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?