Is It Possible To Change Leftist Minds?My pal Bookworm, who you should be reading every day, is a recovering progressive. Despite living in deepest, darkest California, she was honest and introspective enough to realize the nature of the promises and reality of progressivism, and she has been a normal American since. She remains behind enemy lines, but kindly does what she can to convert those still mired in darkness:
I had a very nice New Year’s Eve attending a couple of parties. At both parties, of course, I was the only conservative there. I know this because, in my world, people freely trumpet their liberal bona fides, confident that no one present could disagree with them.
One woman I’ve known for almost twenty years — and like a great deal — said that 2018 was one of the worst years of her life because Trump was in the White House. I gently counseled her not to take politics so personally. I didn’t mention that I eschewed public whining during Obama’s eight years, despite thinking them terribly damaging to the country and to my children’s future. I prefer to use my whining and persuasive skills where they might make a difference. Which brings me to the point of this memo, which sees me wondering whether I did make a difference.
I’ve often written on the nature of leftism and its adherents, warning that holding civil conversations with them on political issues can be difficult, unpleasant, even impossible, however, it’s important to try where possible.
Anyway, one of those new people I met, a man raised in both Europe and America, apropos I can’t remember what, stated that ideally he would like to seize all privately held guns. Rather than bristling and accusing him of being a fascist tyrant, I mildly pointed out that he’d have a hard time doing that with the Second Amendment in place. He responded with the usual: ‘Well, the Second Amendment applies only to militias.’
She politely explained the historic and constitutional framework of militias–she’s an attorney. Then:
In addition, I made two other points about the Second Amendment. First, I pointed out that it is the only Amendment in the Bill of Rights dedicated entirely to a single proposition. The other Amendments cover a multitude of issues. Take for example, the First Amendment, which addresses speech, assembly, the press, and religion. Others address broad topics such as criminal justice, police powers, and more. Only the Second Amendment focuses like a laser on a single proposition: A free people’s right to be armed.
Second, I explained that the Second Amendment, having been composed in the 18th century, had a Germanic habit of writing sentences backwards.
Bookworm made an interesting argument on the nature and interpretation of the Second Amendment. I’d add that the first clause of the Second Amendment–“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” is a prefatory clause, also common in the writings of the time. In any sentence in English, a dependent clause does not carry the meaning or intent of the sentence. It is supportive, not definitive. Standing alone, it is a fragment; it means nothing. The independent clause–“the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” carries the meaning of the sentence, and can stand alone as a complete sentence. One might argue this is an irrelevant grammatical diversion, but the Founders were very careful about the language they used, arguing passionately over single words, and punctuation. As with all sentences, the independent clause expresses their intentions and meaning, not the dependent clause, which can be entirely eliminated without affecting their meaning and their intention.
Another important argument that directly addresses the “it’s only for the militia” point is that if this is so, one must believe “the right of the people” refers to individuals in the 4th, 9th and 10th Amendments, but to the State in the 2nd. In addition, the Constitution directly addresses the establishment of military forces. Why would the founders have redundantly mentioned a state power in a separate document dedicated to acknowledging individual rights?
I wasn’t surprised when the man then went full Elizabeth Warren, saying ‘But people will die!’ I countered by pointing out that, while roughly 30,000 people do die annually in America every year from guns, with each death being a tragedy, a CDC study showed that guns were used defensively an average of a million times, which means a lot more lives saved than lost.
This is a favorite of the left: “It will save even one life, we have to do it, and if you don’t agree, you’re a racist, hater murderer!” It’s a nonsense argument. Were anyone serious about such foolishness, there would be no motor vehicles, no airplanes, no power tools, no use of fire, no kitchen knives and more, virtually all of which kill more than firearms, acknowledging, of course, that inanimate objects “kill” no one. Human beings do.
Because I had a fact-based answer for everything and didn’t seem moved by the plight of people dying, preferring to focus on larger societal benefits, the man then did to me what all Progressives do when cornered — he tried to attack. ‘You work for the NRA or some gun manufacturer, right?’
Being polite and not wanting to stir up the party:
So, here’s what I said: ‘No, no. I’m just a private citizen who finds the right to have guns interesting and important.’
This is where Bookworm–I think in part because she’s female, but also because she’s kind, brilliant, and thinks about these things, did the unexpected:
Then I went in for the kill. ‘You know, I have to say that it’s wonderful talking to you. It’s so rare for me to meet someone as open-minded and intelligent as you are about these issues.’
I thought I could see the thought bubble forming above his head. ‘Wait? What? Did she just compliment me? Now what do I do?’
Whatever his actual thoughts were, what he said was, “Yeah, I guess it’s hard to have different opinions here. Everyone thinks the same. I try to be open-minded.’
There is a line of police thinking called “verbal judo.” She used it brilliantly.
And here’s the funny thing: It was indeed a delightful conversation because it was a real conversation. I don’t know if he started out open-minded and I was just lucky to stumble across him, or if I successfully convinced him that he was open-minded. No matter the reason, I was able to introduce him to facts he didn’t know and ideas he’d never considered. [skip]
What I like to think, though, was that I might gently have created the first crack in the dam allowing him to do what I did in the late 1990s and early 2000s: Back then, when I got new facts or saw my old facts crumble before reality, I re-thought most of my political and social issue assumptions, conducted research for information about these new thoughts, and then . . . changed my mind.
Maybe. With committed leftists, that kind of change is difficult. It seldom if ever is a Road To Damascus conversion. To most of them, progressivism is a secular, non-falsifiable faith. Their ideas and policies, because they are formulated by the intellectually and morally infallible, and because they are intended for the good of the less intellectually and morally endowed who cannot see the error of their primitive ways, cannot possible be wrong. That’s a hard nut to crack.
Sometimes being mugged by reality affects change. Sometimes, though, it’s just the slow drip, drip, drip of new ideas. The problem is that Progressives live in a bubble, one that the media and Leftist politicians carefully ensure is a Teflon repellent against exposure to additional facts and/or new ideas. I’d like to think that, by catching a very nice man being good, by praising him for his receptivity to new ideas, I may have laid the groundwork for a breach in that Teflon-coated bubble.
By all means, take the link, read the rest of the article, and bookmark Bookworm’s blog. She outlines a good tactic, but it must be used with caution, restraint, and sincerity. The foundation for its use is knowledge. That’s why I do a weekly firearm related article. I flatter myself to think I might be able to provide the factual, constitutional, historical and technical information necessary for readers to inform others, to correct misconceptions, and guide others on the path to American constitutionalism, which all must embrace if America is to survive as anything like the republic established by the Founders.
Now you know an additional good approach, based on human nature, which can potentially make the acceptance of American constitutionalism at least possible. If we’re truly people of good faith, that’s our obligation, and kindness is never wasted. True, we probably can’t do anything about leftists that want to commit genocide and are “gonna impeach the motherfucker,” but not everyone is that far gone. Let’s let Bookworm finish with a solid educational principle:
You all know how strongly I believe in the principle ‘catch them being good.’ I did that the other night and felt rewarded for the effort.
Kindness and sincerity always makes us feel rewarded, may help others to think more clearly, and it costs nothing.