Yesterday, I dared to propose that it is a good idea to work on not demonizing “the other side” so much. I keep proposing that, and it’s never very popular, but I’ll keep doing it, because from what I’ve read and experienced, everyone thinks their side makes sense. That, coupled with the fact that most actual people are in the middle, not on the radical ends of the spectrum, makes me think we could find common ground AND still keep our personal beliefs.
I wondered what kind of response I’d get (if any), and who I’d hear from. To my surprise, the first people who responded on my Facebook post were two of my conservative friends. Now, as Lee pointed out, conservative friends I still have on Facebook are either relatives or people I enjoy having rational discussions with. And sure enough, they posted rational thoughts that I enjoyed and learned from.
My second surprise was, given that I have a poop-load of liberal friends, some of whom are extra-extra liberal, I initially didn’t hear a peep out of them on Facebook, either in agreement or disagreement. But, whew, I did eventually get the kind of feedback I’d hoped for, from all sides, in private messages, email, and other media. I’d like to share a few wise words, which I’ll keep anonymous but colorful.
Both my husband and this friend agreed that polarization is profitable:
“There’s a lot of money being spent from both extremes to convince the people in the middle who are getting along and helping one another — making things work, that there are more people working against them than working for them.”
A couple of people privately said to me that they hesitate to consider moderating their approach, because it might mean saying you agree with them or giving up your beliefs. This friend was sharing a link to some additional useful content that helped them (sorry it’s behind a paywall), and then shared a perspective that sounded all too familiar to me.
“I think for myself, what scares me, is that if I move to the middle, if I try to find common ground, that I endorse all the things that have been so shocking and repugnant. I don’t have to list them here, after the last four years we know them well. But this program [link above], filled with wise, revolutionary activists, helped me to understand that there is a BIG difference between looking for common ground and listening and accepting what is unacceptable. I’m going to buy it, so i can go over it again, in my own time. Not only are the ideas helpful, it amplifies voices that I don’t hear often enough and that I don’t know well, but want to learn more about. I’m embarrassed to say that only Van Jones was really known to me. Anyway, I recommend this. I’ve always fought against the Hillbilly Elegy mindset and I’m not advocating a glorification of the rural racism, ignorance and misogyny I grew up with in the Adirondacks. I stand very firmly against those things. But when I dehumanize people without understanding their complexity and see them as trash, then to paraphrase Van Jones, my trash becomes Nazi or QAnon treasure. We will never get anywhere with hate and divisiveness. Brene Brown says much the same. We want to shame and hate-because we are very angry about what we see and for VERY good reason. We should be angry. As Brene says, it would be great if shame did work, because we could then shame the ever loving shit out of some folks. But it never, ever works to change behavior, more’s the pity. Folks have to change on their own and feel their own shame. It’s such a challenge to hold people accountable, without dehumanizing and shaming. But, it can be done, I hope.”
Yes, oh yes. This is why I want to keep caring about everyone! Things are complex, and turning them into black and white doesn’t solve complex problems.
Another friend admitted that the other side’s claims scare them, enough so that my blog post also scared them. I totally get that. I have a feeling a LOT of the people who didn’t say anything were in this camp. Most of my friends probably are. I can’t deny that some of the things I learn are scary to me. I just have to note that some of the things I believe scare others. Sad.
One of the wisest people I know concurred with me, which helped me feel like I’m not some kind of fool:
“…unless we respect the right of others to hold a conflicting opinion and can be comfortable discussing them with each other we will never achieve the peace we say we want to have.”
And thoughtful local friend echoed the above:
“…my standard is that if you can’t argue your opponent’s side then you don’t know what you really believe. Not enough people seek the ‘true’ or facts but just believe so much fake, half truth junk. And sad is the fact that too many have lost sight that we can all love each other and be friends, yet still live on different political spectrums. But alas, we have to try to squash and kill anyone and everyone that is not of the same like mind as ‘we’ are.”
Here’s one more, from a blog reader commenting on my desire to be on the team with people willing to look at the big picture (check out his entire comment on my post from yesterday for a helpful, if sorta sad, UK perspective):
“I think the team in question is Centrism, rational, liberal but also skeptical and factual. It’s a devastating gap in politics on both sides of the Atlantic right now.”
Yes. When you are advocating for being in the center, it does NOT mean believing in nothing and it does not mean accepting everything each side maintains as true. Let’s work toward keeping rationality, skepticism, and factuality in mind, even if we come from a conservative viewpoint, and maybe we’ll find goals we can agree on.
I really appreciate everyone who was brave enough to share their thoughts on a controversial issue. I’d love to learn more from you all. If you take the time to read this, I respect your opinion! This is how we build community.
5 thoughts on “Fascinating Feedback (and Lack Thereof)”
I’m not Amerian, which is the main reason why I didn’t say anything – but if you’d like my German perspective … here is a very condensed version. 😉 (I browse a lot of American websites, and are a part of American dominated social networks, so I got more than enough of my share of the American discourse 😉 ).
For me, I have noticed over the course of the past years that I am very, very short on patience when it comes to “conservative” or right-wing statements. In Germany, a far-right party (the “Alternative for Germany”, AfD for short) has been voted into parliament four years ago (which is a shame for our nation). Throughout the last four years, the party has been toying with Nazi ideology, Nazi phraseology, and whenever they have been rightfully critisised, they played the victim card and went for “free speech”.
I have seen a lot of similarities to the Trump supporters and – partly – the Republican party, although both Democrats and Republicans are more conservative than, say, our Social Democratic party. (Another can of worms is that, apparently, Americans are utterly unaible to differenciate between “social democracy” and “democratic socialism”, which is … very tiring if you have to explain for the umpteenth time that NO, Germany (and Scandinavia, and most of the European countries) are NOT socialist countries at all, but let’s not go there).
Anyway, to cut a long story short, a problem with “the right” is that they will start with relatively conservative (albeit infuriating) statements and then start toeing the line of acceptability, pushing it further and further. You have seen this with Trump’s statements, and the terrifying thing is that people went with it, because they became USED to it. And then, all of a sudden, you find yourself having to honestly debate on whether or not a certain group of people should have rights at all, including the right to live peacefully, or marry, or whatever.
I personally have decided that I have a line that I will not cross. If somebody gives me a statement (which seemed to be very prevalent) that goes along the line of “Why should I care about other people?”, then that line is crossed and I will not discuss anything with that person. I am not willing to entertain the idea that some people do not deserve healthcare, that some people do not deserve rights, and I am not debating whether or not Black Lives Matter (which has also been a discussion in Germany) – especially when the far-right’s hateful statements are presented as “opinions” (bonus points if these statements are presented under the guise of “Christianity”. As a theologian, I cannot tolerate this). As German journalist Hasnain Niels Kazim rightfully said: “Hate is not an opinion, and does not have to be discussed”.
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Beautiful response! I appreciate your viewpoint. I think that line you mention is really important. I don’t want to engage with people like that, either. And yes, American people are oddly afraid of socialism and can’t grasp social democracy as a concept. Regrettably. Because it is what works.
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No. 😉 Democratic socialism has never worked. It was kinda behind the German Democratic Republic (DDR), and failed miserably. Social Democracy works. The other thing does not.
AHA! I’ll fix that.
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