Educating for Democracy: David Brooks' 'Magical Thinking'

In a recent op ed in the New York Times, David Brooks made a plea to social conservatives; those who vowed to "fight on" against the Supreme Court decision sanctioning same sex marriages.
Brooks argues:

"The sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric and to serve as messenger's of love, dignity, commitment, community and grace."( "The Next Culture War," New York Times June 30, 2015)

I wonder what "social conservatives" Brooks is writing about when he claims that they are well equipped to repair this "fabric." It is not the gay rights community that advocates that everyone must be homosexual; it's the social conservatives who insist that everybody conform to their religious practices. It's not those who advocate reproductive rights for women who insist that all women should have an abortion whenever they get pregnant. It's the social conservatives who are running the government in the state of Texas that are "fighting on" to make it as difficult as possible for women to choose to have or not have a child.

Brooks apparently overlooks the mixed record of rights and restrictions that have been a significant part of American history. One segment of American society appears to be advocating "liberty" and "freedom" but for themselves, not always for others whose definition of these words might mean something quite different.

The Puritans fled England's religious intolerance and when they'd established themselves in New England, they were quite comfortable in practicing that same intolerance against Quakers, and religious non-conformists like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams. The founders of this country did not consider a slave or a Native American a human being with any "liberty" and "freedom." They believed that because they had white skin, they were entitled to these concepts only for themselves. They hanged innocent people in Salem and engaged in the slave trade just as much as their Southern brethren. Even today the dark legacy of chattel slavery is still with us.

Brooks seems to have faith that somehow social conservatives advocate an "inclusive" rather than an " exclusionary"approach to social norms and acceptance. Certainly there are some influential spokespersons, most notably, the Pope, who is advocating a remarkable doctrine of "acceptance" of those who do not conform to his moral "norm." Brooks seems to believe that social conservatives are stronger when they are "for" something rather than against it in spite of many examples to the contrary. My own personal experience with social conservatives gives me reason to feel doubtful of his assumptions.

Although I was raised in New York City, I spent almost four decades of my life in Upstate New York where I taught at SUNY, Cortland. It happened to be an area known for its militant anti-abortion groups, most notable being "Operation Rescue." This among similar groups throughout the state organized and encouraged an attitude that resulted in the assassination of two eminent physicians who, in the face of community pressure, continued to perform abortions on women who chose to have them .Hospitals that had facilities to administer abortions and clinics were also subjected to the demonstrations that were held opposing reproductive rights in the area I lived in. They succeeded in creating a polarized community.

The principal ob/gyn physician who opposed them in our town, the late Dr. Theodore Jacobus, bravely stood up to these "dividers" and when challenged by a protester simply responded: "If you're against abortion, just don't have one."I am not claiming that social liberals have a monopoly on civic virtue.But unless the social conservative segment of the population stops demonizing those who have a different view of human rights than they do, there is not much hope for a more civic society that Brooks dreams about. I believe he is indulging in what I, in a previous blog, dubbed "magical thinking,"

There is abundant evidence, in fact, that not only are the Southern states most restrictive when it comes to providing resources for their young children who suffer from poverty, but they also have among the highest divorce rates in the country;. the result is often what Brooks deplores: a tearing of the social fabric. Among the first ten states with the highest divorce rates are included Arkansas-2; Kentucky-6; Alabama-7and Mississippi-8. They are also among the highest in church attendance which one would think helps mend the social fabric while ''Godless" New York State was ranked 43 and Vermont, the home of Bernie Sanders, next to last in frequency of divorce.

There are brilliant social conservatives in this country that effectively express their differences with those who do not agree with them, but I believe that if they are truly concerned about the moral direction this country is following, they should be willing to examine the root cause: poverty,

For me, the one positive action that could unite this country and make social issues less divisive is the existential threat deriving from Climate Change. There is massive evidence that it is man-made and not merely the effects of the natural process. What we must do, conservative and liberal alike, is make common cause for what is a radical approach to our economy: a return to the barter system. Labeling your ideological opponent as either alarmist or the victim of "magical thinking" will not solve the imminent threats we are facing. In the process of dividing the electorate ideologically, the politicians will make it most difficult to engage in the massive changes necessary in order for humankind to survive not only in the immediate future but those many future years I hope our children and grandchildren will see.