I often feel bad for those on the right such as Jeff Goldstein who try to make sense of someone on the left who treats them with disdain and disgust. Goldstein received an email from an old creative writing professor recently saying that he was disturbed by Goldstein’s writings and wanted Goldstein to remove his name from his “about page.” When Goldstein called Brian Kiteley, the professor, up on the phone for clarification, Kiteley called him names:
So I dialed him up and he answered. When I told him who was calling, he let out a forced “laugh” — I presume to show his bemused exasperation with my gall at having contacted him — and, when pressed, he called me a “jerk”.
Initially, Goldstein says he was hurt by his professor’s intolerant attitude, but then, his hurt rightly turned to anger. This professor tolerated free speech only for liberal ideas. But shouldn’t we all have the right to free speech? Apparently, only if it’s left-leaning. And one would think a creative writing professor might be above this. But the problem is, he may have a blind spot when it comes to those on the right.
Jonathan Haidt, a professor at the University of Virginia and author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, found that conservatives could more readily put themselves in the shoes of liberals and understand morally where they were coming from. The reverse was not true of liberals. They have little understanding of those with opposing views to their own. As Haidt states:
“I think of liberals as colorblind,” he says in a hushed tone that conveys the quiet intensity of a low-key crusader. “We have finely tuned sensors for harm and injustice but are blind to other moral dimensions. Look at the way the word ‘wall’ is used in liberal discourse. It’s almost always related to the idea that we have to knock them down.”
Why are liberals unable to sympathize with conservatives? I offer three possibilities. First, I often wonder if this “blind spot” for conservatives is similar to the psychopath who cannot comprehend the morality of those who are “normal.” At the present time, there is no known cure for treating the psychopath. Trying to get someone on the left to see where a conservative is coming from may be as difficult as trying to change the mind of a psychopath. Perhaps that will happen one day.
I am not saying here that liberals are psychopaths, for this would be incorrect for the most part. What I am saying is that their inability to understand the morality of conservatives makes them unable to understand their point of view, just as a psychopath does not understand the morality of normal people.
A member of the left who spent much of his adult life in academia who has no empathy for conservatives? Good thing a person with such a background lacks real power beyond the campus.