I don’t know where to go with this post. In a way, it’s like two people debating two different subjects, each person making arguments in a different language. Have you ever felt like you have experienced this? I think this is often the case for those of us who are less than thrilled with the political options we have before us. We are left scratching our heads wondering what the heck is going on. Or maybe a better way to describe it would be to use the idea of a circus – there are different acts all going on at the same time, all while the clowns are wrecking havoc on everything.
At any rate, I came across an article that really struck me and I think perfectly identifies where we are as a society – two, or even multiple sides who are so far from seeing eye-to-eye that there is a complete lack of understanding how anyone could think about the world differently.
The article uses a Radiolab episode to talk about racial issues. It uses a real-life event of a debate competition where the team that won did so with what would easily be considered controversial methods – turning every debate into a debate on race.
Here’s where this article is a perfect representation of the severe divide we face. The Radiolab part does a good job of describing the situation and analyzing it and presenting one way of looking the situation.
Here’s a great quote from the piece:
…the explosion of arguments centered in identity makes it difficult to separate arguments from people.
The author of the article had difficulty listening to the argument though. He was more concerned with being right. And even in that, he makes some convincing arguments that some would identify with, like his concluding paragraphs:
There is no difference between that white conservative woman and the black liberal debaters in the Radiolab story. We literally could not have a discussion about the issue, that woman and I, because the very structure of normal debate (not forensics, but just ordinary give-and-take) she took to be entirely subjective. In the end, she took my disagreement with her as a rejection of her identity.
This is where we are in this country. It’s not a left or a right thing exclusively. If we get to the point where most people believe that reality is socially constructed, then the only reality that will make sense to anybody is the reality of force.
This statement above is the best stated description of the divide facing the US today – there are those who argue from an subjective identity standpoint versus those that claim the mantle of objective fact and/or truth. I don’t use subjective and objective as derisive labels here, but rather, I think they fit with each side of this debate. Subjective really does fit with identity and objective really does fit with facts. However, it doesn’t mean either one of these sides is right though or completely wrong either. I’m not focused here on who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s not the point.
The point is that you can see how big a divide there is between the subjective identity argument from the objective truth argument. We see this same argument being played out in the whole debate about who gets to use which bathrooms. Neither of these sides are really all that interested in hearing the arguments of the other, or gaining understanding of how the other side could come to their conclusion. They are only interested in being right.
The danger with that is best summed up with the author’s last statement:
…the only reality that will make sense to anybody is the reality of force.
When being right is most important, then everything else takes second place – a distant second place. This isn’t new in human history. It’s just the latest version of it. It demands that we choose sides in a battle that we aren’t interested in fighting. It demands loyalty to a side we’d rather not have to choose. It is narrow-minded and often it lacks creativity or really any desire to resolve conflict – rather it demands compliance. In that sense it is lazy. There are solutions to these divisions, if only we take the time, we listen and hear what is really important and open ourselves up to new ideas.