What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

userpic=divided-nationA few days ago, prompted by a post from an Evangelical Conservative friend of mine that mass murders were only committed by Islamic Terrorists or the Radical Liberals, and the Vegas Shooter had to be one or the other, I said:

There are times my very Conservative friends make posts that infuriate me, and make me start typing a comment … which I promptly delete because I know it is like teaching pigs to sing (and I’m not calling them pigs, only using the expression): I’ll only get frustrated by the response, which won’t change anything. Thus, I don’t bother with those discussions. It makes me appreciate other friends at different parts of the Conservative spectrum, with whom we can have an intelligent discussion, learn from each other, and often find some middle ground.

In response to this, we’ve had a very good discussion over on Facebook on both the differences and similarities between left and right, and including agreement with my sentiment above from people who I consider to be on the both far ends of the political spectrum. Then, this morning, while reading my RSS feeds, NPR pops up an interesting article about now nothing divides Americans more sharply than politics. It noted the following in it’s leed:

Pew has been measuring attitudes on policy issues and political values dating back to 1994, and its latest check-in finds — perhaps unsurprisingly — that Americans are more divided than ever.

“The fact that Republicans and Democrats differ on these fundamental issues is probably not a surprise, but the magnitude of the difference is striking, and particularly how the differences have grown in recent years and where they’ve grown,” Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of political research and one of the authors of the study, told NPR.

We are divided, and we’ve gotten so entrenched in our bubbles and our labels that we not only fail to recognize people as individuals with individual views, not party positions, but we fail to listen. We engage in discussions not to listen and learn from the other side, but to convince them that is why THEY are wrong and WE are right. That’s wrong.  There are very few issues that are simple binary — most are complicated with nuances, and multiple mitigations to address areas of concern.

Then, while reading another burst of my RSS feeds, there was an interesting opinion piece in the Jewish Journal: “Toward a Radical Middle“. In it, the author talks about how in the Facebook era, there were things on the Left that you were not allowed to criticize; similarly, for those on the Right, there were things you couldn’t criticize. Polarized much? One reformer noted in the article coined the term “regressive left” to describe the illiberal takeover of the left, the slow chipping away of every liberal value.

What I really liked was the article’s conclusion:

How do we get out of this mess? For one, we need to return to real — classical — liberalism. But what does that mean?

The easiest way to describe real liberalism is that there are certain principles — freedom of speech; freedom of religion; a dedication to liberty, justice and individuality — that are nonnegotiable.

But — and here’s a very big but: Liberalism allows for policy differences. You and I don’t have to agree on immigration, tax reform, even abortion — but our arguments must be rooted in liberal principles. Freedom of speech, for instance, involves defending the right of others to express their opinions, even if we disagree with them.

But No. 2: Politics need not color our culture or our lives. You can watch a movie or see an art show and — get this — just enjoy them, even if they have no connection whatsoever to social concerns.

Finally, But No. 3: Along with rights come responsibilities. There is a set of values attached to liberalism, what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the content of your character.”

Because of how skewed the political spectrum is, classical liberalism now sits in the center. That’s OK. It is precisely this ideology that can create common ground between the right and the left and nurture a saner society.

Call it the rebellion of the radical middle.

I, for one, look forward to that saner society, vs. the dysfunctional one we have today.

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