The Principle of Charity

in Women Abroad, September 27, 2020

I have tried to live my life by the principle of charity.  It’s the notion that you respect those you disagree with enough to acknowledge the context within which they formed their world view.  You respect their positions and offer charity to them, recognizing their humanity and viewing them as the best version of themselves while withholding judgement.  

My opinions are strong and many; this I don’t deny.  I am who I am and I’ve been that way for the whole of my life.  But, I’ve tried and have been successful at knowing people from lots of walks of life.  I am naturally curious and interested, and I am genuinely interested in knowing what makes people tick.  I like to listen, and I strive to understand.  I don’t think this will ever change.  

I’ve made friends with people very different from me.  At the risk of sounding Trumpy, I’ve had many people tell me that I am their “favorite liberal.”  I suspect that statement is made because they don’t know any others rather than a real reason for me to be anyone’s favorite anything.  A few years ago an acquaintance of mine introduced himself to members of my family and referred to me as such in front of them.  Their views being much more in line with his, I do believe they were shocked.  

Confession: I liked it.  I was pleased to be a living embodiment of a challenge to their beliefs and I won’t deny feeling a brief surge of superiority.  It’s hard to be angry with someone making you a cup of coffee or topping up your wine glass, and I thought it important and a kind of public service- a way to promote the raw denotation of liberalism against the darker forces of fascism.  Before the word ‘patriot’ was co-opted, it felt like a way to live the idea that the greatest form of patriotism is dissent.  

It is without regret that I will be rescinding the charity that I have previously extended to those I disagree with but who continue to spout hate, xenophobia, racism, and homophobia.  I no longer care where you came from and why you think the way that you do.  

You are no longer welcome to my charity.  

You are no longer welcome to argue “the other side” when the other side is predicated on your privilege, your anger, or your religious extremism in my presence.  

You are no longer welcome at my dinner table to espouse the hate, low blows, and punch backs that are now acceptable amongst a certain set of Americans.  

You are no longer welcome to grandstand in front of me, talking over me, and accepting my charity while offering none in return.  

You are no longer welcome to my understanding, knowing that, in the past, I’d make serious attempts to see things from your point of view.  

You are no longer welcome to use rude talk, nay, hate speech to debase anyone whose views or lifestyles don’t match your own in the presence of my children.  

Like many takers, you’ve been happy to accept my charity and understanding without reciprocation.  You’ve made a straw argument that any intolerance that I have towards your views is proof that liberals preach tolerance but don’t live it.  You are right; I am intolerant of your hate, your immorality, and especially your loud mouth and this is the only thing that you are welcome to.