Memo to America: Time to Let Go of the Fairy Tales?

I have been fatigued for a number of years by America’s idiocracy.
The seeming unwillingness or perhaps inability of some of its political
leaders and far too much of the population to engage in a genuine
conversation. You know. . . a conversation where people talk, advocate,
inquire, clarify, rethink, argue, ask for evidence, display reasoning,
analyze ideological perspectives and dump the ones that once made sense
but are now out of date.

I suspect, and here I always appreciate other perspectives, that we
are neither trained nor do we have models for thinking together. It’s
rare for a conversation on talk radio. There are a few exceptions on
NPR, but that seems about where it ends.

Bill Isaacs puts it together rather well in talking about our inability to think together:

This is not an unusual situation. It is
so embedded in the very fabric of present-day human interaction. This
kind of inability to think together has become so familiar that it might
seem strange to talk about it as a deficiency. “That is just how human
beings are,” most people would suggest. It is actually
counterproductive, the skeptics among us might argue, to get too close
to one another’s thoughts. To do so is to risk losing our objectivity,
our distance, our cherished beliefs.

Of course, the fact that most of us
live in very homogenous neighborhoods doesn’t help the conversation much
either. Just yesterday I was talking to an astute Gen-Yer from my
apartment who’s moving into the city near her work at a half-way house.
My comment was that our neighborhood was “too white,” and that on
occasion my upbringing in the 1940’s and early 1950’s in metropolitan
Detroit caused me to be uncomfortable in our nearly all white,
culturally homogenous neighborhoods of the Minneapolis suburbs. What you
need, she commented was a community like the one in which she worked at
the half-way house–and I laughed in agreement.

Still, today’s NYTimes Magazine has what amounts to a conversation that I found deeply gratifying. The article by Rebecca Traister, aptly titled, If Hillary were president. . . we would still be in this mess,
is actually a conversation. Ignore the “liberal politics,” and look at
the conversation. It reminds me of Tevye’s conversations with himself
(Fiddler on the Roof): On the one hand, but on the other hand.
The article is delightfully filled with questions, answers,
disagreements, hopes, skepticism, etc.,etc.,etc. It’s a glorious model
for renewed conversation, an art desperately needed in today’s

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