The phrase above is a corrolary to “know your enemy” — except that your opposition doesn’t take delight in your death and isn’t actively hoping for the destruction of America. So, when Democrats and Republicans go at it, or Liberals and Conservatives here in Canada, these people need to know their opposition, to know best how to respond to them, and to understand that they don’t hate America or Canada.
Loathesome stuff to be sure. However, a few posters on the “Left” have pointed to these individuals, and their advertisements thanking God for sending the tsunami to kill 5,000 Swedes, and using them to pillory positions on the “Right”. For some, these people are poster childs of the extreme positions of the Evangelical Christian movement and the religious right.
Except that, as Websnark notes, the Westboro Baptist Church is not evangelical. They do not seek to save the world. These guys are hyper-Calvinists who believe that all events in the world are pre-determined. God created us sinners, we will always be sinners, the lists of those people who will enter into heaven have already been written down, so there is nothing to do but rejoice when people get their just desserts and burn in Hell. (Even though God created the sinners to sin in the first place, so how is it justice to punish those who, by this definition, have no responsibility for their actions?)
So when we the Liberals point to the WBC and say “you see? This is what those bastard Christians want to do to us! This is what they stand for!” the Religious Right — the real, honest to God Fundamentalist Christians stare at us and say “you honestly have no idea what our religion is about, do you?” They give up on trying to have a meaningful dialogue about the issues dividing this country, because we’re not trying to understand — we’re lumping them in with the worst of their breed. It’s exactly the same as the days when all left-leaning people were tarred as Stalinists — not even just Communists, but followers of the Butchers of Budapest. It’s exactly the same as when environmentalists are looped in with radical ecoterrorists. It’s exactly the same as when the Gay and Lesbian Movement is conflated with NAMBLA.
Conservatives who have talked about the “Godless” liberal agenda are on similar ground, here — though mind you, I’ve found very few athiests out there who want to bring about Armaggedon…
Anyway, knowing your opposition means not only knowing how best to defeat them on certain issues, it also means not accusing them of things they don’t believe in. That statement of respect prevents dialogue from being shut down, because it shows that, at some level, you understand these people to be who they are, warts and all, the points of disagreement, but also the points of respect.
A couple of gems from Geek News Central
- “Whacked Out Fan Already In Line for Star Wars III” (Sigh. The man isn’t even sure if the movie will actually play at the theatre he’s camped out yet, though it’s probably a good bet. In defence of SF fans everywhere, I just have to say: most of us are not like this).
- Eyebrows up! From the India Daily: “India may be the first country to explain to the world about extra-terrestrial and UFO contacts — the secret debate is on”