Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Can't We Agree to Disagree?
I've noticed a trend lately where bloggers who normally stick to one particular topic (like books or writing) are talking about the election and they're always apologetic about getting off topic and jumping into the political discussion.
Me too. I can't help it.
The funny thing is that no other election before this one has made me feel quite the sense of urgency that I do right now and I think most of us feel that way. I think I've only voted in one other Presidential election, which just goes to show how indifferent I've been in the past. I was always one of those people who kept my political thoughts to myself and didn't care to tip my hand about how I felt around other people.
But now it's what we all want to talk about and it can make for some awkward moments when we (or others) make assumptions. I got a call the other day from someone at my (Texas based) company and he asked if I'd watched the RNC speeches. Actually, it was my boss.
"I did", I said.
"Man, wasn't Sarah Palin great?"
"Um, I have to warn you, I'm pretty liberal and an Obama supporter, so no, I really didn't care for her."
Awkward silence, followed by immediate change of subject.
Now here's the thing that really bugs me. I would have really liked to find out exactly why he thought she was so terrific since I had such a negative reaction to her that I felt compelled to make a contribution to the Obama campaign as soon as she was done. But we let it go. It seems we have become so polarized and the important issues are so divisive that it doesn't seem like intelligent conversation and respect for opposing views is possible. I like to think I could remain completely calm and have a reasonable discussion with someone who has opposing views to mine, but I'm not sure I could do it in a face to face conversation. I'm sure I could do it on line.
I have a colleague I've worked with on a daily basis for eight years. We're an extremely effective sales team. We collaborate well, our talents are complementary and we generally share the same sense of humor. We've learned that to preserve our relationship, we don't talk about politics because we completely disagree on just about every issue. We don't always avoid it, but when it comes to things like the war in Iraq, health care and social programs, things have gotten pretty prickly between us on occasion.
It always starts out civilly enough, but eventually he can't stop himself from using the term "bleeding heart liberal" and then words like "selfish" and "arrogant" are coming out of my mouth.
And don't get me started on the silliness I see in online forums and political blogs. Those aren't even rational, intelligent discussions. Typically, all dialogue comes down to "you're an idiot and I'm not", which certainly doesn't foster understanding.
My political discussions only seem to happen with people with whom I'm in violent agreement, and while I like validation of my views as much as the next person, it doesn't help me to understand opposing views very well and I really would like to understand them.
Am I alone in this? Are any of you able to discuss politics with people supporting views that oppose your own and do it in a meaningful, productive way? Have any of you had that moment of truth when you either discover that someone you assumed shared your views doesn't -- or when you've shocked someone by revealing opposing views to theirs?
Perhaps when it comes down to it, some of the issues are so firmly tied to our own values and ideals that it would be impossible to see the other guy's point of view. Maybe our inability to do that is our fundamental problem.
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It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.