I’m kind of naive.
I’m kind of naive. And I’m trying to stay that way. But with the right approach.
I believe opinion bubbles are a bad thing. Groups of like-minded people only ever talking to each other, never considering other viewpoints. And I dearly, desperately wish I could remember the name of the guy (he was interviewed on The Daily Show for crying out loud) whose study showed that moderates who do this, on any branch of the political spectrums (spectrae?) will push each other into more extreme views. Our country, our planet, does not need more extremism. We need more cooperation, compromise, and concubines. (Sorry, needed a third “co” for my list. Moving on.)
So I’m left with a determination to find people who don’t agree with me, and talk to them. This is dangerous and difficult in America, a land that has forgotten how to discuss and remembers only how to fight. “You don’t agree with me? You must be my enemy! Mrrrah!”
But standing around agreeing isn’t very interesting. Testing your opinions to see if you still agree with them, that’s fun! So I was terribly excited to learn that my employer encourages us to talk about real issues with people. To challenge their assumptions, even if it makes them uncomfortable. Excellent!
Now I just need to practice being tactful. Crud-monkeys.
I don’t remember the specifics, but it was basically “Islam is a religion of violence!” followed by assorted xenophobic foaming at the mouth and idiotic posturing devoid of any understanding of the world, much less compassion for it. I thought my comment was pretty good. Respectful. Non-mocking. Fact-based and reasonable, even in the face of their chest-pounding idiocy. Something small, about my personal experience with Muslims and in Muslim countries, how I’ve always found them to be marvelous, welcoming, kind people with inspiring hospitality.
The response? It was interesting to be on the receiving end of a deluge of hatred, misplaced rage, and threats of violence. Thank you, facebook, for that lovely experience. Turn notifications off, please.
But I was fighting the good fight! Right?
“No, no you shouldn’t have made that comment.” Said my distressingly insightful British friend. “Because when you advocate a different view in a group like that, you’re not offering a different opinion, you’re providing a focal point for their rabid self-agreement. They’re not going to remember your one dissenting view, they’re going to be reassured by their twenty angry responses. It’s counterproductive.”
Damn. He was right.
So what now? Don’t try? Let everyone keep drilling down into the bedrock of their own unquestioned certainty, until we all reach the core and the planet fractures apart? No. I work hard at maintaining an open mind, and following the light of that British lantern, I can look for others who do the same, from different starting grounds. But when people have already taken the bit of their self-certainty in their teeth? Let them ride off into the angry sunset. I’ll be here if they ever come back.
So what does that mean for my professional parlance? Call me travel-philic, but I believe anyone who pays time and money to go abroad is probably a rather questioning, open mind. My people! Drawn from all over the country, I look forward to a beautiful diversity of opinion, from outside my Bay Area bubble (which is not as progressive as it thinks it is, by the way).
And in the meantime, how about the much-reviled blogosphere? Anybody have anything they’d like to talk about? (Special points if you can advocate for Trump. That’s a viewpoint I thoroughly do not understand.)