I want to circle back to the event that led me to revive this blog sooner than I had otherwise planned.
Trump is controversial. On this, if nothing else, I think we can all agree. I think everyone knows there’s lots of disagreement about Trump — really passionate disagreement. And this is totally OK. What’s not OK in my opinion is the quality and tenor of the debates we’re having in society today. And not just society at large, but among friends — even within families! It can get damn right ugly. And that’s my topic here. Today I want to talk about talking about Trump. So the subject here isn’t Trump, it’s us.
Lively debate is a good thing. It’s essential for democracy. Each person can make his or her case. The other responds, and the first person replies in turn. Back and forth. Each side might learn something — but only if we do this seriously and in good faith. Hurling slogans and accusations, dismissing the other out-of-hand, or withdrawing in a huff doesn’t help anyone.
This is what happened in a debate I recently deleted from my Facebook page. In that debate I was asked how specifically Trump had hurt Blacks and LGBT people. I took time and responded with a detailed list of 15 positions, policies and actions of Trump and his Administration that I feel are detrimental to LGBT people. The response I got back was dismissive. I was told I hadn’t answered the question and was asked again what actions had attacked the LGBT community. Well… something close to 15, I’d say! Surely there was something in this list that warranted some kind of substantive rebuttal.
When I talked about how rhetorical attacks on minorities create a climate which can and does inspire actual threats and attacks, the response again was dismissal. I described a few quite serious episodes that have occurred in my own personal experience, yet I felt these were equated with simple schoolyard bullying. The conversation continued in this vein along with comments I felt were impertinent including CAPS and exclamation points.
I pulled the plug. I regretted feeling I should do so. But it’s not possible to have a constructive conversation under such conditions. Unfortunately, too often these days, public discourse is reduced to exchanges like this. It makes me sad, but even more, it worries me. These are serious issues we’re discussing, whatever our respective positions. The future of our society requires that we work these things through. Agree where we can, and respectfully agree to disagree where we can’t.
That conversation was disheartening, but not all discussions have to disintegrate like this.
One of my in-laws and I spar periodically on Facebook. We clearly disagree on a lot, yet our debates remain civil and visits together in person are a delight.
I also have a dear friend, Gabriel, who is a strong Trump supporter. We’ve talked — a lot. Neither of us has persuaded the other to change sides, but we have come to appreciate where we share many common values and concerns. I think this is true for a lot of folks. I like to think Gabriel’s and my friendship is actually stronger, ironically, as a result of our disagreement — because we’ve talked and listened and talked some more. We’ve been willing to accept and tolerate our differences, which makes our agreements richer and deeper. That’s what it’s about. That’s the humanity of it, which is ultimately most important.
Gabriel and I collaborated together on a blog post that I ran on Inauguration Day 2017. We had a long and serious conversation that I invite you to read: Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Trump… Or Do They?.
Come on back then and share your thoughts. I’ll leave the light on!
A Request to my Facebook Friends: If you have a comment I encourage you to enter it below instead of on Facebook. This way everyone can participate in the conversation!