Political Discourse in America

I treasure a time during the 1980s, when I worked as a programmer about 20 miles south of my home. I used to carpool – me and my boss, who was more to the left of me, and another worker, a woman from Belgium who I would describe as the younger European “Green” generation.

We had wonderful, respectful conversations as we meandered our way through the traffic. For me it was enjoyable hearing other viewpoints. To open my mind to them, and weigh my beliefs against these new viewpoints.

I can remember Liz (the Belgian woman) and I discussing the necessity of NATO at the time; she of course thought it wasn’t necessary while I brought up the origins of the Cold War and the Soviet Union postwar. She thought Reagan’s installations of the Pershing missiles in Europe were a provocation while I felt that they were a necessary balance and deterrent.

We both conceded some points of the other.

Those kind of discussions today are virtually extinct – each polarized group  in their own camp, with metaphoric barbed wire preventing any one who is different. I don’t know if that is the best metaphor, but nobody these days seems to be open to any ideas or thought that run contrary to their own political dogma. In fact, each side considers the other side to be Neanderthals.

I have heard it said many times that this is the most polarized time since the Civil War. I think we all judge history through the prism of our own life experiences. I don’t believe that it is the most polarized time.

I remember the Vietnam era.

My generation was certainly polarized between those who felt they had a moral duty to protest the war and those who felt that they had a duty to support their country.

I think to this day there is a gulf among my generation.

And at least today nobody’s bombing anything, or killing those on the other side.

I know during Vietnam the 2 sides weren’t talking to each other.

Anyway a Lexican brought up this op-ed from the New York Times that I believe bears reading, regardless of your political beliefs.

I live and work in Washington. But I’m not a politics junkie. To me, politics is like the weather — it changes a lot, people drone on about it constantly, and “good” is mostly subjective. I like winter, you like summer; you’re a liberal, I’m a conservative. In the 2012 presidential election season, my wife and I had a bumper sticker custom-made for our Volvo that read “Vegans for Romney” just to see the reaction of other Washington drivers…

2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “motive attribution asymmetry” — the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate — suggests an answer. The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred — and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

I think the author is, to use a phrase from the Vietnam era, “right on“.

It’s worth reading.

H/T to doorkeeper.


1 Comment

Filed under Politics and Culture

One response to “Political Discourse in America

  1. Debra Reynolds (doorkeeper)

    Good job, Bill! You should write more often….a LOT more, and more often.

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