This is a letter to the Left and the Right. We aren’t as dumb, obnoxious, ignorant, mean-spirited, and absolutely mindless as you think. The reason I address the Left and the Right is because both think the same of each other. The Left thinks the Right have lost their minds and vice versa. According to media of absolutely every kind (the Left and the Right), all of us have gone insane.
I can say for certain that we have not. Unfortunately, we sane ones, of which we all are the majority, do not get much publicity. Since we do not get much publicity, we are left on the outside looking in on insane conversations that make it seem like those people are us.
When we feel like we aren’t part of the conversation (the majority of us who actually make sense), then it leads us to give up on the very idea of conversation. This is not something that might happen; it is something that does happen.
When we give up on conversation, the primary method God gave us to create and build relationship, then we take on a mentality of fight or flight. This fight or flight is not actually its purest form where a decision of either is made instantaneous. No, the flight mentality has already taken effect in so many. Most of us have already taken flight from conversation because we have given up on the idea of conversing because we feel we have been drowned out of the conversation.
When we adopt this mentality, the first thing we will do, when stopped for conversation by the opposing side, is to fight. We fight because we have already given up on trying to persuade or even listen (keep in mind that persuasion can never take place without listening). Therefore, although we haven’t actually been removed from the conversation—but perception is reality—we become what we claim not to be, which is one of the insane (those incapable of civil conversation).
I AM A WITNESS
I have had people tell me that they have given up on trying to persuade people or even have a conversation with someone from the other side. Why? Because the thoughts and ideas on the other side are stupid. And because the other side only lashes out and yells. OK. I can understand why you would decline having a conversation with that individual person. But honestly consider this: people think a certain way because of their environment, their circumstances, parenting, relying on media (something all of us thought we could do growing up), their college professor, or their inner circle of friends. Guess what? One of those reasons is why you are the way you are and the way you think.
So when I hear someone say they are just waiting for the next Civil War or they won’t be friends with someone anymore because they can’t see eye-to-eye or they just aren’t going to have hard conversations anymore, I feel more of a sense of urgency about the situation than when I see someone on the news or social media acting the fool (then again I do try to avoid both of those outlets as much as possible).
The sense of urgency I feel isn’t because they won’t have the chance to persuade someone from the other side; but because, since they have already taken flight, they have defaulted to fight when the time comes.
I implore you not to give up on your fellow countrymen. That’s right. The person who thinks very different from you is still your fellow countrymen. I ask that you continue to strive to make yourself better and smarter, and to please continue to engage each other in conversation.
Don’t engage to persuade. Engage to create relationship. Engage to listen. Engage to understand the other side. Don’t point. Don’t accuse. Don’t be reactionary. Just listen. Keep listening. Listen some more. And then speak. And while you’re at it, every once in a while ask a question instead of making a statement. Try starting with asking, “Why?” For example: “Why do you feel that way?” “Why do you think that would work?” You’ll be surprised at how much you will learn from someone, even if you completely disagree with them.
If you aren’t very good at conversation, especially conversation that may turn into debate, then I ask that you read a few articles I wrote a while back on the art and rules of debate:
Abiding by the Laws of Debate Part 1