment.
For activists, this tough line is seen as a moral accomplishment, a bold defense of an oppressed community against their oppressors.
The theory seems to be that the best way to make change in America is by coercion and threat. In other words, people will realize they will pay a high social price for opposing gay rights, shut up about whatever issues they may have with that subject, and just get with the program. Then the left will win.
This is a radical departure from the sort of progressivism espoused by figures like Martin Luther King Jr, who sought to impact society through the strength of their ideals, rather than their capacity to make people afraid.
We see a similar mode of operating with various other hot-button issues like the #MeToo movement or Black Lives Matter. The new liberalism is, essentially, centered around the idea of absolute truth. Progressives have ascertained the perfect wisdom of what is noble and good, and therefore any opposition will not be tolerated.
The politics of President Barack Obama — centered around a vision of the country in which everyone has a place, including those who think differently — have been tossed to the wayside.
As to whether this is a smart political strategy that helps Democrats win elections, nobody truly knows. The available data doesn’t prove anything conclusively. What is for certain, however, is that such behavior is patently immoral, and goes against what the left claims to value.
More specifically, progressives seek to fight for the oppressed, and yet our woke craziness makes America a harder place for the oppressed every day.
One can illustrate this truth with a thought experiment. Imagine a waitress in Iowa who works 60-hour weeks for little pay, and can just barely keep a roof over her head. Let’s call her Cindy.
At first glance, this woman would appear to be the sort of working-class individual that the Bernie Sanders crowd would fawn over, the very type that inspired them to get involved in politics in the first place.
But let’s complicate the picture: Say Cindy is also an evangelical Christian who opposes gay marriage. This dear woman loves her LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors, but just cannot bring herself to accept a concept that is antithetical to her faith.
Cindy has had a hard time in this life, including losing her brother and son to opioid addiction. She follows the Bible to the letter to ensure she can get to heaven and see these precious people again.
That added twist, for the modern progressive, is too much to accept. Our waitress has now transformed herself from a figure of sympathy to someone who needs to be canceled, deleted off Facebook, and compared to a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
In other words, we social justice warriors hate the very people we are trying to save.
And that is why millions of Americans hate us right back.
Joshua Heath is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.