My Turn: Please don’t try to tell me what I believe

For the Monitor
Published: 10/28/2020 6:21:00 AM

I’m a “progressive” – in my working life as well as in politics. As a builder, I’ve always looked for ways to improve my methods and build homes that would be more enjoyable for all of the families that live in them over the years. In politics I look for ways to make our American experience better for everyone – no matter what their politics, race, gender, or immigration status.

So it disturbs me to read Joseph Mendola’s column of Sunday, Oct. 18, telling me what I believe and why, and getting it all very wrong. Just like his letter of July 31 where he defines and misrepresents progressive views of racism and his letter of Aug. 8 where he also drastically misrepresents progressive views of capitalism and our economic system.

In each instance he claims that I – along with every other progressive – follow the exact philosophy of one or more specific person of his choosing, of which philosophy he then dissects and finds fault.

Growing up, I knew a man in our church, a friend of my mom’s, who had cerebral palsy, and as was the custom in the early 1900s was never allowed an education. He lived with his mother and made his living as best he could; we became friends, I mowed his lawn, and learned how to understand his words. When I couldn’t understand, he’d patiently spell out the word so that we could continue our conversation. Seeing our president’s public mocking of a person with cerebral palsy cemented my understanding of who, and how small, our president really is. But I understand that not every Republican agrees, believes, and behaves in line with every racist, misogynist, and hateful comment made by our president.

Mendola, like Hillary Clinton in her 2016 campaign statement calling Trump voters “deplorables,” lumps me, along with a millions of other diverse Americans, into one pot, assuming that all have exactly the same views and outlook which he alone knows and assigns us.

That he has such rigid, uncompromising world views says more about who he is rather than who progressives – and Democrats – are, and goes a long way toward explaining the anger on all sides of today’s politics. We live in a diverse and changing world with lots of critical, urgent problems. We need open discussions that take all our views into consideration, and this rigidity is not helpful.

(Bob Irving lives in Salisbury.)

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