Often in political and cultural debates, someone gets offended. Particular conservatives enjoy this, calling those who disagree with them “snowflakes,” while doing whatever it takes to offend as many people as possible. Other conservatives, seeing the danger of this immature mindset, have set to expose its toxic effects.
One way of exposing this logic, which has become quite popular, is joking about “owning the libs.” This satirical approach, while both effective and entertaining, points to a broader issue that goes beyond humor. How does one promote an idea that will almost certainly make a specific group of people feel targeted?
Let’s play a game! Go to Whole Foods, pick a liberal (not hard to identify), cut them in line along with 10-15 of your family members, then take their food. When they throw a tantrum, remind them of their special affinity for illegal immigration. Have fun!
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) May 14, 2018
Going out of your way to be horrible to normal people who don't live and breathe politics to own the libs https://t.co/2mENYR6DTQ
— Shoshana Weissmann, Sloth Committee Chair (@senatorshoshana) May 14, 2018
A core idea of conservatism and economics is that there is an opportunity cost to every decision. Rather than aiming for a utopia that is impossible to reach, conservatives search for the best possible option. With that being said, even the most viable option has a negative cost, and those who deny that their idea has a downfall tend to view opposing beliefs as “oppressive” towards whomever it negatively affects.
You want Congress to repeal Obamacare? Then you want to kick sick people off their coverage. You support Israel? You must hate all Palestinians. You advocate for free trade? Then you want China to “take jobs” from hard working Americans in Detroit.
Every decision has a cost, a cost that directly hurts specific individuals, while offending and motivating outsiders, who use the cost as a bat to beat their political opponent– and misuse data and make false assumptions about their opposition.
The same goes for cultural topics. You think acting on homosexual desires is sinful? You hate gay people. You oppose abortion? You want to control women. People use the costs of ideas to create a sort of false narrative that is frequently far from the truth.
So is it possible to respectfully advocate for ideas and policies that alienate a particular group of people? If so, how? Can a supporter of Israel explain to a Palestinian whose father was killed by an IDF trooper that Israel is the key to peace in the Middle East? Can an advocate of free trade explain to an unemployed automobile worker in Detroit that global trade benefits the consumer? Can a Catholic explain to his gay co-worker, who is married to a member of the same sex, that acting on homosexual desires is sinful? Should these individuals even attempt to justify their beliefs or should they avoid discussing them altogether?
Most people avoid conflict, so they restrain from expressing what could potentially be thought of as a “controversial” belief. However, while these risk-averse individuals intend to avoid conflict, a lack of dialogue may be creating it. The fewer discussions about these issues, the less understanding each side has of their opposition. This poor understanding then gives leeway for each side to make assumptions, which, more often than not, are terribly inaccurate. False assumptions, rather than meaningful discussions, create unnecessary tensions.
Study after study shows that avoiding conflict is unhealthy, from marriage to raising kids. Additional studies show that embracing controversy in education is incredibly beneficial. The question then becomes, how does one discuss these controversial issues that alienate specific groups, while still appearing considerate and well-intentioned? The key is honesty.
When advocating for what could be considered a controversial idea, one must be honest by acknowledging its cost, then explaining why the positives outweigh the negatives. Acting as if there is no opportunity cost to a choice often means one is being dishonest by ignoring or even denying reality– and nobody benefits from a dishonest conversation.
The fact is, if one genuinely believes in an idea, regardless of how others feel about it, then they should never refrain from defending it, all while doing so with an open mind. One must be honest in their defense, while also being willing to listen to their opposition in hopes of learning. Nothing will ever prevent people from getting offended, but progress can happen with more honest discussion.