Last year ended well. During the holidays I was delighted to hear from so many of you about your lives and families. Thanks for staying in touch.
Our new year got off to a great start. We took a cruise with Shane’s blended family. Miracle of miracles – I made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the cruise without gaining weight!!!
Another special treat to start 2020 was the addition of several new people to this blog. One new person made an excellent observation. In my last blog, I pointed out — single bad instances of police misconduct, played up in the press, are often over-generalized.
My friend made the observation that there is also evidence that a graphic example can have a beneficial effect. A recent example would be the photo of the father and child who drowned while trying to cross into the U.S. He believes that example had a more powerful effect than a slew of statistics depicting the plight of immigrants at the border. Likewise, Paul Slovic, among others, has shown the impact of visual displays of undernourished children, harm to the environment, or abandoned animals have positive impacts on our understanding of our world.
Despite the good start to 2020, I am more concerned about this year than any year in my awareness. I might have been more concerned about WWII but I was too young to be aware of the danger to our nation.
This year I am not concerned about a threat outside our nation. I am concerned about the internal strife we face going into a presidential election. My concern is one I have shared previously: we fail to dialog on important issues. One-sided approaches are taken by both sides.
For example, in my lifetime, many people have called for racial dialog. Eric Holder, the former Attorney General, went so far as to claim Americans are cowards to have a dialog about racial issues. The responses to the calls have typically been weak. Seldom have I observed what I would consider racial dialog.
In my opinion, the biggest problem is not the content but the process. People are willing to talk about race, they are unwilling or unable to dialog about race. A dialog takes courage whether it is about race or any other topic.
A dialog requires BOTH interested parties to make a commitment to listen to each other, to be willing to acknowledge the strengths in the position of the other side and to be willing to admit the weaknesses in their own positions. Then and only then have the parties earned the right to criticize each other.
I have found dialog missing in many aspects of life in addition to race. Very few people, whether on television, the print media, the internet or the living room, engage in dialog about politics, religion, sports, personal relationships or a host of other topics. Rather than dialog, most people make self-righteous claims for their own positions and mawkish put-downs of the other side.
To make it meaningful to the present day, consider the following: to have dialog a Democratic supporter would have to be willing to listen and acknowledge any good actions Trump takes as president, admit any mistake Democrats make and thus earn the right to criticize President Trump. Similarly any Trump supporter would have to be willing listen, admit mistakes Trump makes and, acknowledge good things Democrats do in order to earn the right to criticize Democrats..
Political discourse in America is an embarrassment. Rather than a dialog about the strengths and weaknesses of positions, I hear diatribe. Republicans and Democrats are simply critical of the other side. The one who yells the loudest, tweets the most and finds the most faults with the other side is thought to be the winner. At least we no longer have duels.
Dialog is missing from American discourse at a time it is needed most. I fear the consequences at election time.
The difficulty with having a dialog came home to me during my recent cruise. President Trump made the decision to kill the Iranian, General Suleimani, on Iraqi soil. I had a discussion with my granddaughter, Andrea, about that event. She is Dawn’s daughter and the middle of the three beautiful young women in the picture (the older woman is also beautiful!). Andrea has one more year and she will complete her PhD in Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She hopes to be a university professor.
She clearly told me her position on the subject. The tone was very civil, no ranting, but still clearly a singular point of view—not a dialog. I am always excited to engage my grandchildren in a discussion of their views. I am pleased to see all of them developing into thoughtful people. Andrea’s thoughts were good and well stated- I loved our conversation.
After a couple of days I took the occasion to ask her about dialog and tried to demonstrate how truly difficult dialog is for all of us—myself certainly included!
I asked her if she remembered our conversation. Then I asked her if she started the conversation wanting to hear weaknesses in her position and strengths in other positions before she told me what she believed.
To her great credit, she could see she was mostly interested in her position and hearing other views is very difficult. Even more difficult if you have strong emotions attached to the views.
She began to understand just how truly difficult it is to engage in dialog. I was really excited to see her gain understanding of the dialog process as well as hear her views on the situation.
I really like Einstein’s quote: Wisdom is not the product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.
I continue to wish that pursuit for all of us.