Why civil discussion of politics and social issues is so difficult

I want to get this off of my chest prior to driving home. I just read about the murder of the police officers in Dallas, just the day after reading about more unarmed black men getting killed by law enforcement (one victim: by all accounts an excellent citizen; I say this because all too often the victim’s criminal record (if he has one) is brought up).

It is sad; here is one person’s lament.

Obviously, the deaths and violence saddens me. But what makes it harder is that these things are very difficult to discuss outside of “safe bubbles” of like minded friends.

1. People bring different points of view and different life experiences to the table. I don’t know how many times I’ve tired to have a conversation with a conservative only to find that they have no conception as to why an “innocent, law abiding” black (or brown) person would fear the police! Of course, in their lives, they’ve never had to have such fear.

2. On the other hand, “activists” seem to forget that police officers are human just like the rest of us; they are subject to fear and to reasoning inductively just like the rest of us. And when police screw up (as we all do), the results can be tragic. The police are human beings, not robots.

3. It is so easy to demonize “the other” (e. g.: “all people who support X suck”); here is a very balanced article about Trump supporters which I urge liberals to read.

4. Sometimes events are complicated and contain nuance. So I am loathe to jump on the “this person who supposedly did X is evil and stupid” bandwagon. Example: here is an excellent article about the judge in the “Stanford swimmer rape case”. Upshot: judges have to follow the law, and the judges have to rule on what is brought before them by the district attorneys. And no, Hillary Clinton’s e-mail issue really isn’t like some of the other “mishandling of classified materials” issues. Example: there is a big difference between having an e-mail thread which has an e-mail message with some classified elements in it and deliberately downloading known, sensitive classified stuff onto your own laptop for some personal reason (book, espionage, etc.).

5. And when you discuss, or attempt to discuss this issue outside of your bubble, some well intentioned but “less than informed” person will probably litter your post with false “talking points” or..perhaps, at best, “partial truths”, taken from non-credible sources (e. g. Newsmax, Rush Limbaugh, Joe the Plummer, Natural News, Food babe, creationist websites, anti-vaccination websites, Huffington Post blogs, Salon, etc.). “Bernie is going to win California”, “Benghazi”, “scientists are Monsanto shills”, “scientists just hate God and know that the Bible is literally true”, etc.

If you try to point them in the right direction, they’ll just think that you are either lying or deluded; in their mind they have zero reason to listen to you. If they will reject a Nobel Laureate scientist or economist, they won’t listen to you. And it is bad form to remind them that someone who scored a 22 on their ACT or struggled with *business calculus* is highly unlikely to be able to grasp the details of a technical issue that requires knowledge of science and/or statistics to understand.

Lest you accuse me of arrogance: ok, you might have a point, but I am prone to making mistakes as well. That is why I rely so much on experts in the field, when they are talking about their own discipline (e. g. Paul Krugman in economics, the lawyers who wrote the article about the judge in the Stanford rape case, etc.).

And I have doubts all of the time; this is why I am loathe to jump aboard the “instant outrage at X” movements; I realize that there is more to the issue than I am realizing.

End rant; time to drive home.


July 8, 2016 - Posted by | social/political | , , , ,

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