Monday, November 08, 2004

Political Civility

Go check out this post by Lara, a quick rant about the lack of civility in political conversation recently.

For me, it's not so much the yelling, the anger, the passion. If you can get passionate about this country's electoral process, that's a lot better than being apathetic about it :). What does bother me a lot -- and I come across it both online and in person, although luckily most of my friends are good about it -- is when someone can't understand the brute fact that the person on the other side of the political spectrum may be as intelligent and well-informed as you are. The next time I hear "They're too stupid to be allowed the right to vote", "You simply haven't looked into all the facts", "He just isn't old enough yet to have the right perspective on things", "Bush is a moron", "Kerry is an empty suit", the conversation is over. Done. And you've lost, no matter whether you're agreeing or disagreeing with me.

Political discourse needs to have as its goal two things. The first is a revelation of the facts of the matter. Perhaps the person with which you're talking/discussing/disagreeing/arguing/fighting is in reality not informed. Then don't fall back on "You don't have all the facts." Instead, present the facts, and say, "Have you considered X?" or "How does your position take into account Y?" And be prepared to show proof of X or Y, or for the purposes of the discussion you're as uninformed as your partner/opponent.

The second goal of political discourse should be an examination of assumptions. Once all the facts are out on the table, and there's still a difference of opinions, the discussion should find its way to a point where it's assumption versus assumption. For example, in discussion of abortion, my basic assumptions that inform my position include the assumptions that a human life is valuable, that viability is meaningless, that extra-marital sex is immoral, that personhood is inherent at conception, and I'm sure there are others. And eventually, if the discussion with a proponent of the pro-choice/pro-abortion position is going well, we'll be able to pinpoint the difference in assumptions -- either my opponent will admit the assumption that human life is not valuable (and yes, I've had people admit this before!), or the assumption that viability somehow makes a moral difference, or the opposite of one my other assumptions. At this point, I and my opponent must step back, take a look at our respective assumptions, and each ask ourselves, "Am I comfortable with my assumption?"

That's why I talk politics with people. It's definitely not to score points. It's not to change anybody's mind -- only two people can change your mind, and I'm not one of them. My first goal is to spread and receive information. My second goal, and the more important one in my opinion, is to get both you and me to examine our assumptions ourselves. And if I think your assumptions are wrong -- as I often will -- there's nothing more I can do to change them, after the facts are known and the assumptions are uncovered. I won't throw out some relativistic nonsense that we're both right for ourselves. One of us is right and one is wrong, but further discussion is fruitless, so let's talk about baseball.

I know I'll be comfortable with my assumptions, as long as their foundation is what it should be. And what about you? What's yours?

Crossposted at RedState and Heroes from the Past


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