I believe in political discourse. Not punditry, nor the tired and partisan verbal assaults which seep like stray bullets from the halls of Congress, but an honest encounter in which people treat each other as intelligent, reasoning human beings. I believe it’s a rare thing, especially among the self-proclaimed intellectuals who debate our national policy, anchor our news programs, and fill our highest offices. Education does not, by itself, make you more open-minded or able to hold a discussion with someone who disagrees with you. It merely makes it easier to out-argue your opponents, which is something entirely different than being right. I believe intellectual armament provides the smug confidence necessary to ignore and dismiss opponents without having to think too hard about why a reasonable person would hold an idea contrary to your own.
Our much-touted freedom to hold and advertise an independent opinion does not make that opinion inherently correct. I believe that when most people complain about the lack of political discussion in the United States, they are really complaining about all those people who refuse to be converted by their political rants.
I believe that the more people agree with you, the harder it is to think critically. The rise of political blogging and the move towards openly-biased infotainment news media have made it far too easy for us to hide from critical thought, taking shelter among the like-minded. I believe political discourse is the cure, the sunlight which can lead us out of our ideological caves and toward a harmony freed from the destructive rhetoric of red state and blue state, which pits brother against brother in a house divided anew.
As you sit there, listening to this and perhaps nodding quietly in agreement, you should know that I’m talking about you and me. Every one of us has been guilty, from time to time, of the most blatant close-minded partisanship. We have all struggled to ignore or defeat ideas which would challenge our loftily phrased statements of “this I believe.” This is not a failing that other people have, it is one that belongs to humanity. I believe there’s still a chance to salvage constructive politics, and I believe that it begins with admitting our own responsibilities in promoting such a system. Only them can we turn to our fellows and speak vital politics without arrogance, without insult, and without fear.
But I’m also willing to be convinced otherwise.
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