We’re Not Listening to Each Other — Ender’s UnCivil War

Communication, even on this blog, is supposed to be about more than just giving forth your own ideas, however brilliant. Are we listening to one another? Are any of us considering other people’s ideas and views?

We’ve got quite a few conservative people commenting on this fairly lefty blog, and that’s encouraging. But when I post my lefty screed, do they consider what I say, or just react? When they post their righty response, do I take it in, try to get what they’re saying, or do I just look for a smartass way to repeat my view?

I just listened to an Orson Scott Card book on CD — Empire, a novel of America slipping into a new Civil War not between red and blue states, but between academic urban America and rural/suburban America. Card wrote the sci-fi classic Ender’s Game, and in this book he projects what comes from further polarization where we don’t listen to one another, only scream our own ideas in one another’s faces.

“We are creating for ourselves a new dark age, the darkness of blinders we voluntarily wear,” he writes. We must “stop thinking our own ideas are so precious that we must never give an inch to accommodate the heartfelt beliefs of others.”

Making room for others’ views “begins by scorning the voices of extremism from the camp we are aligned with. Democrats and Republicans must renounce the screamers and haters from their own side instead of continuing to embrace them and denouncing only the screamers from the opposing side. We must moderate ourselves instead of insisting on moderating the other guy while keeping our own fanaticism alive.”

Moderation in defense of liberty is no virtue, Barry Goldwater said, so moderation is not always a good thing. But he also said extremism in defense of liberty is no vice — yet I’m getting tired of extremism, from both sides of the political spectrum.

I truly despair when I think of the things the Bush administration is doing — harming our security, our defense, our environment, yadda yadda yadda. I’m tired of the despair, and I’m tired of my own bitching. Conservatives truly despair when they think of Nancy Pelosi allowing gay marriage and building huge government entitlements and making America more defenseless. Maybe they’re tired of the despair and the demonizing.

How do we come around to listening to people we disagree with? “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” Great maxim. Can it work in politics? Can it work with liberals and conservatives? Is the divide growing and our ability to bridge it shrinking?

I don’t have answers — do you?

— Benidt

5 thoughts on “We’re Not Listening to Each Other — Ender’s UnCivil War

  1. No answers, but a nitpick, since coincidentally, I loked up Goldwater’s quote today: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

    Short version: I started my blog in 2004 trying to get at this divide and basically discovered a blog isn’t the place to overcome it. First, left and right have to spend more time together in normal life — coaching Little League, clearing buckthorn, drinking beer, fishing, raising barns and singing oldies.

  2. jloveland says:

    We have met the enemy and he is us. We communicators understand that simple + linear + supreme confidence = good communications, and we have taught that lesson to the political and punditry class all too well.

    The problem: Reality is usually not simple or linear, so that communications model often yields extreme policies. Problem-solving requires accomodation, but professional communicators tell their political and pundit bosses/clients that accomodation makes them look weak and lacking of confidence. So, accomodation has become démodé.

    And leaders slavishly follow the communications pros because they are desperate to hold onto power. That desperation is at the root of it all. If they didn’t worry so much about reelection, they wouldn’t cling so much to a communications model that polarizes the debate.

    I used to oppose term limits because I thought our greatest need was experienced, knowlegable leadership. But I now support term limits, because I’ve come to believe that our greatest need is leadership that cares more about their commonwealth than their careers.

  3. Charlie, I thought I had the Goldwater quote wrong, but I trusted a superficial Google search. Shows how much stuff on the internet is just wrong. Thanks.

    I love the point about doing things together is the best way to bridge gaps. Of course it is. If you coach Little League with someone, then you might actually listen to his views even if they differ from yours. We need more community and less sanctimoniousness.

    And Joe, you’ve just advanced the only argument for term limits that has made me think about changing my mind.

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