A friend and I were neck-deep in a debate that was bouncing more places than a travel blogger. How do bump stocks actually sound when they fire? Who are definitively the worst liars in Washington? Are liberals actually snowflakes? And why haven’t you brought me more coffee yet?
Both of us hold fairly similar worldviews and consider ourselves conservatives, but we still managed to disagree on a large majority of everything and a small minority of anything important. One of the discussion points, of course, was the disparities between what are commonly termed “conservative” and “liberal” points of view. Which led to how those points of view interact, which leads to my brief burst of words today.
Listening to respond and listening to understand are defining differences in those who want to hate half the country and those who desire change for the whole. One-dimensional right wingers who believe liberalism is comprised solely of lying, logic-hating, liberal arts majors bother me just as much as those who believe everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, misogynistic, uneducated middle-aged white man. Refusing to discuss the issues without slinging ad hominems and generalizations is largely to blame for the extreme levels of polarization America is facing.
America needs its influencers to promote a culture of conversation: an atmosphere where we don’t call someone a racist because they espouse statistics we’d rather negate; an arena of debate where slurs and hatred are unacceptable alternatives to a respectful rebuttal. Writers and news personalities and radio hosts have a responsibility to fairness rather than adopting the persona of agitators who promote chaotic controversy for the sake of controversy itself.
Unfortunately, being a cynic and a believer in the innate malevolence of humans, I also believe we’re never going to see a revolution of deferential conversation. Mockery and conflagration are the commodities of entertainment, and human nature generally faces an unraveling of purpose when asked to consider a position that opposes their own. And yet, in true contradictory fashion, the absence of a mainstream revolution makes individual change all the more imperative.
Allow me to shift to second-person pronouns, because the responsibility is on myself–and you. It doesn’t matter whether your audience is 50, 500, or 5,000, you can be the one who arrests the chaos and changes the narrative. You and I hold a responsibility to every conversation we partake in: a responsibility to listen, to consider, to respect. And absolutely to call out error when we see it, to confront fallacy when it arises; but to be open to the possibility of error in our own thinking and fallacy in our own arguments.
Which are the most important conversations in today’s cultural climate? What are the conversations that aren’t being highlighted? Why is turkey the worst? Talk about it in the comments; maybe you’ll be my next post inspiration.