Bill Clinton gave a speech last month at a gala for The New Republic. I think the entire thing is worth a read (click here), but I want to highlight a specific section of the transcript below, because I think Bill makes some excellent points that people are ignoring or dismissing (if they’re even aware of them):
“You know, Americans have come so far since, let’s say, the era of Joe McCarthy. I mean, think about it. We’re less racist. We’re less sexist. We’re less homophobic than we used to be. We only have one remaining bigotry. We don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us. And if you look, actually residential patterns in America are changing. I mean, not just on by Congressional Districts. I mean fixed-line borders, like counties, the internal, social and political complexion of them are changing, and we also are siloing our information sources.
I read the other day that 47 percent of self-identified conservatives will only watch Fox News on television. That’s good for Fox News. I mean, it’s a good business model. My mother-in-law, who died a couple years ago at 91, and whom I love dearly and who lived with Hillary in our Washington home while she was secretary of state and senator, was the most liberal member of our family. She watched Fox News every day. I asked her if she was trying to give herself a heart attack. She said, “No, I’m just trying to keep my blood pumping.”
But then my—but then she seriously said—she said, first of all, Bill, I need to know what they’re saying so I have an answer and I need to know what they’re saying in case they’re right. She said, nobody’s wrong all the time. It’s like almost biologically impossible.”
That first comment, about how we avoid people with differing opinions is probably the biggest roadblock we’re facing today. I’m sure that if we all took a look at our social circles (myself included), we would find that a majority of people agree with us on issues that we consider important, whatever they might be. And that’s a very bad thing, because if you’re constantly having your opinions reinforced and rarely facing criticism or any opposing viewpoints, you’re going to be less likely to actually consider the possibility that you’re wrong and some dissenting voice on the other side has made a good point. I can sit here and rant and rave all day about injustice in the world, but if everyone in my audience already agrees with me and sees things the way I do, am I really accomplishing anything? I haven’t changed any opinions, I haven’t made any progress or done anything to change the current conditions; all I’ve done is pat myself on the back because no one called me out or found flaws in my arguments. That’s a false sense of accomplishment; it feels like I’ve done something, but that isn’t the case. It’s akin to running in place for 30 minutes. Sure, I’m exhausted and it seems like I’ve gone far, but I’m exactly where I was when I began.
This ties into the second point about Fox News. And I’m not trying to attack them right now, but the fact that almost half of conservatives get their news from one source and one source only should be troubling to everyone (and I’m aware that the same probably goes for the left and CNN/MSNBC/etc). It’s a dangerous decision to trust one source and never question the information you’ve been given, especially when the media (on all sides) is notorious for chasing controversy and ratings and appealing to their target audience instead of actually delivering honest news. When I’m posting on here about political or social topics, I’m not specifically talking to the people that agree with me. My hope is to initiate some sort of conversation with a person on the other side that feels differently, but is at least willing to engage in some sort of healthy dialogue. I welcome opposing viewpoints, because the best thing that we can do is learn from each other. I know for a fact that I’m not right all the time and I welcome anyone that wants to correct me, because no one person knows everything. There is always more knowledge out there, and these situations, never as black and white(no pun intended) as they seem, are constantly changing and evolving. It’s important to know what the opposing arguments are to a) disprove them with facts, or b) modify your own opinions based on new evidence.
This is my goal, and I hope that everyone reading this massive wall of text makes a commitment to do the same: Have as many (mature) conversations as you can with (reasonable) people that don’t agree with you. Even if neither side wavers, at least there’s an open path for the future. Maybe in a discussion weeks (or months or years) down the road, one of you will be more willing to listen to what the other has to say, and then we’ll actually be on the same page for a change, instead of just yelling at each other from across the aisle. Oh, and of course, take everying you see/read/hear in the news with a grain of salt. If someone says something, do your own research before you prop it up or shoot it down.