Rosh HaShanah was last week, Yom Kippur is this week. Old year is ending, new year is beginning. So much to think and reflect upon. At this time of year I expected to write a post about myself and all my introspection. However I find myself looking outward. I find myself looking at our society and remembering a line I read saying something along the lines of the 2016 Presidential campaign did not cause the divisiveness in our society. The divisiveness, that existed previously in our society, ALLOWED the 2016 Presidential campaign to take place in the method that it did. Very interesting. I guess it makes sense. You don't go to the doctor until a problem becomes un-ignorable, right? Why should attention be given to problems in our society until something huge happens to underscore those problems? Now, let me be clear, I have not done any homework. I can only speak from how I feel. Many of you will dismiss this blog post because I don't have loads of quotes and citations and political pundits' points of view. That is your prerogative, 100%. But I never claimed that this was a political blog. In fact I have stated the opposite was true. But now I am speaking from my heart and my new crush on Dan Rather (and two articles that smart people brought to my attention).
So I guess what my heart has been ruminating on has been getting along. We teach our children, as soon as they are old enough to interact with others, to "get along." We teach them that while they both might not want to play the same game it is possible to find an option in which both parties want to participate. We teach our children how to talk out a problem. The whole basis of the Responsive Classroom is giving children the vocabulary to express their wants and needs and feelings. It seems to me that in today's society we have lost to ability to "get along." We have lost the ability to talk things out. We have lost the ability to disagree. "[T]o say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong; etiam si omnes — ego non— these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. Galileo and Darwin; Mandela, Havel, and Liu Xiaobo; Rosa Parks and Natan Sharansky — such are the ranks of those who disagree. And the problem, as I see it, is that we’re failing at the task. This is a puzzle. At least as far as far as the United States is concerned, Americans have rarely disagreed more in recent decades." (Stephens, Bret. The Dying Art of Disagreement)
The point made regarding Galileo and Darwin, regarding Mandela and Havel and Liu Xiabo is that they did disagree, but they did so fully informed. "the disagreements arise from perfect comprehension; from having chewed over the ideas of your intellectual opponent so thoroughly that you can properly spit them out" (Stephens, Bret). They were all experts on their topic matter and therefore could knowledgeably argue their points. And you know what? They did so without name calling, without degrading their opponent. They did so in such a way that if their opponent presented a better, more convincing argument they would concede and say something along the lines of, "Hey, you made some really good arguments. I think I'll align myself with your position now."
In today's quick moving society "[w]e disagree about racial issues, bathroom policies, health care laws, and, of course, the 45th president. We express our disagreements in radio and cable TV rants (that come in fast and furious, almost too quickly to truly process) in ways that are increasingly virulent; street and campus protests that are increasingly violent; and personal conversations that are increasingly embittering." (Stephens, Bret)
This reminds me of a statement made by my beloved Dan Rather, "When I was covering civil rights in the 1960s, we basically had a deadline once a day. That gave you time to report—and more importantly, to think about what it all meant. With cable news that became a deadline every hour or so. Now it seems to be a deadline every nanosecond. This pressure to file makes it harder to be as accurate and fair, to get the story right. The dangers of emphasizing speed over substance in journalism cannot be overstated." (Lithwick, Dahlia. What's Behind Dan Rather's Wild Popularity)
While you may have your personal thoughts on Dan Rather and the sh*t that went down in 2004, Dan Rather does have a lifetime of experience with news, and reporting that news in an unbiased, fact-based way. His points about deadlines becoming every nanosecond and taking away the ability to mull over what you've noted and what you've written are of the utmost importance. In a time when "[f]ree speech can quickly become “hate speech,” “hate speech” becomes indistinguishable from a “hate crime,” and a crime needs to be punished" we need to be ever more careful of what we say, either verbally, written, or simply in passing (Sullivan, Andrew. America Wasn't Built For Humans).
We live in a nation that is more divisive than ever before. In America there are "two tribes whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country, each of whom scans current events almost entirely to see if they advance not so much their country’s interests but their own...two tribes where one contains most racial minorities and the other is disproportionately white..." (Sullivan, Andrew). If we are so busy pointing out the shortcomings of the "other" how can we grow? How can we improve? How can we be a light among nations if we are blinding one another with our hateful vitriol? "America will never be destroyed from the outside," Abraham Lincoln said. "If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." And without the dialogue that comes with disagreeing we are truly destroying ourselves. "For free societies to function, the idea of open-mindedness can’t simply be a catchphrase or a dogma. It needs to be a personal habit, most of all when it comes to preserving an open mind toward those with whom we disagree" (Stephens, Bret).
I'm not sure how to end this diatribe. I've enjoyed writing it very much. It brought back the feeling of writing a legit paper for a grade (although I realize my citations are horrific!). I hope this gives you some things to think about. To think, how can we bring disagreeing back into our lives? How can we bring informed, knowledgeable, perfect comprehension into our debates? And how can we keep our debates civil, taking everyone's point of view into account?
I'll end with a quote from the ever poised former First Lady, Michelle Obama: "I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love. That's what I see. That's the America I know!"
G'mar chatimah tovah. May this be a year full of the Book of Life for you and your loved ones.
Why I'm Blogging
Just your average 40 something trying to find the way in which she can make sense of her life. I hope you'll join me for this journey.