There’s a great discussion going on at Kat Coble’s place about talk radio, political discourse, and civility. She used as her launching pad EstrogenFest 2007, which happened up at Mack’s place this past weekend. Hearing the wonderful stories of great conversation and sweet camaraderie, I feel a tinge of jealousy. Now, I’ll never go so far as pining for pregnancy, as Jonathan Hickman did (the very thought seems frivolous to a man who can never even pass along his genetic material), but, I must admit, hearing the stories made me wish I were female and in Aunt B’s good graces. Sometimes, I long for more than the “parallel play” that comes along with most male friendships.
But, that wasn’t where I wanted to go with this.
Anyway, Kat wonders why more of our discourse, including talk radio, cannot be like it was at Mack’s. She gives a contradistinction:
Part of the “fellowship” was us talking about areas where we disagree, but realising that either we didn’t disagree as much as we thought we did or that we didn’t really have a full understanding of the other “side”s beliefs. I’m a conservative libertarian (Sorry to all the Davids who disagree on this, but it’s true.) There were others there who were conservative-ish, several progressives and more than a few who seem to defy categorisation–if only because they don’t talk that much about politics.
We had fun and civil discussions, from which we came away having learned more about our friends.
I’m going to give my opinion, saying up front that, yes, I know I wasn’t there. But, being almost as old as Mack :), I think I’ve lived long enough to know quite a bit about interpersonal relationships and discourse.
There appear to be two things at play. Both have to do with mindset. The first is intent. If you show up looking for a fight, you’ll get one. If you seek friendship, you’ll get that. Knock, seek, all that stuff. If you read carefully the words of each of the attendees, one thing stands clear: each person attending was carrying a burden (or two, or twenty-four), and what they each desired most was rest and healing. This desire was bigger than anything else.
As an aside, it was fascinating reading the accounts, how, no matter where each was coming from, each desired , and arrived at, the same place. How anyone could view this particular convergence and believe that life is a random accident is beyond me. But, I digress.
Anyway, this leads to the second mindset that fosters good communication, even amongst “enemies”: a belief in a common bond greater than any, or all of the people present.
This is what’s missing in our general political discourse. We don’t understand that we’re on the same side anymore.
If anybody thinks Lintilla and I don’t argue, they’re crazier than I am. Yet, the tiffs we have are always with the backdrop our love for each other. There is no need to get all worked up, because in the end, whatever it is we are arguing about is so much smaller than the bond between us.
There used to be a concept in American politics that is all but gone: the water’s edge. In other words, our political disagreements are insignificant compared to our willingness to defend one another from foreign invasion. This concept was true of my brothers and me growing up. Man, would we fight! Yet, my older brother defended me on several occasions. He might have been tormenting me a few moments earlier, but, by golly, nobody from outside the family would do that!
And that’s what’s missing. Our “discussions”, if they can be called that, are no longer held within the framework of commonness. Oh, I think we’d still defend one another in case of invasion, but we refuse to use that knowledge as a backdrop. Sean Hannity shouts because he truly sees Democrats as the enemy. I have no doubt that many Democrats think of him the same way. None can see anything bigger than the disagreement.
But there is. Friendship. Love. A common desire to just…rest. Conversations that are cloaked in the safeness of the “bigger” know the proper tone.
Could this translate itself to a popular talk radio show? Could a right-wing talk show that truly asked for input from liberals about how to best see the end-game in Iraq, with reasoned back-and-forth discussions work? Could a left-wing talk show that saw George Bush, or any other conservative, as a human being with regular joys, pains, worries and loves, instead of McChimpy stupid-pants or whatever the pejorative of the day is, could this show be popular?
I think so. The key is this. You ask a question. The other person listens to what you asked, processes it, then tells you what they think. You listen. You process their words, express any commonality, then any differences. You learn from each other.
Friends talk like this.