We mostly live in digital echo-chambers of our own (unwitting) creation. Our Facebook feed and cable news choices filter stories and opinions that confirm our beliefs. I hear on a regular basis that Republicans and Democrats who are social friends can't talk to each other about politics. For meaningful debate and thought-provoking challenge, you have to make extra effort. It's countercultural to want to understand and learn from opponents. How sad for our democracy if that trend continues.
As Sean Blanda wrote recently, in an article entitled The Other Side is Not Dumb, the entirety of which I highly recommend,
I was reminded of this truth when I got a range of reactions to my recent column about Donald Trump's campaign. Everything from "If Trump wins, I'm moving to New Zealand" to "You're being too hard on Trump" to "Rabbi, stick to talking about Judaism." It's so tempting to fire off defensive responses by email, or join the internet comment fray. And yet, what does it accomplish?When someone communicates that they are not “on our side” our first reaction is to run away or dismiss them as stupid. To be sure, there are hateful, racist, people not worthy of the small amount of electricity it takes just one of your synapses to fire. I’m instead referencing those who actually believe in an opposing viewpoint of a complicated issue, and do so for genuine, considered reasons. Or at least, for reasons just as good as yours.This is not a “political correctness” issue. It’s a fundamental rejection of the possibility to consider that the people who don’t feel the same way you do might be right. It’s a preference to see the Other Side as a cardboard cut out, and not the complicated individual human beings that they actually are.
Moreover, when I write a column – like when I give a sermon – I'm looking to start a conversation. That doesn't mean I lack a point of view. But it also doesn't mean I expect everyone to agree. Quite the contrary: one of the best compliments to a sermon or column is for someone to disagree and want to engage. I welcome that! And I'm happy to say, I've had that from several respondents.
Both President Obama in his last State of the Union and Gov. Nikki Haley in her response called us to speak from our highest ideals and listen to each other as we work to fix America together. Unfortunately, we tend to reject the possibility that people with different views than ours might be right – and we also tend to reject even the chance that they might have well-considered, thoughtful opinions that differ from ours.
In that spirit: Can we talk?
Either about my Trump column, or the presidential race, or any issue you want to bring to the table. I'll set up shop at the following times and locations listed below. I invite you to join me to argue, to question, to challenge – and also to listen and learn. I think it's what our community and our country desperately need.
Rabbi David Segal
- Monday January 25, 11am-1:30pm, Bonfire Coffee, 433 Main St, Carbondale
- Tuesday January 26, 11am-1:30pm, Victoria's Espresso, 510 E. Durant, Aspen
- Thursday January 28, 11am-1:30pm, Saxy's Cafe, 104 Midland Ave, Basalt
- Or by appointment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 970-925-8245 x.1