A former classmate of mine I’ve known since elementary school is a liberal. Karen married one and I think he converted her. She and I have exchanged pleasantries and a few political barbs on our Facebook wall posts. Some of the exchanges have grown a bit spicy. She calls me a far-right columnist and I call her a bleeding-heart liberal extremist.
But we are choosing to continue sparring with each other and exchanging political positions and opinions in our posts. We started sparring when NBC decided to allow homosexual couples to vie for their wedding contest. I posted my objections on Scriptural grounds and Karen shot back her defense of NBC and homosexual marriage.
Off we went.
Our posts soon bled over into the political arena. She sang Obama’s praises for saving the world and lambasted George Bush for ruining the country. I ripped apart Obama’s shameful, outrageous politics and his tax-and-spend rubber stamp Congress and told her how wonderful Republicans are.
What we didn’t do was get angry and shout at each other in capital letters. What we didn’t do was walk away from the debate or write each other off.
I hope we’ll continue our spirited posts from the far side of both political persuasions. Karen has 108 days and counting before (I hope) all her political fortunes change and voters put Republicans back in office. Then we’ll have some checks and balances on her liberal hero. (I had to slip in one of my opinions. Hey, it’s my blog. It’s my editorial!)
I like Karen. I don’t want to alienate her. We grew up in the same neighborhood. Had the same friends. Played kick-the-can with the neighborhood kids. Played in the band together all through junior high and high school, went on band trips together. Our families went to the same church together. Karen and I went to church camp together and were active in the same Sunday School, Bible School, youth group and bell choir.
That’s the foundation for our friendship and the backdrop for our debates now. Karen and I share the blessing of an ability and willingness (so far) to debate without the extreme prejudice and polarized verbal attacks that mark most debate in this country today. Our society has lost the ability to share opposing views, to espouse political or religious beliefs in conversations with others without fear of being viciously attacked or shouted down by someone with opposing views or beliefs.
We no longer have a venue to promote persuasive discourse. Talk show hosts have become bellicose blabbermouths (both conservative and liberal). They interrupt their guests and quash opinions that don’t agree with their own.
The closest we come, in my view, to legitimate debate in this country are the rare political debates sponsored by some TV and cable networks just before elections or primaries. The networks (successfully, I might add) serve as disinterested third-party moderators. The debates feature two opposing candidates who both get the opportunity to respond to questions posed by a host or the audience. Debate moderators impose ground rules and time limits to control the debate. The audience gets to hear both sides equally and decide if they agree or don’t agree. Nobody shouts. Nobody rants and raves. Nobody gets angry.
I hope Karen and I will continue our debates. Will either of us proselytize the other? I doubt it. She has entrenched herself on on one side of the fence, and I on the other. That’s okay. I think I can safely say we are both enjoying our exchanges. I might add that Karen is one of the few liberals I actually enjoy chatting with, in large part because she doesn’t preach to me or condescend to me or treat me like I’m an idiot for being a far-right conservative. But many liberals I know treat me like I’m stupid and they all the right answers. Many of my conservative friends, on the other hand, are just as prejudiced and intolerant of liberals.
That’s the problem — most citizens (conservatives and liberals alike) have become political persuasions of extremism. The political mind-set of citizens in this country now seems to be: I’m right and you’re not only wrong, you’re stupid too!
I hope Karen and I can both seek some middle ground, common beliefs or ideals we can build on in future discussions.
Thank you, Karen, for being a tolerant liberal. I thank God that you and I were both raised in Christian homes by Christian parents who taught us life long values and helped us build a foundation with the guiding principles of God and His Word. Though we chose differing ideological paths along the way, we have lots of common ground which will never change, and for which we can both be eternally grateful. I’d like to think we can perpetuate our friendship and our debates on that foundation.
Will this country ever find its way back from such extreme polarized thinking? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe we may continue down the path towards further polarization, anger, bitterness and hatred. I believe the chasm grows wider every day.
Real, healthy debate (which might help us resolve some of our most serious social and cultural conflicts) may very well become a casualty.