A good perspective to keep in mind when someone is jabbing his/her finger and hurling invectives at you is that it’s not about you, but the hurler. Like baseball pitchers that use brushback pitches to intimidate the batter, a polemical hurler’s intention is not to persuade or provide food for thought, but to attack and score points for his/her side.
Keeping one’s composure in the face of assault is not easy as one’s instinct is to cower or to respond aggressively: flight or fight. It can be difficult to remain unruffled when someone calls you a socialist when you’re not; snidely calls your party the Democrat Party rather by than its true name, the Democratic Party; obfuscates or becomes evasive on issues; or unabashedly denies or gives cover to unpleasant realities, such as human-caused climate change and white nationalism’s growing threat.
Sharing thoughts, debating issues, respecting one’s intellectual adversary, not hiding behind an ideology that gives rise to knee-jerk responses to issues or opposing points of view is tough to do in today’s America where it has become fashionable not to debate issues based on merit, but to score points by resorting to ad hominin attacks. An alpha-male society on steroids.
Philosophical liberalism is based on reason and evidence not emotion. But when fear—heightened emotion—is stoked, reason gets trampled by passion. Nonetheless, if we are going to break this seemingly never-ending un-civil war tearing at the fabric of American society and begin, once again, to break bread intellectually, that’s what liberals must do.
For generations, Labor Day marked the beginning of fall. Time to go back to school and hit the books. The return-to-school ritual impacted the entire culture, even adults without school-age children. The annual grumble, “Why aren’t these kinds in school?”, was a common plaint when they saw kids not in school.
Labor Day meant leaves would soon change, crisp autumn nights were nigh, and transitioning from baseball to football. Most of that tradition holds true, but the onset of the school year, which has already begun, no longer does. Nevertheless, as a life-long teacher and learner, Labor Day remains a poignant time.
Last week, I wrote that More in Common identifies those who hold social-political outlooks like mine as “traditional liberals,” which is an oxymoronic designation. Regardless, some things can’t change even for an iconoclast like me. So, when it comes to correlating autumn with learning, I’m old school. Seeing the ubiquitous presence of “cheese wagons” toting kiddos to our temples of learning evokes both joy and melancholy in me. I might be retired from the classroom, but the teacher archetype remains vibrant and strong.
A year ago, my back-to-school articles focused on trying to fathom the post-truth world in which we now live. I drew heavily on the work of Lee McIntyre, a Research Fellow at Boston University and Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School.
During this fall session, my intention is to periodically focus on what More in Common calls America’s Hidden Tribes, how we can be sorted into seven primary political groupings. Interspersed with those pieces will be columns on other topics germane to Clear Creek citizens: How recall elections undermine our representative democracy, de-Brucing from TABOR, the Democratic Senate primary, CDOT, the Electoral College—may it RIP—and more. A cornucopia of food for thought.
In the meantime, crack a book. Treat yourself to a work of fiction and escape to another time and place. My recommendation: A novel by Toni Morrison.
Writers Talk on KYGT, Saturday, September 7th, at noon: Dede Stockton, author of the Sammi Jo Adventure Series