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"I've got mine!" vs. "I want yours!"

In response to a Washington Post story on “red-staters” – that is, conservatives living in states that George Bush won in the 2000 election – reader Susan Hedges writes:

Foremost in our values is the imperative not to turn a blind eye to injustice…. I’ve got a name for the selfish “I’ve got mines” of the world. I call them Republicans.

I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat. But I know enough Republicans to state confidently that many of them support less government and more reliance on markets precisely because they believe that these policies will enhance the welfare of almost everyone, especially the poor. Perhaps these Republicans are mistaken; perhaps they are correct. But the fact is that being a Republican is not evidence of a small-minded, greedy, monotone motivation to “keep what’s mine.”

Unfortunately, I believe that Ms. Hedges’s opinion is typical (tho’ not universal) among people of the left. As opinions go, it is uncharitable and cheap. To show why, I would ask Ms. Hedges how she would feel if Republicans were equally uncharitable and cheap in their interpretation of the motives of Democrats. A Republican might say something like the following: “I plead guilty to boasting ‘I’ve got mine.’ At least I avoid the battle cry of Democrats: ‘I want yours.’”

I don’t believe that “I want yours” is the motive of typical Democrats. But when people such as Ms. Hedges legitimize cheap and uncharitable interpretations of others’ motives, they should be prepared for doses of their own poison.


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