Friday, January 26, 2024

#26 / Braver Angels

The Wall Street Journal has profiled the efforts of a group that is trying to "lower the temperature in U.S. politics." Click here to see if The Journal's paywall policies will let you read their article. Click right here to visit the website of "Braver Angels," the group that The Journal has profiled. 

The Journal's article, by Aaron Zitner, says that the Braver Angels group is "not trying to change people's minds about issues. We're trying to change their minds about each other." 

The problem? 

Incivility is a relentless force. Partisan news outlets and social media promote stories that fuel outrage within one party or the other. Former President Donald Trump is incendiary in insulting his opponents, vowing to investigate and punish his critics if he wins in 2024. President Biden has said “MAGA Republicans” threaten democracy, which has made some in the GOP feel their beliefs are under threat. 

Social scientists say that the brew of political messages signals to Americans that they are under assault from their political opponents, which cements them into their partisan viewpoints and prompts them to demonize the opposing party even further. The result: More than 60% in each party feel those in the other party are immoral, dishonest and close-minded, the Pew Research Center found last year. About 80% in each party believe the other party’s agenda would “destroy America as we know it,” a fall 2022 NBC News survey found.

Stephen Hawkins, who is the research director of another group, More in Common, says that "the one-on-one stuff is what we need to happen. We just need it to happen on the scale of millions." 

Because most people (and I do think it is "most") now relate to the world not from the physical place and space in which they find themselves, but by looking into a cellphone screen, "one on one" relationships are ever more difficult to accomplish. When "one on one" conversations can be accomplished, "trolls" turn into people, and it is then easy to realize, when we actually meet other people in person, that most of those other people are "nice," but that they sometimes have very different ideas about things. This is (as Hannah Arendt would say, if she were alive and speaking in today's idioms), a "feature not a bug." 

I have two concrete suggestions for those who might like to discover the truth of what I have just asserted. Admittedly, these suggestions are not any kind of comprehensive solution. They are, though, at least I think so, quite helpful: (1) put away your cellphones and computer screens, and (2) "find some friends." 

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