I wrote the following in response to comments from Ajasen and Austen on my post about the insanity of Bush hatred. The subject is interesting enough to me, however, that I’m promoting it to its own post.
I think you provide a good rationale for being angry at Bush. But hatred is a completely different ball of wax. Hatred is more personal, more emotional, more visceral.
Anger can, under some circumstances, be a sign of moral discernment, of sensing the difference between right and wrong and reacting accordingly.
Hatred, on the other hand, is often a sign that your ethical scruples are on vacation, that you are now being governed by unchecked emotion.
You are now dangerous — intellectually, if not physically — and the object of your hatred damned well better be a moral monster, not just someone who has made bad decisions and with whom you disagree.
As a libertarian-minded person, I’ve got plenty to be mad at Bush about. But disagreeing with someone’s beliefs and actions is not the same as hating them, and I think that’s a distinction held in place only by our own allegiance to integrity.
I don’t believe for a minute that the rampant Bush hatred going around is the direct result of his actions. There has been a very deliberate and sustained campaign, by liberal partisans, to stir up Bush hatred since the contested 2000 elections.
And it has continued to be the case ever since. Just to take one small example, a while back, many congressional Democrats called for Bush to increase the number of troops in Iraq. Before long, Bush increased the number of troops in Iraq — and then some of those same Democrats criticized him for it bitterly.
It’s like watching high school students gang up on one another. Nothing the other guy can do is right, is worthy of praise. It is not moral discernment; it is a blindness to moral discernment.
You are no doubt right that Bush’s stature and power cause him to be hated (or loved) more than we would an ordinary man. And yet, on some level, does our integrity not require that we judge him by the same human considerations that we would judge a relative or neighbor or acquaintance?
Why should we allow a man’s title to warp our basic moral sense of him as a human being? Why does holding public office mean that he is no longer deserving — and we no longer capable — of the same compassion and understanding we would extend to a friend?
You write, “I daresay that those liberals who hate Bush do so for the same reasons that you think he’s a decent man: his political actions. They mostly disagree with them (and therefore ‘hate’ the man), you mostly agree with them (and therefore feel him to be a kindred spirit).”
Er, let’s check this out. One of the people I like best in the current election cycle is Barack Obama. He seems thoroughly decent, intelligent (with occasional bouts of naivete, perhaps), and likeable.
If there is anyone whose political policies are diametrically opposed to my own, it is Barack Obama.
From a policy standpoint, Rudy Giuliani is about as close to me as anyone in the field. And yet, on a personal level, I’m frankly undecided about how much I like him. I have been slower to warm up to him than many of my friends have been. I find myself gravitating more towards Thompson, for the time being, even though he has a religious streak that is not to my liking.
In light of this new information, would you care to revise your theory about why I like George Bush? From a policy and political actions standpoint, George Bush usually frustrates the hell out of me.
But that is just my point…. My purpose here is to highlight the fact that partisanship obscures our basic human perceptions of another person. It turns us into haters who see everything through even more murky filters than usual.
Our integrity, as people, requires us to be aware of our own filters and make sure that we’re not sacrificing our own moral discernment.
If you think George Bush is a fundamentally decent person who has made some rotten decisions, then say so and buck the stupid memes being promoted by your liberal friends.
On the other hand, if you can’t see his decency — if you can’t see that he holds himself to higher personal standards than someone like that Democratic darling known as Bill Clinton — then I submit you are blinded to a real opportunity to be a human being yourself.
UPDATE: Linked by InstaPundit. Thanks, Glenn.