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Worried About Thanksgiving Fights with Right-Wing Family Members?

How to counter 10 of the most common myths conservatives believe about progressives.

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Remind them also that there's just no way to pay for a $600 billion war and a $700 billion bailout (and that's just the current cost on both fronts -- they're likely to soar in the future) without somebody somewhere paying some more taxes. The bill for the war alone currently stands $5,000 per American household; the bailout may cost that much again, depending on how much of the money the government can recoup. The GOP went shopping on our credit card -- and now it's time to pay our share of the bill.

8. Liberals are Godless -- and therefore, amoral.

This often sounds odd coming from people who raised you, who generally like you, and who usually think you're a fairly sound citizen…well, apart from that weird liberal thing. One good comeback is to personalize that accusation: Do you really think I'm less moral than you are? Seriously? In what way? Hmm. (It's good if you can resist the temptation to say: Gee, it must have been the way I was raised.)

Another twist on this: I'm liberal because you made me that way. You dragged me to church, where they taught me to love my neighbor and care for the poor and sick -- and I became a progressive because I took the things you taught me to heart.

If personalizing the argument won't work with your crowd, go general. A lot of progressives are deeply religious -- and our politics are guided by our religious faith. Evangelical churches are getting involved with environmentalism, poverty, and human trafficking -- all issues where liberals have been active for decades. It's good to have the extra hands on board.

It's also true that a lot of progressives aren't religious. Unfortunately, many conservatives equate "secular" with "having no moral code whatsoever," since they honestly believe that nobody can possibly behave themselves unless there's some outside authority keeping a hairy eyeball on them. (It's tempting to speculate about what people who believe this might try to get away with when they think nobody's watching; personally, I think it's an incriminating admission that they can't be trusted behind closed doors.) Rejecting God means you refuse to follow His rules -- which, according to their logic, can only mean that you hold nothing sacred and don't recognize any rules at all.

Call this out for the wrongness that it is. All non-religious progressives have things they hold deeply sacred: family commitments, community obligations, professional responsibilities, the Constitution, social and economic justice, the earth and its systems, the idea of democracy, the dream of a peaceful future. Those things form the basis of a demanding internally-driven moral code; and it's not uncommon to find secular progressives who live more uncompromisingly moral lives than many overtly religious people.

9. Liberals don't believe in personal responsibility.

Again, there's a definitional disconnect at work here. Conservatives tend to use the rule of law to enforce traditional morality and social hierarchies, which usually means light treatment for those at the top, and harsh penalties for those at the bottom. Liberals tend to use the rule of law to maintain some semblance of fairness and equality, which means that those who have more should be given sentences proportional to their greater wealth and power; and those with less should be given a more gentle hand. Naturally, each side finds the other side's reasoning and criteria appalling.

But there is common ground. The bare fact -- which everybody at the table may agree on -- is that in present-day America, nobody is happy with the way justice is being doled out, and people all over are getting away with things no civilized nation should allow to slide by. Absurd leniency abounds on both sides. You can either argue over whose side is getting the worst of it; or you can simply agree that the system is broken all over, and move on to the pumpkin pie.

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