My words but a whisper, your deafness a shout.
I haven’t written as much as I’d like lately. It’s frustrating in the same way it’s humbling – it’s hard to reach people who don’t already agree on some level with the things I’m arguing for, and on the occasion I can get new eyeballs on things, it just gets lost in the noise.
I may make you feel, but I can’t make you think.
I think a part of that is that one of the unwritten rules of polite society is that we generally don’t confront people to challenge their views on politics, money, and other forms of religion. For every Trump supporter you argue with, there’s probably at least a dozen others you just roll your eyes at because engagement isn’t worth the effort. Heck, I’m guilty of that too. It’s a cultural issue, not an individual one. By shying away from discussing our beliefs with others, we shy away from analyzing them for ourselves. We should think more and +like less.
And the sandcastle virtues are all stripped away
By the tidal destruction, the moral melee.
But we don’t, because polite society runs on compromise. We agree not to start uncomfortable discussions with any but our close friends, and generally fail to do even that. As a result, your average person can get through a basic day without having to discuss the philosophy of their politics for half an hour on the subway. A fair compromise, sure, as long as the big problems get addressed. As a result of that comprise and its attendant assumption, we avoid thinking about the deep cracks in the mask of justice and freedom Lady Liberty wears. At least, until the atrocities start to pile up.
And your new shoes are worn at the heels
Then we discuss them, but always with a subtext of “can we please find a reason not to talk about this” like Tamir Rice and the pellet gun, or how Michael Brown smoked pot and shoplifted, or if Freddie Gray hadn’t done something to get himself arrested, he never would have died. We look for reasons behind these things that are more palatable then “the American justice system and a too – large portion of its agents are racist as all hell”. And then we can stop thinking about it.
And you shake your head, and say it’s a shame.
Sure, it’s hard and scary to think Big Thinks and it’s not a lot of fun to really put a large amount of thought into a complicated issue. It’s also a necessary thing if we’re going to make the world a place where everybody gets a fair shot. In the words of Michael Arnovitz – a far better writer than I am and definitely worthy of your eyeballs – “…bigotry is a societal virus. And to one extent or another, most of us are infected. Our job is not to throw things at people who point this out, and it’s not to pretend that we are fine while we walk around coughing and sneezing on each other. Our job is to get better.”
Now I’m not suggesting we start chatting up people at random about their political leanings. That’s a good way to get banned from your favorite Arby’s. (Don’t hate. Arby’s is good.) Start small. Next time you get one of Those Emails or Those Facebook Posts from that one person you went to school with so you don’t feel right about unfriending them or blocking their email – you know the ones, the ones where they’re hollering about how the political candidate you’d dismissed as the latest Villain Of The Week – ask them privately about it. What do you like about this candidate? What don’t you like about the opposition? What issues are most important to you? Here’s what issues are important to me.
You’re going to get a lot of pushback, especially at first, because people are used to political discussion being a binary of ‘absolutely no discussion whatsoever’ or ‘holy war’. We can’t be afraid to talk about what’s important. We can’t be afraid to gain alternative perspectives. After all, if we’re afraid to really explore our thinking and challenge our assumptions, then how confident can we really be that we’re in the right?
We can build our invincible fortresses of moral ‘rightness’ all we want, but until we recognize the cracks in the foundation, they won’t stand up to a whole lot of punishment.
Would you be the fool stood in his suit of armor
or the wiser man who rushes clear
(Post title and italic text from Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull)