We on the left more or less left the rest of the country behind. In our attempts to try and be “better” for ourselves and for the people that could grok the changes we were trying to advance, we on the left either explicitly or implicitly told people with whom we weren’t willing to engage the same pejorative statements that we had been touting internally for decades. Like a petulant pack of rabid children, we shouted them down and didn’t give them anything in return; not debate space, not chance to reset or reflect, not even an iota of human decency.

“You’re racist!”
“You’re a hick!”
“You’re sexist!”
“You’re stupid!”
“You’re misogynist!”
“You’re homophobic!”
“You’re xenophobic!”
“You’re deplorable!”

On and on the tirades went, without asking the one question that might have gotten them to do the one thing that liberals and the left have spent decades doing for themselves: to think.

“Why do you believe that to be true? What events or facts have led you to believe that to be the case?”

In our mad scramble for power and the ability to firmly anchor our country at some kind of political loggerhead in the dead-center of the left-right spectrum so we could catch a breath and “save democracy”, we exacerbated one of the largest and most telling problems in our nation’s history. We widened the rift between urban and rural, rich and poor, white and not-white, straight and not. Instead of working to understand the individual and trying to actively engage them in thought and civil debate, we on the left have descended into a brand of name-calling and demagoguery entirely of our own making.

Instead of trying to tell personal stories to people that will listen and get them to understand that the world isn’t divided along arbitrary, binary lines, we devolved into escapism and name-calling. We built our own echo chambers and closed ourselves off. The people we trusted to tell us the truth instead started telling us a version of that truth, colored by a truth that didn’t quite line-up with reality. We allowed our own demagogues and demons of our worse natures to run amok over our sense of empathy for our fellow humans, regardless of where they lay on the innumerable spectrums. Instead of engaging with a sense of realism or realpolitik, we allowed idealism to run roughshod over our political aspirations and in doing so abandoned the very people we had in mind when we embarked on this endeavor in the first place.

We’ve allowed phrases like “flyover state” and “basket of deplorables” to replace honest discourse and inquiry. Instead of standing in our identities, individual power, and agency–able to confront injustice and ignorance where we find them, we settled for the truncheon in lieu of conversation. The very weapons of oppression that we ourselves were subjected to.

Where does that leave those of us on the “left”?

We still have to organize. We still have to advocate. We still have people that are depending on us to make the right choices and do the right things. Conflict visits us when we forget the basic tenets and mutual agreements contained our founding documents and social contracts: non-aggression, free speech and assembly, and the rule of law.

Lest we forget them, we are in danger of becoming that which we vigorously oppose: bullies with pulpits and social clubs.

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