The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It aint Venus and Mars people - how to get along with the other side

There has been much talk of late about the ever increasing divide between liberals and conservatives, and the voracity and hatred with which they oppose the other side. Honestly, politicians have always done this and I believe the seemingly grave increase in hateful rhetoric is a product of politicians and political activists alike taking advantage of the internet and 24/7 cable news networks. In any case, the main populace need not get sucked into the polarization vacuum, as much as those in Washington want you to (since it keeps them in their jobs). Here is my advice on how to get along with the other side.

First, stop making assumptions. We have a tendency to immediately identify someone as "republican" "democrat" or "liberal" "conservative" and then ascribe to them all of the views that are expressed by the party. This is very limiting. A few days ago I had a conversation with a liberal and politically active feminist who also happened to be completel against abortions. You may say that one cannot be a feminist and be Pro-Life, but I suspect after speaking with her you would be convinced too. On the flip side, I know many Republicans on campus, and many more in my homestate of Florida, who are entirely for gay marriage - their reasoning being any promotion of monogamy and reduction in promiscuity (whether perceived or actual) is a good thing for this country. One of my closest friends campaigned for Jeb Bush and is very much a card carrying member of the Republican party - he is both gay and completely against the death penalty. You must get to know the individual - understand why he or she ascribes to a certain political view. This will allow you to find common ground.

Second, stop going straight for the divisive issues. Obviously any discussion about, for example, the issue of abortions is going to factor in a great deal of emotions and probably very little logic or basis in scientific or legal fact in the end. Separation between church and state is another harrowing issue. Just don't go there - at least not until you have a base of understanding elsewhere. Go for broader issues - dealing with healthcare and the state, use of the military during disaster situations, reducing bureaucracy (something washington never wants to discuss, whether liberal or conservative, and something the citizenry should really consider...)

Third, learn to compromise. Some say that this is the job of the politicians, but in truth, in order to temper political extremism and indeed redefine politics as it exists among the citizenry, we must learn to look at the issues from the point of view of the opposition and consider ways in which both sides can prosper. The vitriol and violent speech is a product of politicians trying to convince us that we cannot think for ourselves, and instead that we should entrust them to fight for the proverbial cause. We must look at all candidates critically and consider whether THEY are looking at the issues in the right way. Blindly fighting for a particular endstate that would be agreeable to only one segment of the population may be far more harmful than considering all sides of an issue. The politicians, by definition of their jobs, must take a side. When we consider a particular issue, however, we must consider our neighbors as well and think critically about whether either of the two endstates that the parties propose are indeed the best course of action.


  • At 12:36 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    hear, hear

  • At 12:41 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    actually, to tack on a complementary statement here, i want to point out the tendency we have to think that people who disagree with us need to be verbally attacked. The ability to debate, in these circumstances, suffers as we choose confrontation over deliberation.

    We need to alter our mindset to encourage lively yet non-confrontational and non-judgmental debates. Every time we approach a conversation with no flexibility, we are setting the stage for a confrontation. Don't expect to win arguments; irreconcilable differences between individuals are part of life. Just remember that all ideas are in competition with other ideas; you race the other person to convince enough people that your views are correct to create a majority--expect that many people will never agree with you, and let them be.

  • At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sean you make an excelent point regarding politicians, but that word in itself is p[roblematic. Have americans lowered their standards so much that all they expect from their leaders is politics? When did the nations leaders stop being statesman, practicers of statecraft? Statesmanship seems to be a lost art these days.

    Another point you touched on is the ipossibility of getting a clear picture these days. Information overload has been a bane on society rather than a boon. Especially since it's all spin and hype- finding out the truth is nigh impossible. Just a little expirement. Who's in the majority? Ask anyone and they'll tell you they are. And back it up incessantly and have talking heads on networks backing it up as well. Good look figuring out what's really going on.

    Information saturation has reached a point of indecipherable static.


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