I know this is going to be hard to believe, but I actually had a really interesting and enjoyable conversation about politics last night. What makes this even more shocking is that the conversation was with someone who has drastically different views than I do. We actually disagreed, but managed to do so in a rational and respectful manner.
I bet you didn’t even know that was possible… Typically the second politics comes up in a conversation everyone involved gets defensive and the discussion quickly deteriorates into an argument. An argument in which both sides refuse to even listen to or consider the perspective of the other, choosing instead to talk louder and louder to try and drown out the other person’s voice.
I should know. I’ve tried to have many such conversations, and I have very rarely succeeded. There are a few things that bother me about this, not the least of which is the fact that I really enjoy a good, intelligent political discussion and I find that I can so rarely engage in one. Most political conversation is completely unproductive and not worth the time.
Which brings me to the most important reason this situation bothers me: the discussion is typically completely unproductive. See, in my opinion, conversation should have benefits other than just the benefits that come from social contacts in general. Political conversation… honest, open, political conversation… conversation where both sides are actually willing to consider the possibility that they may be wrong, has the potential to make a real difference in our society and for our country. Generally in political discussions I find myself up against an opponent who spews biased nonsense with no ability to back up their opinions with facts or even with thoughts of their own.
We are each individually responsible for helping to make this country great by being involved in our political system, and everything we do to be involved… protesting, writing our representatives, even just showing up at the polls and voting intelligently… it all makes a difference. We all must work together to make a difference and to find a compromise that will work for the country as a whole. If only we could make that happen.
So, what is it that is getting in the way of productive political discussion among individual citizens?
I’m sure there are a number of factors, but I think I have pinpointed a big one. While resolving it probably won’t entirely solve the problem, it could be a good starting point if we could get enough people to understand it and put it into action.
We all have to stop trusting the media and learn to do our own research. I don’t care what your favorite news source is, it’s not entirely neutral. Everyone has a bias, the only difference is the extent of that bias or how extreme the views of that source are. The bias, as much as we’d like for it not to be, is ALWAYS THERE. And I am not saying you have to completely shun your favorite news source, they all provide some useful information and perspectives in this seemingly never ending search for the facts.
I’m saying that you should be reading ALL of the sources. Not all at once, of course. Not even all of the content on all of the sources. Who has the time for that? Personally I read CNN, BBC, Fox News, Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post, and my local news website. And I watch… Jon Stewart! But there’s also ABC, MSNBC, and any number of other websites you can check out.
No matter what sources you choose, I truly believe that when coming to conclusions regarding political issues, you should be looking to see what the various sources say, and you should be comparing what those sources say to the actual facts of the issue at hand.
I know… I know… sounds crazy.
But since, as I noted above, so many people just don’t know where to start. I have put together what I hope is a simple to follow, common sense guide to researching political issues and articles. Read it. Comment on it. Help me improve it or expand it.
Looking forward to discussing politics with you!!