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By Andrew Klavan:

The Identity Man

Santa Barbara Diarist

Andrew Klavan
The Big White Lie
Spring 2007

Selected Responses:

Sent by Trevor on 04-30-2007:

You'll probably scoff and laugh at me being from Canada, but bear in mind that I've seen both the far right and the far left of Canadian politics. I grew up in BC, where for the past two decades the only political parties in office were Liberals (middle to left-wing) and NDP (socialist/left-wing). Then I moved to Alberta, where the only party in power for the last two decades were the Conservatives (right-wing).

Much of what people have these days as employees is because of steps taken by left-wing parties. Let me tell you of a great example I recently learned of. In BC construction laws, the general contractor of a house is responsible for his worksmanship. That means the construction firm is responsible for two years for building problems, five years for roofing problems, and ten years for foundation problems. If the roof caves in under a heavy rainfall within three years that means the construction company is required to fix that, because that obviously shows the work was done horribly. If there are enough incidents the builder may have its permit withdrawn. In Alberta, laws like this DO NOT exist. I used to work for a company that in the contract said it certified their houses for one year, and that's it. In one year's time the dust has barely settled in that house, never mind actually have had a chance to become damaged. Laws like this protect the people from being screwed over by companies and not being able to do anything about it, a big part of what makes liberalism what it is.

You, as an employee, probably wouldn't be where you are today if not for some of the steps taken in labor laws and in other areas. It can be said that leftists push for the rights of others, so what about one of your most used rights? Copyrights, and the freedom of the press (note that the Berne Convention was developed in part by Victor Hugo, a political leftist). I'm not saying I'm a left-winger, and I'm not saying I'm a right-winger either. But I know that there's a lot of things in this world that still seem unfair to me that are happening both to myself or someone else entirely, and I don't see any of the right-wingers do much trying to change that. After all, what is a government for but to take care of its people and make life better for all of them so that the country, as a whole, profits?

Sent by Robert Weissberg on 04-25-2007:

I wish that all this were true—as a conservative you don't have to lie. I've spent about 25 years on both sides of the ideological divide, and take my word: conservatives must lie to keep their "friends" and keep writing. We conservatives just lie about different things and, I will admit, our lies are not as bold or obviously false. But still they are lies all the same.

The existence of taboo topics is probably hard-wired into human nature. Only topics change. Five hundred years ago one had to lie about religion, then sex, and now anything to do with race. One just learns the ropes for any particular setting, sort of like children learning to avoid "bad words."

What is important is not mendacity per se. The consequences of lying is what matters. Lives are ruined by some lies but not others. I would hope that hard-headed conservatives would grasp this distinction (the lefties are hopeless) but this seldom happens.

Sent by Kurt Offal on 04-24-2007:

I believe it would be more in keeping with the tone of your article to end with, "It does mankind no good to allow so magnificent an enterprise to slip away merely for fear of saying the 'right' thing."

Sent by Susanna K. on 04-24-2007:

It's interesting to read your perspective as a conservative in L.A. because I am in the opposite situation, a liberal in South Carolina. Our politicians continue to legislate morality in order to win votes, and if I question this then I must be evil.

Sent by Tom O'Malley on 04-24-2007:

The rule of you, and others of manifest personality disorders, total lack of altruism, and Leo Straussian Fascist tendencies is coming to an end. So blather on to no avail, oh evil one.

Sent by Michael Olson on 04-24-2007:

Social security. Product liability. The EPA. The FDA. The Marshall Plan. Just a few of the things that have made "common life worse wherever they're installed." Don't flatter yourself, Andrew. Sometimes nasty is just nasty. And Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are both evil—and boorish.

Sent by Mahoney on 04-24-2007:

You are spot on. The other benefit of being a conservative is that if/when a member of your party is an unethical or immoral jackass, you can feel comfortable to call him/her out and demand that they resign. The liberal elite just tolerate the acts, even when they despise them. Seriously, when is the last time that anyone Democratic actually called for one of their own to be held accountable for their actions?

Just yesterday I threw our my new Cigar Aficionado because they printed an op-ed by Rangel where he essentially was telling Cuban-Americans to get over the fact that Castro took all of their (or their parents') property and rights. This is the same guy asking for reparations for African Americans over slavery. Didn't anyone at CA see the inconsistency of the positions?

Sent by Ana on 04-24-2007:

It's not any better being a conservative in New Jersey.

Sent by Mike Margolies on 04-24-2007:

The only disagreement I have with your wonderful analysis is that the Left (at least the wacky part, which looks to be moving more to its center) has become increasingly impolite, in fact downright nasty and hostile. Has it always been that way? At least since the '60s.

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they’re installed. But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.

This is no small thing. To rewrite the rules of courteous behavior is to wield enormous power. I see it in Southern California, in the bleeding heart of leftism, where I live. I’ve been banned from my monthly poker game, lost tennis partners, lost friends—not because I’m belligerent but because I’ve wondered aloud if the people shouldn’t be allowed to make their own abortion laws, say, or if the world might not be a better place without the UN.

It’s a rotten feeling. I sometimes think that I’d rather be deemed evil than a boor. Wickedness has some flair to it, even a whiff of radicalism. If you molest a child, there’s always a chance that you can get the ACLU to defend you as a cultural innovator. But if you make a remark at table about the destructive social effects of broken homes and then discover that your dinner partner is a divorcée—trust me, you feel like a real louse. It’s manners, not morals, that lay the borderlines of our behavior.

This, I believe, is the reason conservative politicians so often lose their nerve, why they back down in debate even when they’re clearly right. No one wants to be condemned as a brute—especially not conservatives, who still retain some vague memory of how worthy it is to be a lady or gentleman.

And because we’ve allowed leftists to define the language of political good manners—don’t say women are less scientific; don’t remark that black people bear the same responsibility for their actions as whites; don’t point out that the gunman was a Muslim, it’s not nice—the sort of person willing to speak the truth isn’t always the sort of person you want to be seen with. It sometimes takes, I mean, a Rush Limbaugh or a Sean Hannity to withstand the obloquy attached to stating the facts of the matter. If these people in their public personae seem harsh to more genteel conservatives, it may be because it requires that extra dollop of aggression to shatter the silence created by the Left’s increasingly elaborate sensitivities.

Still, mannerly as we would rather be, truth-telling continues to be both compelling and ultimately satisfying. There is, after all, something greater than courtesy. “Firmness in the right,” Lincoln called it, “as God gives us to see the right.” We find ourselves at a precarious moment in an endeavor of great importance: namely, the preservation of Western rationalism and liberty. It does mankind no good to allow so magnificent an enterprise to slip away merely for fear of saying the wrong thing.

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