Political dialogue and civility is crucial, especially in today’s political climate. There is an importance in engaging in dialogue and maintaining a level of decorum and civility amongst those individuals whom you may disagree with. No difference is made if one is a conservative, liberal or anything in between.
Last week, Ellen DeGeneres and George W. Bush attended a Dallas Cowboys game and proceeded to merrily sit with each other in a skybox. DeGeneres explained on her show that Bush is her friend, and that is okay to have friends that you disagree with. Unsurprisingly, backlash ensued. A few celebrities including Mark Ruffalo came out to decry the inter-political friendship; elements of the ubiquitous "Twitterati" went further, accusing Ellen of disingenuity because they claim people with opposing views cannot be friends, friendly or cordial. This problem of attributing the worst, most nefarious motives to your political opposites is a problem that will only poison the wells further day by day.
Readers should try and have some type of conversation with their political opposites, or at the least watch or read content that you normally would scoff at.
It was interesting writing my first summer column for the Daily in June. My message in that article was that it is okay to be a conservative on campus and that my writings, to ensure disclosure as a columnist, would be examining the world from my own version of conservative liberalism.
Once that article made it to the Daily’s Facebook page, there was a fair amount of community backlash in which I was told that by extension of my political beliefs I am a racist and neo-fascist, and that it is not okay to be a conservative period.
That was an interesting accusation for a person to level against a mixed race black and white writer, especially when they have never held a conversation with me or understand the nuances of my views on different issues and they probably have never engaged with a conservative in any real way, but I digress.
This equivalent exists on the right-wing side of isle as well, no doubt about that; there are fanatics across the political spectrum. The real dangers in attributing not just the worst, but the absolute most nefarious motives to others is that first, those motives rarely exist in reality as they might in the fanatical mind.
The second is that although those motives rarely exist, once they are believed and professed as true and spread through social media and mainstream media (because mainstream media especially, above all else, loves controversy more so than a factual story — it sells more papers) others will become “outraged” and like a virus the incipient hatred for political rivals spread. Your political rival, in turn, cannot believe that accusations are leveled against them; because the accusations are so far out there, they will attribute the worst possible motives not just to you, but your side of the political spectrum. Thus, a cyclical wave of hatred and division are borne.
It is okay to be conservative; it is okay to be liberal; it is okay to be a progressive; it is okay to be whatever. It is also okay to disagree, vehemently even, but realize there are different ways of looking at even a single issue.
Moreover, how can one truly know and develop real critical thinking and engage in introspection of their own ideas if they have never truly engaged in a good faith discussion with their opposite? Having a dialogue and having a civil conversation with those who disagree is vital to the political health of the nation and should be important for individuals to refine their own ideas. You do not even have to be friends, like DeGeneres and Bush, but there is still value in simply listening.