We tend to believe what we want to believe, foregoing objective analysis of evidence; or we sometimes believe what we think we’re supposed to believe.
For instance, if for whatever reason we support the view that the planet earth is threatened by human activity, or not, we feel obligated to believe anything that sounds green, or not. We feel that we are supposed to object to or support pipelines because they are, well…pipelines. We are supposed to feel similarly negative or positive toward fossil fuel, fracking, urban develoopment, etc. regardless of their actual environmental impact. If it sounds green we’re for it, or not, no matter what the cost or benefit.
Racism is another clear example. If an event has five possible explanations and one of them is racism, we will not even consider the other four, or zero in on anything but racism. Can this mindset ever lead to reconciliation?
No; in fact it leads us away from reconciliation and toward political polarization. It is our cherished, rigidly held beliefs, cemented by emotion and resistant to examination, that dominate debate and divide us into warring factions. As Socrates might have said, “An unexamined believe is not worth holding.”
Believing what we want the truth to be, or what we think we’re supposed to believe, is at the heart of our uncivil relations with each other and the uncivilized rhetoric that passes for political debate.
We all want solutions to the problems of immigration, poverty, health care, the environment, public safety, national defense, ineffective government, etc. If we can agree that a good idea is valuable, regardless of its source, our problems are half solved. Rational, civil open-minded dialog can get us the rest of the way. In short, civility in word and deed and a sincere desire to solve problems, rather than win the argument at any cost, are the keys to social progress.
Hostility between the political Left and Right is not going to abate on its own. It takes a change of heart on the part of individual citizens to produce the ground swell that will overwhelm the current uncivil political mindset.
More than ever Civility Matters