Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Why Should We Talk To Them?"

I had this line once:

“Conservatives hate everyone but themselves.  Liberals love everyone… but conservatives.”

That’s right.  (If there is any truth to that Italicism.)  The “All you need is love” people have a “line.”  And that line bisects the American populace.

Which, as Ed Grimley might aver, “… is sad, I must say.”

Okay, not to pile on.  But, you know how when your own kids act up in a restaurant it feels different that when other people’s kids misbehave.  You are less likely to loudly proclaim, “Children for sale”?  That’s how I feel when my side is not at its optimum.  The other side?  As my late Mom used to say, “Let their mothers worry.”

Moving on…

Yesterday, I offered a reasonable rationalization for the electors of the current president not wanting to engage with their ideological adversaries.  The summarized version:

Their haughty opponents have been insulting them for more than two hundred and forty years.

Their reflected-in-the-voting reaction:

“Enough is enough!”

Okay, now it’s our turn.  (Accepting my inclusion in “Our” because they would unquestionably label me “Them.”  Although, due to my proclivity for examining both positions, “Them” can be coolly unwelcoming to me.)

Question:  (Flipping yesterday’s question around):

Why would we want to talk to them?

(And it took just 249 words to get there.)

Okay.  Trying not to stereotype, but given my ingrained “home team” perspective, I probably will, despite a lifelong dedication to absolute fairness.  Do you see how tricky this is?  Still, I am eagerly up for the challenge.  Look at me – the venerable fire horse, ready to go!

Some supporters of the elected president – an uncertain number, but indisputably greater than those supporting his opponent – are haters.

Why would I want to talk a hater, more specifically a Jew hater?  What would I say to him, in an effort to meet the guy half way?

“I hear you revere the man who tried to annihilate my people.  Wow.  That’s really interesting.”

Ecumenical.  But an insult to history. 

Then there are the elected president’s supporters who, although moral and decent in their personal lives and the rules of appropriate behaviors they instill in their children, dismissed the candidate’s rampant vulgarity and serial falsehoods as “He’s just saying what other people are afraid to say.”  My reflexive reaction:

“How could you do that?”
Honestly?  That gambit is unlikely to get the ball rolling.  Instead, they might easily take offense.

Then there are the elected president’s supporters who, as commentator Neal Gabler once insightfully observed, have erroneously transferred the template of  “unshakable faith” to the political arena where it does not naturally belong, the political arena having been created for open debate and hammering out differences. 

“Transferred erroneously to where it doesn’t naturally belong”?  That conversation is over.  Or, if it continues, will inevitably finish where it began.

Finally – and, being the Just Thinking guy, this one may be the toughest for me – how do I talk to – or, more candidly, why would I want to talk to – a person who perceives logical reasoning and factual evidence not as legitimate avenues for possible persuasion but rather as an exercise in irrelevance, laced with elitist condescension?  How do I respond to:

“I’m not saying you’re wrong, ‘Mr. Smart Pants.’  I just don’t give a hoot.”

So there’s that.  Reasons I don’t want to talk to them.  And why the heck should I?  (Aside from “We have to.”)

Tolerance – out!  Consistency – out!  Flexibility – out!  Factual Evidence – out!

They blew up the bridges.  How do I possibly get across?

Well, sir and madam, that’s where the pessimist concludes the conversation.

The optimist’s rebuttal?

Lay it on me.

1 comment:

JED said...

I'm no expert. I've seen this happening for quite a long time and it seems like it's getting worse because we haven't been talking for so long. The divide grows larger when the sides don't talk.

It's easy to lay the blame on "them" but really both sides have had a hand in this. But one thing that helps to get the conversation started is to find common ground. I know - a lot of the problem is that the extremes of each side have painted the other side (even those closer to the center than others) as monsters. How can you talk with them when they say "that"? And the old reliable, "Just talking with them legitimizes their positions." Those are both just bullshit being spread by people who feed off the tension between the sides.

But there is common ground. Even something as simple as a local sports team can be a starting point. "How about those Red Sox?", started a lot of conversations with acquaintances who had different views on guns, babies, taxes and religion than me. It's funny how a conversation about how teams from different sized markets can compete can sometimes lead to a calm discussion about taxes.

Another common ground item is helping other people. I've had some good conversations with people while we're helping others. It can lead to talking about the need to help people on a regular basis rather than just when you feel like it or when it's Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa time (people's needs don't diminish at the end of December).

Yes, it's much harder when sources of truth can't be agreed on and positions of trust are questioned. But we've dealt with these sorts of things before. "Don't trust anyone over 30," became "Don't trust anyone over 40," as the speaker got older. "These kids don't understand responsibility," got handed down to grand=parents to parents. It's each of our responsibility to poke holes in the walls between us. No one is like the other side thinks and there is no hard and fast rule for everyone on the other side. Everyone likes those silly kitten videos.