Saturday, May 02, 2009

Civil Discourse???

I was listening to talk radio, sports talk actually, the other day. I turned it off. The hosts took an easy sports topic and made it into an attack on someone's character. It was mean spirited. Ugly really. It wasn't deserving of my time.

Talk show hosts, both conservative and liberal seem more interested in stirring the pot than in discovering the truth. Ratings are important. Reasoned arguments don't build an audience. Diatribes do. Smearing others does. The knowing wink, the smirk, the slight twist of the truth brings in listeners and viewers. It's hard to listen sometimes. There's an ugliness about it all.

We live in a world filled with anger. Dialogue is replaced by diatribe. People spout. They attack, hiding under the anonymity of being Jake from Plainfied or Greta from Stickney. It doesn't feel right.

This anger is overwhelming ...almost irrational and hard to take in. It doesn't promote dialogue. Of course, angry people aren't the best people to have a rational conversation with.

People need to have opinions. They need to advocate for what they think is right but how we go about being an advocate for a cause is important.

'The medium is the message' is still an important concept. Can I disagree with someone without dragging him/her through the mud? Can people disagree with Obama without inferring he's the anit-Christ? Can a conservative see value in a liberal's perspective? Can a liberal listen to a reasoned argument from a conservative and be willing to change his/her mind? I wonder if we know how to do that anymore. Sometimes our anger doesn't seem to have boundaries and it shuts out a rational interplay of ideas. When that happens we're in deep trouble as a culture.

I'd rather see people being outrageously kind but firm in the midst of debate, I see very few people who are truly righteously angry. Instead I see increasing numbers of deeply disturbed people using whatever they can, when they can to make their point. What ever happened to civil discourse? Making fun of people, not listening to the other side, and no willingness to concede a point well made is going to be the downfall of us all.

I think we are living in a world that argues via sound byte. The ability to frame an argument and respectfully defend it is becomming a lost art. We are also losing the ability to listen to the well framed argument of others, allowing it to shape our point of view. This should make us sad and stir us to some sort of redemptive action.

What's beginning to happen is that good people are going quiet. Their voice isn't being heard. The scare tactics of the anger-mongers keeps truth seeking debate to a minimum. Not good.

1 comment:

Deirdre Schrader Carter said...

When was the last time you actually heard a truth seeking debate? It has become the norm to tune in to "your" side and be part of the choir because you know when and where to say amen. Most of us who actually think tuned out the noise from both "sides" a good while back. They're only really frothing at the mouth out of fear or cynacism. It's a sad commentary on erstwhile social mores. On the other and most cool hand, God has this great plan and if we try to go with it and use discernment instead of intellectual pride which breeds bias, then we'll relax and know there are lessons to be learned in this uncivil now.