Political Views and Personal Experience

Huffington Post recently posted Guns, Cars and Too Much Liberty by Barron H. Lerner in which the author speaks movingly about the tragic loss of his nephew, killed by a reckless driver and Richard Martinez’s loss of his son Christopher Michaels-Matinez killed, in cold blood, by Elliot Rodger. Lerner discusses how suffering a personal tragedy changes one’s perspective on political approaches to avoiding such tragedies in the future.

We have previously discussed how the moral foundations of care and liberty shape most conservative-liberal political dichotomies. Lerner discusses how “experiencing a public health tragedy at such a personal level has forced [him] to rethink some basic premises about what a society considers acceptable harm”. While Lerner takes a clear political position in the piece, what interested me was his candid assessment of how political views are shaped and changed by personal experience.

The importance of understanding some one else’s moral foundation before having a productive political discussion is critical. We also need to try to understand the relationship between political views and personal experience, and to acknowledge their pain in that experience. Tip O’Neill famously said: All politics is local. It’s also important to remember that, it’s often very personal.