How we can dis­agree and still see each other’s hu­man­ity

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Kathryn Lopez Colum­nist

“The prob­lem is not that we dis­agree, but that our dis­agree­ments have be­come so cal­lous, emo­tional and in­con­sid­er­ate,” wrote Michael Wear in his book “Re­claim­ing Hope.” Wear used to work for Pres­i­dent Obama on faith-based and neigh­bor­hood part­ner­ships.

I was read­ing through “Re­claim­ing Hope” just hours after a memo­rial Mass for Michael Potemra, my col­league at Na­tional Re­view, the other day.

He was an ex­cel­lent ed­i­tor, but Mike didn’t agree with ev­ery word the mag­a­zine pub­lished. None of us do, truth be told, but he’d be in that boat more of­ten than most of us — and he’d at least be funny about it.

I’ve done enough ra­dio and read enough emails and com­ments in re­cent days — or years — to know that peo­ple are fed up.

They don’t trust the me­dia. Some­times there’s no trust of neigh­bors, and cer­tainly not of strangers.

That’s where we are in Amer­ica to­day. As Wear put it, “Don­ald Trump is re­spon­si­ble for his ac­tions, but the ta­ble was set for his elec­tion by what we deemed ac­cept­able in our pol­i­tics — and in our­selves . ... The po­lar­iza­tion of our pol­i­tics and our com­mu­ni­ties is a defin­ing fea­ture of mod­ern Amer­i­can life. Our in­abil­ity to un­der­stand and em­pathize with our neigh­bors is strain­ing our so­ci­ety to its break­ing point.”

Wear goes on: “Our pol­i­tics is now pred­i­cated on mak­ing those who dis­agree with us be­neath our no­tice. This is to the ben­e­fit of those who run for of­fice and of the in­ter­est groups struc­tured to ig­nore al­ter­na­tive view­points. But it is not at all to our col­lec­tive ben­e­fit. We the peo­ple can­not al­low our neigh­bors to be­come in­vis­i­ble, for do­ing so makes liv­ing to­gether peace­ably and fruit­fully nearly im­pos­si­ble.”

Charles Krautham­mer died the same day as the memo­rial Mass for Mike. I only knew him a lit­tle, com­pared to many friends who worked with him day in, day out on Fox News and else­where. But he taught me about things fun­da­men­tal to Chris­tian­ity, frankly — like the Beat­i­tudes, in both per­sonal deeds and in some of the ques­tions he asked.

We’ve be­come a na­tion of pun­dits, watch­ing and pounc­ing. But per­haps Charles Krautham­mer and Mike Potemra died re­cently for a rea­son. Both of them had some sense of awe about them. A sense of stew­ard­ship and ser­vice, too.

In his fi­nal col­umn, Charles wrote: “I be­lieve that the pur­suit of truth and right ideas through hon­est de­bate and rig­or­ous ar­gu­ment is a no­ble un­der­tak­ing. I am grate­ful to have played a small role in the con­ver­sa­tions that have helped guide this ex­tra­or­di­nary na­tion’s des­tiny.” In his book, he talks about how our po­lit­i­cal ques­tions are al­ways at the ser­vice of the higher ones.

Hav­ing Mike around Na­tional Re­view def­i­nitely kept us from the “new dis­ease” of tak­ing our­selves too se­ri­ously, even when han­dling some of the most im­por­tant is­sues of the day. He took these things se­ri­ously, but in bal­ance.

And be­cause his views could be unique, as he was, he set a chal­lenge be­fore us, one that Wear raises in his book: “On the is­sue of our day, we must not only ask our­selves whether our po­si­tion is cor­rect, but also raise to the sur­face the ques­tion of why our neigh­bors are not quite con­vinced as well.”

It may have some­thing to do with the way we made them feel dur­ing the course of a Face­book de­bate. It may have some­thing to do with whether or not they have seen us as peo­ple of the Beat­i­tudes. It may have some­thing to do with whether hu­man­ity seems as im­por­tant to us as pol­i­tics, and whether they can tell hu­man­ity is the “why” of our pol­i­tics.

A bet­ter pol­i­tics re­quires us be­ing bet­ter. Good men come and go, daily, who re­mind us it’s pos­si­ble, even among a na­tion of pun­dits.

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