By All Means, Don’t Take This Personally
Hmmm, as soon as someone says this, you know you’re about to receive a very personal comment, one that is likely quite critical and, in a worst-case scenario, hurtful.
It’s a cop-out, of course, and you may have noticed that we are increasingly copping-out, climbing behind the veil of anonymous comment to hide our animosities. Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, gay or straight, fist-shaker or silent grumbler, the other side is always they or them. And in fear of becoming they or them, we turn away from discussing the things that matter.
What is the saying? “Never discuss religion or politics?”
Poppycock (is that a word anymore?). Christopher Hitchens made a name for himself discussing religion or, more accurately, whether or not God exists and Hitch brought a great number of people out of the uncomfortable silence of their conscience into the light of rational discourse.
Gore Vidal wove the scattered threads of political reality into a recognizable fabric and did it in a manner that demeaned no one. It’s interesting to me that Hitch and Gore (sounds like the name of a fine old pub) achieved that remarkable communication by welcoming those who disagreed with them into the debate and listening to their position, with both patience and understanding.
My God, what a brave move, to actually listen to an opinion other than your own
That is, of course, the essence of debate—to fully understand the opposing issue prior to presenting an argument.
Consider this for a moment: In order for American politics to become polarized, we must each of us misunderstand the argument. Complexity is at fault here.
In excruciating brevity, the liberal argument is that there should be no homelessness, hunger or poverty in the richest nation in the world. The conservative argument is that America is being destroyed by debt, we have lost our moral compass and the poor are unwilling to work.
There is truth in both positions, but nuance is out the window in favor of the tribal
Now I have a theory on that, as you might expect I would.
World population is fourfold what it was in the brief period of my own lifetime. I lived a screen-door-slam away from the kids that formed my social world, grew up in that neighborhood until I was twenty, wasn’t introduced to TV until I was twenty-seven and got most of my political views from my parents. Our family of four sat down to dinner each evening at six and discussed our lives, spoke with one another about what went wrong and right during our day.
The young of today and, by all means I hope they don’t take this personally, are connected by social media, judged by their tribe and shamed or cut if they don’t conform. 2,000 ‘friends’ and no one to sit down and talk with over a Coke or coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the days of screen-doors slamming are over and technology has taken our personhood in a trade for consumerhood, but there is a price to be paid.
That price was always and is now non-negotiable
There were no votes as humanity moved past hunter-gathering to agriculture, on to an industrial age and from there to the technological age in which we live today. Farming brought food availability, industry created cities and technology brought untold miracles of information and connectivity. The price was loss of nomadic independence, agricultural labor, machines replacing men and, finally, the power of the individual voice.
We always paid the price and it was always worth it, but that doesn’t mean we understood it
Don’t take it personally that men (and women too) are living in cardboard boxes, while you complain about the price of groceries. Nor that there are no jobs for the university degrees that are required for a job. Don’t fret that graduates owe what was once the price of a home for that education and many have gone back to live with their parents. It’s not your business that health insurance is not transferable and an employee can’t leave his company for a better job because his kid has leukemia and that is a ‘pre-consisting condition’ at the better job.
The average age of a medical bankruptcy filer is 45 years old. 40% of Americans fear they won’t be able to afford health care in the upcoming year and 17% of adults with health care debt declared bankruptcy or lost their home because of it. As of April 2022, 14% of Americans with medical debt planned to declare bankruptcy later in the year because of it, but not to worry if you are among the lucky 86%.
We’ll understand the technological age as well, but only in fifty or a hundred years
We need conversations, lots of conversations and we’re not doing very well with that at the moment. If someone in your tribe was broke or sick or homeless, you’d help them. But if you’re a conservative, the broke and sick and homeless are mostly not your tribe. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re not out there, it just means you don’t see them.
The ’other side,’ no matter which side your on, is half of America and needs to be seen. This technological age we’re in is mostly about tribal conversations.
It can become the most socially and economically powerful age of all if we talk it through. We know what we need. We need opportunity and equity, wealth and fairness, more hands off and increasing hands held, more naming and far less shaming.
So, let’s get on with it.
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