|Photo by Roselle Park Post|
I know, I know, it sounds hopelessly naive. I totally get that, especially after reading about all the discord that has been present in our nation's politics from the beginning. There will always be disagreement--that's to be expected. The question is, how do we deal with that disagreement and get things done?
Right now it seems like the most popular method of dealing with people we disagree with is to protest against them. Grab your signs, your bullhorns, and your riot gear, and let's go yell at the opposition!
I know, that's so hard. Who likes talking about politics? Those discussions often turn nasty, feelings get hurt, and friends stop talking to each other.
But I think it's really important that we do start talking with our friends about politics again (apparently it used to happen all the time). It's easy to demonize those you disagree with, to assume that their motives are evil, or they are stupid or uneducated--at least when they are random faces on the screen, or anonymous trolls commenting on news articles. It's much harder to demonize a friend--someone you already know and care about and trust.
I get it; it's easier to remain blissfully ignorant about each others' politics. Otherwise you might be forced to either change your opinion of them, or accept the fact that it is possible for normal, sane people to have differing opinions!
Why Do We Disagree?
Demonizing opponents overlooks the fact that disagreements usually stem from different worldviews, not different levels of intelligence or education or evilness.
In order to discuss issues with those we disagree with, we must understand this vital principle: if we have different worldviews we will see the world differently. So we can either:
- Refuse to acknowledge the other person's worldview and continue to demonize their perspective, preventing any discussion
- Attempt to change the other person's worldview (and often the discussion ends if they refuse)
- Accept and try to understand differences in worldviews so a mutually agreeable conclusion can be reached
So far method #1 seems to be the most popular one in use today, and we can see how successful that has been.
While method #2 might ultimately be the only way to make long-term changes in our culture, it is difficult because worldviews are very hard to change. Yes, let's discuss the relative merits of our worldviews, and may the best worldview win in the end, but in the meantime, how do we make progress right now?
I am not saying that all worldviews are right, or that every perception of reality is correct. I'm simply acknowledging the fact that people perceive reality differently, and awareness of this is essential if we are going to discuss anything.
For example, let's say you're wearing blue glasses and I'm wearing red glasses, and you say the ball is green and I say it's orange. Are we both right? We are both being honest about our perceptions, but because the color of our glasses is skewing the color of what we are seeing, we are both actually wrong. However, if we are humble enough to be aware of the limitations our eyewear place upon us, and apply known properties of light and a little reasoning, we might be able to figure out that the object is, in fact, yellow. That is the truth, the actual state of reality.
Also, I'm not saying that rational discussion is possible with everyone. I might be idealistic but I'm not stupid. I am aware that radical activists on any side of any issue are apt to deliberately twist facts and attempt to muddy the waters of any discussion in order to achieve their desired ends. That makes rational discussion impossible, and attempting it with such people will inevitably lead to much banging of heads against walls. I am not advocating this.
Sure, it sounds great on paper, but is it possible in real life?
I started writing this blog post on the 14th anniversary of 9/11. I was encouraged by memories of the unity our country saw in the wake of that horrible day. That time gave me hope, because I saw my country come together as one in a way that I hadn't thought possible. I look back at those days when it seemed like everyone was displaying American flags as a show of unity, and it didn't matter if you were Democrat or Republican, or who you'd voted for in the election the previous year. We were all Americans, and we were all standing together with our fallen brothers and sisters in the name of freedom, proud of the beacon of hope that our country has always been in the world.
I am now beginning to realize that partisan politics only divides us--the American people--if we let it. And when we let it divide us, or turn us away from our civic duty to be informed, involved voters, we are abdicating the responsibility given to us by the founding fathers of our nation, and turning over our right to govern ourselves to unelected party machine bosses.
Discussing. You know, like spouses are supposed to do? "We're not fighting, kids, we're having a discussion."
So let's try this. Let's take an issue, define our opposing worldviews, recognize our respective non-negotiables, identify our mutual goals, and brainstorm ideas to reach those goals without trampling on each other's non-negotiables.
To be continued...