We have all observed the absolute demise of [what this blog space has termed] “civic amity,” as the result of an unhealthy and exaggerated, preoccupation with individual, divergent views on controversial subjects, such as right to abortion, gun regulation, immigration, women’s rights, climate change and others. These exaggerated responses have effectively, and destructively divided our nation. Diversity of belief, regarding particular issues, has led to the birth of insular groups of individuals, sharing identical views, with regard the issue, in virtual conflict with, and intolerant of, other similar groups of divergent opinion on the same issue. Such groups generally vote tribally; irrational loyalty often triumphing over personal principle. An illustrative example, is the bizarre support of President Donald J. Trump, by Christian Evangelicals, despite Trump’s public boasts of personal acts of sexual abuse and immorality.
The idealistic prospect of friendly and constructive debate of contested issues, between citizens of divergent opinions, foreseen by our founders, is sadly, non-existent. We have noted this unfortunate development in an early post “The Death of Civic Amity;” the question remains, what can be done to restore it? We would, humbly, suggest a possible and simple, solution to the problem. But first some relevant metaphoric observations:
Aptitudes: The exercise of one’s personal choice of endeavor, is included among those of the highest rank of personal importance. Many inexperienced young people pursue a field of study, in common with close friends, as an alternative to analyzing their personal proclivities. An intelligent, gifted student may be an abysmal failure in that chosen field, and suffer feelings of failure and consequent inadequacy; even contemplate the possibility of dropping out. The unhappy student may need to acquire an objective awareness, perhaps by counselling, as to the human phenomenon of aptitudes, which vary among individuals viz., an individual who is a complete slug in the field of computer science, may be a stunning success in biology. There are a great many choices, other than the one, socially agreed upon with his friends. To approach our theme, he can successfully study an entirely different subject for which he has natural ability, and yet simultaneously, remain friends with the others. Choice of desired profession is a distinctly separate subject from, and is superfluous to, the subject of friendship.
In somewhat more topically relevant terms, an alternate position [on any one subject], does not define the entire person; friendships normally have many other positive foundations.
Restaurant Dining: The pleasant, social experience of dining out with friends, may serve as an additional item of [metaphoric] utility. At such event, customarily, a menu is presented, to assist in food selection for the meal. Customarily, there is a variety of foods offered, to correspond with the divergent tastes, and preferences of the restaurant’s clientele. In our fictional conceit, two diners request swordfish, as their main course. Another, a member in good standing of the Sierra Club, accompanies her choice of broiled chicken, with a serious remonstrance, regarding the choice of swordfish, characterizing the same as an irresponsible selection of an endangered species. All thereafter, are served their respective meals, dine, and continue with their social banter; there may be some disagreement as to “responsible choices” for dinner, but the diners, otherwise, enjoy the relationship as close friends, and often socialize and dine together.
Sporting Events: Fans of the same team often sit next to each other, in the stadium and exchange friendly sports observations of the day. They both may eat hot dogs and drink beer, during their mutual exclamations, of joy and frustration, at the happenings on the field or arena. They traveled together to the stadium, and plan on travelling to their nearby homes, together. It is conceivable, that if the usual subjects of societal contention were raised, that they would not mutually agree as to many of them; yet, they have a sufficient basis of commonality, for their friendly interaction, support for the local team. They heartily enjoy each others’ company and may even own season tickets for adjoining stadium seats.
Differences of opinion and belief as to any particular issue should not define the whole person nor be, in any way, a valid basis for citizen rancor or rejection. There needs to be an uplifting of consciousness, to the effect that a specific choice made relating to one item on the menu of life experience, does not define the full extent of the chooser’s persona. Moreover, an opponent of gun regulation, may be an advocate for climate management; an opponent of unlimited immigration, may also be a proponent of a women’s right to choose an abortion.
The stubborn and relentless enemy, is the toxic combination of a neurotic need to belong, in cahoots with the giant evil monster of reduction.