Last Thursday, The Daily Pennsylvanian published an opinion article by columnist Dylan Reim titled “Disagreeing on politics is one thing. Demonizing your opponent is another.” That’s a great title. Unfortunately, the actual content of the article was less impressive.
The author’s argument for why we shouldn’t demonize our opponents is founded on a belief in subjective morality. He claims we “should never be so vain as to believe we have the ultimate truth in the bag.” The problem with a subjective morality is that it doesn’t leave space for any kind of morality at all. If everybody is allowed to have their own morality, and nobody’s morality is wrong, then it becomes acceptable for a person to violate another’s rights just because it somehow aligns with their definition of morality. In this case, morality can’t be subjective or else it can’t exist at all. Hitler didn’t seem to have a problem attempting to annihilate an entire race of people; are we to deem that morally acceptable because it was morally acceptable to him?
A better foundation for the author’s argument that we shouldn’t demonize our opponents would be that morality is objective and that it is morally wrong to defame another person because you disagree with them. It is morally advisable to treat others with love and respect.
I have two other qualms with the article, but in order to be upfront about them, I must disclose that I am a member of the Quakers for Life (QFL) group that is indirectly mentioned in the article as an anti-abortion group.
The first objection is that the author of the article states that QFL was involved with an abortion-rights group in writing and defacing each other’s messages. The author seems to have incorrectly assumed that QFL defaced messages written by pro-choicers. The article was correct in saying that QFL’s messages were defaced (the pictures in the article show that to be true); however, the article was incorrect in stating that QFL defaced messages against them in return. The QFL group as a whole has made many efforts to make sure that none of its members ever defaced or erased anything written against the group. QFL does not want to limit speech and discussion. Because QFL tries hard specifically not to retaliate in this way, as a member of QFL, I did not appreciate this unsubstantiated accusation.
The second concern that I have is with the perpetuation of the idea that QFL “was just completely trying to invalidate a stance different from their own.” It seems that people are forgetting what it means to have a discussion with somebody about a disagreement. Inherently, when two people agree to talk about something in which they disagree, they talk about their own points of view and make arguments in favor of that stance. QFL encourages people to think about the reasoning behind their views on abortion and to make firm arguments for those beliefs. It might be that QFL disagrees with those views, but we will maintain a healthy discourse on that topic.
Furthermore, given the content of this article and in defense of the author’s accusations, it is worth mentioning that QFL does believe abortion is morally wrong, but that doesn’t mean that we believe all women who have had an abortion are bad people. We know most of them are good people with good intentions who will go on to do good things with their lives. However, that does not mean that we will stop fighting for the lives of the unborn.
Note: An earlier version of this article did not mention that the op-ed in question was an opinion column, not a news piece. Per request from the DP, this article has been amended to make that distinction clear.