Richard Chappell tagged me with this one. Thanks for the kudos. So now I'm supposed to find three people I disagree with a lot and say something nice about them.
Jonathan Ichikawa comes to mind almost immediately. There have been lots of things we disagree on, but he consistently gives credit to those he disagrees with that he thinks are moving in the right direction, and I've been the beneficiary of this a few times. Even though he's persistently criticizing conservative evangelicals, including some that I don't think are anywhere near as bad as he does (though I do regret their direction of late), he's always doing one thing I like. He makes it quite clear which things disturb him or just seem stupid rather than painting all with a broad brush or dismissing everything conservative evangelicals might say. I frequently find him qualifying his criticism by saying true things that many critics of the religious right simply won't say most of the time. More often than not, I think he has the right priorities in what he finds most offensive and what he doesn't, and many of his criticisms are legitimate. I just wouldn't always take it as far as he does. He also blogs at Fake Barn Country, by the way, where more of his more in-depth philosophical stuff resides.
My disagreements with La Shawn Barber are in some ways opposite those with Jonathan. I disagree with so many of Jonathan's fundamental assumptions but find my interaction with him both enjoyable and productive, and I get the sense that our interactions lead to more moderation in the long run. La Shawn agree with me in terms of fundamental convictions. We come from not just the same basic Christian worldview but even the very specific Reformed tradition of Christianity. We share the basic conservative outlook. The only trouble is that on many of the hot button issues I simply take the same convictions in a different direction. As it happens some of the things we both find pretty important are in this category.
She thinks affirmative action of any sort is immoral, whereas I think some cases of affirmative action are morally required but many, including what most colleges do, turn out to harm the people they're supposed to help. She's thoroughly opposed to the very idea of Bush's plan to allow the government keep better track of immigrants who entered illegally and to encourage them to become legal residents more easily (though not more easily than those who entered legally). I, if you couldn't tell by how I described that plan, am a lot more open to the idea. She's a small government conservative, while I agree with the president that the government has some greater moral responsibilities to the country so as to include some wisely put-together social programs (which isn't what we've got now, I can assure you, having just spent some time in an extremely inefficient and nightmarishly-run food stamps office just two days ago). Still, I very much appreciate what La Shawn has done with her blog and am glad for the impact she's been able to have for a perspective that in rough enough form I agree with.
Finally, I can't leave out Ed Brown, AKA DarkStar, who blogs at Vision Circle. He's spent most of his interaction with me challenging the statements of black conservatives who he says go too far. He's no liberal, though. He's not as harsh against black liberals, but his actual views seem to me to be more in line with the black conservatives, which is why I think he spends so much time interacting with them. He thinks many of the suggestions from black conservatives about problems within black America have their basis in truth, but he thinks the best solutions to racial problems lie in the infrastructure created by organizations like the NAACP, and he insists that they really are doing good work that simply never gets reported, but black conservatives claim the opposite while not doing anything themselves besides complaining. (Side note: I don't see why pointing out problems doesn't count as doing anything. If it's worthless to point out problems, the ancient Hebrew prophets were pretty useless, because that's most of what they did. They railed against the large-scale sin of their generation, things just about everyone did, and it would take massive repentance for real change. Isn't that what some of the black conservatives are doing?)
Ed commonly points out ways he thinks Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are misrepresented. While I think some of this may be a little overhopeful, I have to applaud his efforts to make sure these men aren't misrepresented. Being charitable to people is crucial for real progress, not just so you learn from each other by real discussion, but so people on the other side won't dismiss you out of hand because you say such obviously false things (obviously false as far as they're concerned, anyway). He wants to make sure that's done. I appreciate that a lot, even if I'm more resistant to it in this particular case than I might be in others. What's clear is that Ed has his heart in the right place, and he's certainly not toeing any party line. He's as independent a thinker as you get, and I think any progress within the black community toward real progress in race relations will need people like Ed.