If we define politics, broadly, to include what is taking place in our world of governance, policy, how we handle national and local problems, and how we seek to solve problems, how we regulate or don’t regulate, what laws we enact, etc., then I have two problems relating to our politics.
The first one has to do with the tone of how we talk about politics. It is not the intensity of that talk but the meanness, the harshness, the blindness, the often unforgiving nature of how we treat those who see things differently than we (I) do.
I understand there have always been disagreements in politics and historically those disagreements have often been expressed harshly. Whether the tone of today’s disagreements is worse than those of the past, I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that it is unlikely to change. All I can do is not contribute to the ugliness of debates. To that end, I hope that MillersTime has been and will continue to be a place where the tone of points of view are and can be expressed civilly and without meanness.
Clearly, I have a point of view about politics, about how the world works, or doesn’t work, about what I hope our governance can and will be. While I obviously lean towards postings that generally go along with my point(s) of view, I encourage folks to disagree, to comment from their points of view, and always, for all of us, to maintain a civil discourse.
My second problem, however, is one that I think I can do a bit more about, at least personally.
Over the years I have been struck by how folks I know can have such different ‘reads’ on various political issues. How can I see things so differently than a friend, an acquaintance, or anyone, for that matter? What am I missing?
This difference in how one views things has long been on my mind, and I’ve been looking for ways to understand it.
I hope to get more understanding of why this occurs as I believe the differences do not simply stem from ill will, ignorance, or only self-interest. Something else, I sense, is at ‘work’ here.
Over the past weekend, when my cousin and I weren’t talking about baseball and family, we talked about this issue. And to that affect, here are three links of varying length that may begin to help me, and others(?) understand how good folks can see things so differently.
The first is a recent column by Nick Kristof in the NYTimes, entitled Politics, Odors and Soap. It will only take you a few minutes to read.
The second is a TED talk, on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives by Jonathan Haidt, the author of the study that Kristof refers to in his column. It’s about 20 minutes, and if the Kristof article seems to get your interest, then this talk gives you more to think about.
The third link is a talk, a lecture, by George Lakoff, a liberal professor, linguist, who focuses on language and also talks about many of the things in the two previous links.
Bottom line, for me, in these three links is that there are specific reasons why folks look at things differently and that generally has to do with one’s values. Thus, it is often not the particular issue that is the main source of disagreements but how we see the world, what are our values, morals, world view, etc.
Take a look at the first link, and hopefully the second one too.
Let me and (or) other MillersTime readers know what you think. Am I heading in the right direction as I wrestle with how good folks can see things so differently?
And if you have suggestions on other ways of looking at this problem, please so indicate and suggest links, articles, books that might help me, and perhaps others also, understand our differences.
Bob Thurston said:
There’s a pretty interesting article in this last Sunday’s NY Times, I think in the book review section, that pursues these same questions. This may be circular (I’m not sure that it’s different or if it refers to the same folks, I skimmed but don’t remember the names).