The first presidential debate provided an accurate and disheartening summary of our current political climate – three men shouting over each other for 90 minutes. Opposite sides of the political spectrum cannot seem to agree on basic truths or find common ground. The majority of Trump and Biden voters say that they have few or no close friends ([link removed] ) who voted for the opposite party. A thriving society requires that we are able to debate important questions and find solutions together. What should our response be to such massive disagreements?
Civility is the answer we are supposed to give. If we only had more civility, so the story goes, we would be able to have productive dialogue. But is civility enough? If civility is the only barrier between my rage and your rage, any triggering event will invariably result in conflict. Civility is mere politeness, the absence of meanness. It is certainly necessary for society to function – we cannot have dialogue without a modicum of politeness and decorum – but it is not enough. The inadequacy of civility requires that we discover some other solution to the problem of division.
One possible solution is to simply avoid controversial topics. At Thanksgiving, we are all urged to avoid religion and politics. If we all followed the advice, tables would be extremely quiet. The problem is that almost everything is political. The weather ([link removed] ) is political, as is architecture ([link removed] ) . You could escape to the woods, but that’s political, too ([link removed] ) . If we avoid all possible charged topics, we narrow and dull many topics that are relevant to our lives. Even more concerning, by avoiding controversial topics, we further the problem of not being able to dialogue with those with whom we disagree.
Perhaps the pragmatic course is to decide that it is practically impossible to reach out to someone with which we deeply disagree. When two people attempt to interact, they come to the conversation with such different experiences, backgrounds, and goals that it is tempting to regard the attempt as futile. As appealing as this course is, we must reject it as the easy and dangerous path. The result of adopting this attitude would be reducing every interaction to a struggle for power. Arthur Brooks terms this the culture of contempt ([link removed] ) . In this paradigm, there is no such thing as a good faith attempt at communication, only manipulation. Every member of society would then become either an enemy or ally, with not even the possibility of finding common ground.
Fortunately, there is a solution beyond mere civility, avoidance, or despair. This option is evinced by the friendship between Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. The justices had a friendship that defied the political spectrum. While Ginsburg is a hero of the Left for her judicial activism ([link removed] ) and Scalia is a hero of the Right for his defense of textualism ([link removed] ) , they managed to maintain a vibrant friendship for many years. But their friendship did not weaken their respective views. As Christopher Scalia explains ([link removed] ) :
The point of this story isn’t that my father or Justice Ginsburg changed their votes to please the other, or that they pulled any punches when writing differing opinions – indeed, they are both known for their strong dissents. The point is that they didn’t let those differing and deeply held convictions undermine their dear friendship.
In fact, the pair were never on the same side of a 5-4 decision, which are often the most controversial Supreme Court cases. Yet Scalia and Ginsburg were united by their love of the law and the rigor they both put into their work. They both shared a love of opera and the arts. Their friendship was not a tepid unity for unity’s sake show, but instead was based on mutual respect for each other. The goal of friendship is not that we throw out our beliefs but transcend our disagreements through genuinely caring for each other.
To be able to truly live in a fruitful society, we must move beyond civility towards friendship. Mere politeness is an easily cracked façade. In addition to merely tolerating those with whom we disagree, we ought to be compassionate towards them. Friendship can be based on shared experiences that transcend political views. Ginsburg and Scalia demonstrated that this was possible. Let’s try to follow in their footsteps.
Analyzing Fratelli Tutti
with Rev. Robert Sirico & Dr. Samuel Gregg ([link removed] )
October 14, 2020
20201013 ActonLine ([link removed] )
On October 3rd, 2020, Pope Francis released the third encyclical letter of his pontificate: Fratelli Tutti.
Literally translated as “Brothers all,” Fratelli Tutti is a call from Pope Francis for more human fraternity and solidarity. In it, Francis addresses a number of topics, including racism, immigration, capital punishment, war, politics and economics.
In addressing economic issues, Francis warns against “financial speculation,” cautions that “not everything can be resolved by market freedom,” and denounces the “dogma of neoliberal faith.”
It is with these economic issues that, in his article reviewing Fratelli Tutti for Catholic World Report, Acton’s Dr. Samuel Gregg sees “economic caricatures roam[ing] throughout Francis’s documents.”
In this episode, Acton Institute president and co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico and Acton’s director of research Dr. Samuel Gregg discuss Fratelli Tutti in general, and in particular the economic concerns raised therein.
Save the Date - AD 2020 For Kayla ([link removed] )
We are pleased to present an engaging, one-hour virtual evening, hosted by Acton's co-founders
president Rev. Robert Sirico
executive director Kris Alan Mauren
From Father Sirico’s famous “Tangle with Rangle” on Capitol Hill to storming a communist Venezuelan prison, we will take a look back at some of Acton’s most meaningful, adventurous and impactful moments from the past three decades. Join us to celebrate all we have accomplished and our exciting upcoming endeavors.
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Gavin Newsom’s gas-powered vehicle ban: the wrong approach to fight climate change ([link removed] )
By Nate Hochman • October 8, 2020
AP_20121008143784 ([link removed] )
One would expect that the decades-long exodus ([link removed] ) of low- and middle-income residents fleeing California would be cause for reflection and self-critical introspection on behalf of its effective one-party government. Skyrocketing costs of living and a cratering middle class ([link removed] ) – caused by years of anti-business regulation, powerful public sector labor union monopolies, and one of the highest tax burdens in the nation – should be ample reason for the Golden State’s progressive leadership to reassess its approach to governance.
But don’t hold your breath. If California Gov. Gavin Newsom ([link removed] ) ’s recent executive order banning ([link removed] ) the sale of all gasoline-powered vehicles is any indication, the state’s longstanding commitment to economic self-immolation isn’t likely to subside anytime soon.
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