Tags: How | Lose | Friends | and | Alienate | People

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Wednesday, 13 November 2002 12:00 AM

I just lost a friend. No, he didn't die. In fact he's healthy. But he and his wife were lost to my wife and me. We can no longer be close friends because of religious differences. Let me explain.

They are both attorneys and enjoyed meeting my wife and me for dinner. We shared what was happening in our lives. We shared a sense of humor, and this added to what we had in common. But all this was undone by what we didn't have in common.

My friend and his wife have become interested in liberal causes. He listens to National Public Radio, where our tax dollars help to fund leftist and often frankly anti-American "news" and opinions. And he reads equally slanted magazines and newspapers, which he accepts as sources of unbiased news.

For example, he referred to "hundreds of thousands" of Iraqis, especially children, who are dying because of "American policies." I tried to explain that there is enough money for Saddam Hussein to build multiple palaces, fund anthrax labs, and maintain a huge military. I added that the economic sanctions are the result of Saddam's persistent refusal to allow international inspections for weapons of mass destruction.

But my friend couldn't see that it's Saddam's policies, not ours, that cause Iraqis to suffer. Like many liberals, he has difficulty distinguishing cause from effect, aggressor from defender, or criminal from victim. And when in doubt, he blames us.

He went so far as to repeat the claim that Americans are poisoning the Iraqis' water supply, resulting in "thousands of deaths." This is similar to the claim that the Israelis are poisoning the Palestinians' water supply – a claim made by Mrs. Arafat in a speech attended by Hillary Clinton, who applauded at the conclusion.

And it is reminiscent of the claim that the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages was caused by Jews poisoning the wells, a claim that resulted in many massacres. I pointed out to my friend that words have consequences – poisoners of water supplies are murderers. "Does this mean that we Americans deserve to be killed?" I asked.

My friend didn't reply. He was willing to believe whatever slander was being peddled by America-bashers, here and abroad. But he was unwilling to follow through and see the consequences of these slanders.

My friend's wife is an environmentalist. She hates large cars and SUVs with a passion. I gingerly pointed out that larger vehicles do a better job of preventing injury to their occupants. I referred to insurance company data that demonstrate this fact clearly.

But she was unmoved. She saw my opposition to small cars as dangerous to human life, though I tried to show that the opposite was true. The data I quoted made no impression at all, while fears of global warming occupied her mind.

My friend and his wife refer to President Bush as a "thug" and an "idiot" who got through Yale because of his father. Despite their extensive reading, they were unaware that Bush has an MBA from Harvard Business School, which says a lot about the quality of the information they are getting.

Of course, they never claimed that Al Gore got through Harvard because of his father, or admitted that Gore flunked out of divinity school and dropped out of law school. Their concern about academic credentials was one-sided.

They complained much more about Bush and Republicans than about bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Their concern about evil was equally one-sided. They claimed our war on terrorism is "all about oil," but they said little about radical Islam. Their conspiracy theories were one-sided as well. One-sidedness characterized their thinking.

Attempts to challenge their beliefs were met not with arguments, but merely with restatement of the beliefs. Apparently they felt their beliefs didn't need to be supported by evidence, and couldn't be refuted by evidence. Even worse, we lost respect in their eyes because we didn't share their beliefs.

What do you call such beliefs? They may be presented as liberal politics, environmentalism, animal rights, or whatever – but they are really religious beliefs. In fact, they are dogmas. If you don't accept them, you aren't "saved." Of course, the opposite of "saved" is "damned."

I've had the pleasure of eating lunch with Evangelical Christians and dinner with committed Mormons. I've had many conversations with devout Catholics. They always treated me with respect. They presented their own views clearly, but they never – not once – tried to shove their beliefs down my throat.

They might believe that when I die I am going to Hell because I don't share their beliefs, but they treat me as if I were in Heaven while I'm still here.

