Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moderation (Slice 8)

I'm getting a little worried that moderation is becoming archaic.

There have been a couple things today that have put me in mind of this. One, a conversation about politics--not a political conversation, but a discussion of what politics has become--with a coworker; the other, my and others' reactions to the Kony 2012 YouTube video.

What concerns me is that we seem to be forgetting that it's okay to be middle of the road about things. Sometimes you don't have to pick a side. There are times when you can weigh evidence and be, yourself, a hung jury; or when you, frankly, just don't care enough to investigate and choose. By questioning something, you suddenly paint yourself as being against it, as taking a firm stand. By not arguing against something else, you must be condoning it. That's exhausting, and there's something to be said for an occasional stance somewhere in the middle.

And as we lose moderation, we also (related? not?) are losing our ability to have a civil, let alone friendly, discourse with someone who disagrees with us. An in-depth discussion is messy, and can lead to you reconsidering your own views. It's much cleaner to dismiss, label, name-call, besmirch. Maybe I'm just naive, but I thought we used to be able to do this: a Republican and a Democrat, a Muslim and a Christian, a pro and a con could sit down and talk something over, examine one another's views, and leave the better for it. Did I imagine this? Because it seems increasingly rare. Everyone seems settled in camps, and no one goes out after dark. The few who stumble about in the open are dismissed as wahoos.  And the sad thing is that as two sides grow increasingly entrenched, they alienate those who were undecided, and those undecideds become increasingly jaded and apathetic--it's not their hill to die on, and fighting seems to be the only option.

I'm sorry if I'm being equal parts vague and jaded here, myself. But I've spent a good chunk of the day talking specifics, and I don't feel like getting into them anymore. It just saddens me that we're losing the very democratic (or republican, if you prefer) keystone of discourse, political or otherwise.

My challenge, both to myself and to you: Go have a chat with someone who has a radically different opinion about something that you. Tell them ahead of time what you're doing, so they know they're not being set up. And ask them to talk to you about why they feel that way--not as a defense, not in preparation for your turn, but just to listen to them. Really listen to what they say: what they think, and why; how they came to this way of thinking. And then thank them for sharing, and change the subject to something innocuous, and go on being friends.


  1. I am going to take a stand here and completely agree with you. I would love to see some civility return to discourse, public or otherwise, as well as the ability to see someone else's perspective, whether or not you end up thinking differently as a result.

  2. I love your challenge. And your eloquent way of unpacking it. I can hear the weariness coming through your words. :) Thanks so much. This slice inspired me.

  3. Wow - I am with you completely. AND!! I am so heartened to hear from someone with this perspective.

  4. Funny you mention this...yesterday Allen read an article on Yahoo about some lady who was discovered to still be getting food stamps after having won the lottery. All of the comments for it were pure vitriol: "That lazy!@(*# needs to stop using my tax dollars," etc. So, Allen posted a comment saying, essentially, "How is insulting this person going to do anything productive to the problem?" And then all of the haters on Yahoo comments turned their vitriol to him for being the voice of reason! It was kind of shocking the things that were said to him just because he pointed out that insulting this lady was not actually useful in solving the problem of her getting food stamps while having won a lottery. Rather disheartening sign of our public. I do wonder if we are all becoming less civil or if public discourse has always been like this, and now it is just obvious because social media allows us to broadcast everything so effortlessly. One thing is for sure: it's so much easier to shoot your mouth off and be heard by millions than it used to be.