How does one navigate community political discourse in this age of apparent propaganda, half truths, and dogmatic black and white thinking?
A government clerk engaged me this week on my thoughts about Michael Wolff’s runaway best seller on Washington dystopia. When I opined that the book presented a significant amount of information that was critical, that there appeared to be substantial dysfunction and lack of moral compasses in the current administration, centered at the top, he seemed to agree, then caught himself.
He then abruptly sidestepped the conversation, to praise the recent federal tax code changes, expressing delight that Apple would now bring back billions of dollars into the American economy.
While that statement would warrant some serious fact checking and deep analysis of public tax policy, international macroeconomics and trade policies, my conversational partner quickly nodded off my obvious skepticism of his statement, and turned to his next customer.
I was left hanging, with an unresolved conversation, and yet another encounter of bold statements unsupported by intelligent discourse and informed debate. Such is our current level of community conversation and social dialogue. Conversation by ambush, and don’t go too deep.
Such encounters run counter to our duty as citizen to be of a curious mind and to demand that a point of view stand on its own, based upon truth and reason, and at least a mostly well informed factual foundation.
We need to be on guard against false logic, propaganda, deceptive thinking and hidden agendas.
Instead, I am a seeker of Truth and leading a purpose-driven, meaningful life aimed at bettering humankind, and being congruent with thoughtful, goal-oriented moral values. That conversational topic can actually challenge all of us to assess our own views, and perhaps grow our minds, even alter our opinions.
In my questions and along the path of my search for truth and moral focus, I aim to strive to focus on thoughtful logic, challenging questions and science-based methodology.
In applying these principles and processes to current events and publicly expressed and popular viewpoints, I notice a general lack of the application of researched facts, moral principles and thoughtful, persuasive reasoning.
Instead, the rhetoric is dogmatic, emotional (primarily fear-based), and beset with half-truths, falsehoods, and unsupported conclusions.
It often appears that the goal of the one who makes the declaration of a certain political view is often not seeking a lively debate, truth or intellectual development. Instead, there is an attempt to persuade by false logic, even outright lies, and changing the argument in mid-course, a mixing of two distinct trains of thought and reasoning, hoping, apparently, that the listener would simply agree with both conclusions and points of view. And, all the while ignoring the concept that perhaps many issues and social questions are inherently complex, and that reasonable people may reach different conclusions and viewpoints.
Life, however, and its complexities, rarely allow that luxury of simultaneously accepting two viewpoints on two vaguely related topics. It is an unsatisfying mix of apples and oranges.
I simply want to engage in informed and interactive conversation. Perhaps in that, we will each grow in our thoughts, and be better informed citizens in our community.
I have been thinking about what you wrote and saying “fences make good neighbors” sprung to mind. A Google search found this poem I would like to share.
BY ROBERT FROST
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Wall building can be a Faustian bargain. It can seem such any easy way control thing and to protect oneself. But it can “wall us in” and make us ignorant, smaller, and less safe in the long-term.