In contrast, I've had many lunchtime discussions with liberal colleagues. Some were courteous, but others became arrogant and rude as soon as I voiced a conservative opinion. One went so far as to call me a "Nazi," an odd name for one whose uncle was murdered in the Holocaust.

These liberal colleagues probably don't believe in Hell, but they treat me as if I were already there.

That may give a clue as to the key difference between many liberals and many conservatives – not all, but many. Conservatives, especially religious ones, believe that their role is to make the world a little better while they're here. That's a big enough job. But Heaven is where they hope to go in the next world.

In contrast, many liberals, even religious ones, believe their role is to construct an earthly paradise. That's not just a big job; it's an impossible one. Thus there is no end to their demands. Do we spend a lot on education? We must spend more. More for health care. More for welfare. Not a specific amount calculated to produce an attainable result – always just "more."

Here, liberals resemble children. If there is anything typical of small children, it's "I want more!" Of course, there is no thought of how difficult it may be to get more, or what possible harm may result.

And more laws are needed to protect us from ourselves. Anti-smoking laws. Environmental laws. Laws against SUVs. Gun-control laws. All sorts of laws. Always "more." Of course, more laws mean less freedom. The end result of trying to create Heaven on earth is tyranny – that is, Hell on earth.

When it collapsed after 74 years of communist dictatorship, the Soviet Union still claimed to be "building socialism." Leftists continue to claim that "true communism" hasn't been tried yet. When a colleague said this, I asked him whether "true Nazism" had been tried yet. After all, maybe Hitler got it just a bit wrong. My colleague didn't reply.

In typical liberal fashion, he didn't answer my argument; he merely got angry. To a leftist, leftist ideas can't be proved wrong, despite a mountain of corpses and a mountain of evidence.

No, 74 years wasn't enough time. The Russians didn't do it "right." Neither did the Chinese, who are now adding capitalism to statism. (I thought you called that fascism.) Castro isn't doing it "right" in Cuba, or Kim in North Korea.

But totalitarianism is like wife-beating – there's no way to do it "right."

Just as our friends were unaware that their partisan rants might alienate us, so are other liberals unaware that they might alienate voters.

Democrats provoked a storm of criticism by turning a memorial service for Sen. Paul Wellstone into a shameless political rally. However, the real problem is not that they showed bad taste, but that politics is their religion.

This is true not just of secular liberals, but also of religious ones as well. If you have doubts, go to a mainstream Protestant church, a liberal Catholic church, or a Reform Jewish temple. Close your eyes and listen to the sermon. You'll have to open them again to remind yourself that you are at a religious service, not a Democratic Party rally.

Liberals want to create a utopia. But they forget that the literal meaning of the word is "no place." They are constantly frustrated in their unending efforts to build a paradise on earth. But like most such efforts, the result is often just the reverse. Over 100 million people were slaughtered in various attempts to build a communist paradise. Over 40 million were slaughtered in similar attempts by the Nazis.

The 20th century proved that secular religions can be dangerous. Real religions can be dangerous, too, as we saw on 9/11. The fact is that any fanatical belief can be dangerous. The fact is that any attempt to construct a paradise on earth, whether on a religious or a secular basis, can be dangerous.

Do you really want to interrogate people to see if they have "correct" beliefs, then chastise them if they don't? Go to Cuba, China or North Korea and join the secret police – you'll feel right at home. Or go to Saudi Arabia and join the religious police, if they'll have you. Or get into a time machine and go back to the Spanish Inquisition.

But if you want to make the world a better place, try judging people by whether they treat other people with respect and kindness. As to whether they hold "correct" beliefs, leave it to their own consciences. If you do that, you'll save the world a lot of grief, and you'll keep a lot more friends.

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I just lost a friend. No, he didn't die. In fact he's healthy. But he and his wife were lost to my wife and me. We can no longer be close friends because of religious differences. Let me explain. They are both attorneys and enjoyed meeting my wife and me for dinner. We...
Wednesday, 13 November 2002 12:00 AM
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