Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moving Forward Politically

We live in tumultuous times. Gee, what a surprise! The partisans of the doctrinaire certainties tell us that absolute certitude is the only way. My friends on the left, who are many, tell me that anything from a "conservative" perspective is automatically wrong. And likewise, my friends from the right, who are also many, tell me that anything from the left is automatically wrong.

I understand this impulse. I do. It's all too easy to see reality in starkly black and white terms. Us/them, either/or, all or nothing possibilities. However, when we engage in this behavior, we allow ourselves to become captive to a construct that ends up imprisoning us to the frameworks presented to us. It doesn't have to be that way. Each of us can make a choice to break out of this false dichotomy.

Here's how:

Make friends with people who disagree with you. Listen to opposing voices. Consider opinions based on different assumptions than yours. If you're liberal, make a conservative friend and do the hard work of listening to them. If you're conservative, make a liberal friend and do the same. If you're secular, make friends with a person of faith and listen to what they say and how it guides their life. And likewise, if you're religious (like me), make friends with a secular person, whether an agnostic or an atheist, and take the time to listen to what they say and why they say it.

Wisdom exists beyond our own shores. Sights can be seen beyond our own horizons. Are all views equal? No. I'm not a thorough going relativist. I believe in basic human equality against those who argue otherwise. So some arguments must be engaged forthrightly.

But even in this, we must acknowledge our common humanity among those with whom we deeply disagree. In the days ahead, we must seek truth, engage truthfully, and engage firmly with those we seek to both convince and learn from.

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