Why Not Talk Together?   2 comments

Coffee Table TalkWelcome to the Land of Extremes! The US (indeed most of the Western world) is rapidly splitting into two political extremes that each see the other as the enemy in a potential fomenting war. If you’re in the middle … or a libertarian … they want to force you to choose a side and, it seems likely, if one side wins, it will try to eliminate the other point of view and probably yours as well.

You can blame it on a lot of factors. I try not to jump on President Trump’s every childish tweet because I am trying hard not to take sides. It can’t be easy to be a Trump supporter these days, but they are right that there’s been no solid evidence produced against Trump himself for anything that would have gotten the slightest notice during the Obama and Clinton era. Meanwhile, the news outlets have discredited themselves with their respective mudslinging and cheerleading.

Those are symptoms of our conditions that make it extremely difficult to find reliable, unbiased information about anything political. Almost everyone has taken a side. CNN is an unrelenting wall of anti-Trump semi-news every day all day. Fox News bangs the drum for Trump unless he makes a huge error and they try to minimize those. Facebook, Google et al show a clear bias to the the left and appear to be stifling some conservative viewpoints. Interesting, the folks I talk to on both sides of the divide insist the media outlets they prefer are just telling “the truth” while all the others are biased.

For the record … I think they’re all biased. Some are more biased than others.

Watching from the outside and largely trying to stay out of the political battles, I’ve seen hostilities escalating to where people truly view the other party as evil, prompting Jordan Peterson (a Canadian centrist with some libertarian views) to ask what American liberals think should happen to Trump supporters when the liberals overthrow the elected government. Speaking of Peterson … violent protests break out over invitations to even moderately conservative speakers … in effect limited college campus viewpoints to liberal only.

The days of the compassionate, tolerant liberal are over, replaced with an “us or them” mentality that labels libertarians and nonpartisans as “the enemy” because you can only “be with the correct side” or you’re most assuredly with the wrong side. And being on the “wrong side” increasing means it’s okay to encourage violence against conservatives, justified because they’re supposedly racist, sexist, homophobic, “intolerant” Nazis. If a conservative wants to reduce welfare or even just eliminate waste and fraud in the program, they “hate the poor” and minorities and are therefore racist. If a person of faith feels that homosexuality is not a faithful lifestyle, they are “homophobic”. Either way, they’re Nazis and, since Nazis are the worst kind of people, violence against them is deemed perfectly acceptable. No other solutions are reasonable anymore. You couldn’t simply use your free speech to disprove their point of view or fund alternative organizations to influence the political process and there’s no time to write convincing articles showing why they’re wrong — no, you must physically assault them, then have them jailed for refusing to stand still while you beat them to death.

For decades, the conservative response to being labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., was to withdraw from the debate. Tufts University research shows “conservatives are more fearful than liberals of discussing politics with people with whom they disagree, because they dread being called a bigot. When asked how they feel about talking politics, every single conservative respondent raised the issue of being called racist.” Liberals expressed no comparable fear.” That indicates that conservatives are not allowed by liberals to value certain polices over others for responsible reasons. If bringing up valid reasons to, for example, support welfare reform, immediately brings charges of racism, it shifts the discussion to whether you’re a racist and away from the valid reasons for supporting welfare reform.

This is not a one-sided battle. Polarization has motivated both sides to force one another to comply with its worldview. Conservatives tried for yours to force their morality on the public by trying to completely outlaw abortion. You once couldn’t get a divorce in this country and there are Republicans in my home state of Alaska who still fight for marijuana prohibition.

But Democrats aren’t blameless. They’re actively working to punish free speech and religious beliefs, to make it illegal to have anything other than the liberal point of view about how to behalf in society. They are quite comfortable with using public intimidating to suppress ideas they disagree with.

Last week, I suggested we are headed toward a war and I had people angrily tell me I was wrong. I don’t see where I am. We are no longer the United States of America. We have become blue versus red, us versus them, and we’re all engaged in a fight for the survival of our beliefs and values. The fight contradicts everything America was founded on — freedom of speech, of differing idea, of the right to believe (or not believe) in religion. If either side wins this war, trends suggest they will force us all to bow to their ideology.

We all lose when that happens.

There’s a solution and it lies in refusing to see those who disagree with us as the enemy. Open your mind to the possibility that you’re not right about everything. Republicans/Democrats are not the vanguard of a crusade against the forces of evil. We can stop the war from happening if we simply start being reasonable, calm our emotions and lay aside our prejudices, and be willing to listen and learn from each other.

2 responses to “Why Not Talk Together?

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  1. Your solution seems to advocate a return to sanity, which I agree. But how to reverse the effects of mass insanity that isn’t limited to within the shores of America? It has spread throughout western culture. Europe, England, Scotland, now Ireland, Scandinavia and more. Canada, in it’s so-called trade talks has made trade negotiations a political battle as they appeal for support from Europe based on like-minded political ideology. That is outside of the historic norm of two countries trying to come to a trade agreement through honest negotiation to benefit both countries, while putting political differences aside. We seem to be in uncharted waters here with no historical background to consult for guidance, as it effects most of the world.

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    • I didn’t say it would be easy … or short. Unfortunately, we’ve been sliding this way since at least the 1960s. Maybe even earlier than that when whoever it was came up with the silly (and it turns out, dangerous) idea that polite people didn’t talk about politics or religion. We allowed issues to ferment in darkness and we went a clear message to subsequent generations that we don’t talk about the issues that divide us … we use the force of government to impose a one-size-fits-all policy on the whole of society.

      So, how do we reverse it? You and I and anyone else risk being called Nazis to stand on principles like “free speech” and we resist the temptation to flame the idiots who flame us. We just keep delivering the same message over and over again. Not everyone will accept it, but some will and civility has a chance to grow as we convert a few people at a time who each hopefully convert a few more. But it won’t be easy and I don’t think it’ll be short.

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