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Comments of the Day: How to Deal With a Fanatic


From an op-ed article in the NYT by David Brooks on October 23 (yesterday):

And yet the more I think about it, the more I agree with the argument Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter made in his 1998 book “Civility.” The only way to confront fanaticism is with love, he said. Ask the fanatics genuine questions. Paraphrase what they say so they know they’ve been heard. Show some ultimate care for their destiny and soul even if you detest the words that come out of their mouths.

If, on the other hand, you fight your natural fight instinct, your natural tendency to use the rhetoric of silencing, and instead regard this person as one who is, in his twisted way, bringing you gifts, then you’ll defeat a dark passion and replace it with a better passion. You’ll teach the world something about you by the way you listen. You may even learn something; a person doesn’t have to be right to teach you some of the ways you are wrong.

Second, you greet a fanatic with compassionate listening as a way to offer an unearned gift to the fanatic himself. These days, most fanatics are not Nietzschean supermen. They are lonely and sad, their fanaticism emerging from wounded pride, a feeling of not being seen.

 Functionally, see it at first as a form of dissembling, pretending that you are generally favorable to another person’s point of view and program in order to avoid getting into a fight. . .  or signing a loyalty oath with the fingers of your other hand crossed. . .  so turn the other cheek and talk out of the other side of your mouth.  If the 1/3 of the population that supports Don the Con is to be placated, then we have to pretend to go along with him, at least until other options can be studied.


is a trusted commenter Boston 19 hours ago

The problem isn’t the individual obnoxious loudmouth at a ball game. It’s the 63 million of them who got together, conjured up a monster from their collective Id and sent him to the White House. Speaking kindly to people we disagree with is a fine idea, but the consequences of their collective stupidity is beyond our control.

Then there’s the fundamental issue of their grievances. They feel resentment, anxiety and a sense of being left behind. The fact that they weren’t savvy enough to know the president was a lying, crotch-groping fraud might explain their sorry circumstances. Blaming brown people and immigrants for their declining economic security seems silly. But they put their faith in a guy who echoed their prejudices, demeaned education and hurled insults rather than uplifting the country.

I don’t despise these people, and gratuitous, impotent anger isn’t going to get us anywhere. But I’m pretty sure that rational discourse, presenting evidence and appealing to their magnanimous nature isn’t going to advance the conversation very much.

These folks didn’t make a faux pas. They may have brought down Armageddon upon us by giving Dumbzilla access to nuclear weapons. So it’s natural that our response might be proportional to the size of the offense.

I’m betting that Democrats will flock to the polls next year. If we shift the balance of power, I hope our opponents will speak kindly to us, and show us lots of love.

Lisa Murphy

Orcas Island 4 hours ago

Trump is hurting my heart. I see it on the faces of others too( even on the faces of some talking heads on television). A man has died in the service of this country. What do we see? A large overweight mendacious white billionaire calling a tiny, pregnant widow in the throes of crushing loss, a liar. I unfortunately understand the loss of a son. Watching Kelly exploit his own grief in service to the loathsome trump, was another blow and threw me into a bout of renewed pain. I’m tired of being threatened by these people in the White House. I’m tired of watching every honorable thing being trampled into the mud. I’m tired of the regrettable Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her stony expression and one raised eyebrow, telling me who I can or cannot criticize.

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