Whatever our politics, we can respond to the “other side” of the spectrum in different ways. We can find new, clever phrases to mock or damn them, focusing on the stupidest comments of the stupidest among them. Lots of creative effort went into jokes about Trump’s hair, and Marjorie Greene has plucked the baton from Sarah Palin and is grabbing headlines by the bucketful.
Or we can indulge in long, reasoned commentary on issues that only concern enlightened souls, namely us, branding all who oppose our views as knuckle-dragging sexist/racist fascists, or as irretrievably-woke radical socialist pedophiles.
Or we can post photos of cats.
All sides assume that dialogue is a total waste of energy. Even suggesting dialogue marks one as a traitor to the cause or—just as bad—insufficiently committed. Of course I have my own candidates for dolt-of-the-week, and some are hopelessly gone to the Dark Side of money, power, or idee fixe. Sometimes words are wasted, though at times verbal laxative serves a purpose, invigorating the choir, sweeping you to power, or selling your best-seller. There are reasons why Bloviating is raised to a high art, while Listening is a starved foster child.
Our activists pride themselves on speaking Truth to Power, as if Power were listening. Meantime, the progressive tradition of the circular firing squad holds sway. We troll the Web for evidence of racism, sexism, white privilege; allies turn against one another and go in for the kill.
Granted, my “activism” is hardly boots-on-the-ground, but here’s a thought: No one will listen unless you convince them that you hear them. No words will get through. I had a five-year teaching career, thought myself good, but I was wrong: I was more focused on my inspired pontificating than on their learning. Only when I found my theatre audiences and engaged with them, did I reach the point of occasional communication.
Somewhat. I’ve always been focused on the stories I want to tell, not on stories that people want to hear. That’s a choice that’s limited my “entertainment” career and is disastrous for politicians. Listening is vital to military strategy: know your enemy. No frontal attack will succeed if the other army’s behind you. What’s their appeal? What need are they answering? In my view, for example, white supremacy isn’t a need, it’s an assumed nostrum to a much deeper need.
To me, TRIBE is the strongest driver in politics today: the need to belong. Whether it’s a pussy hat or MAGA cap or just a t-shirt saying Eat Shit and Die, we want to belong to something that gives us an identity. A lifelong Mormon or Catholic may cling to the ingrown identity of belonging, no matter what disagreements they have with ideology. Similarly, a person of any political persuasion will be hard to convince on the issues if it causes ruptures with their friends and colleagues: easier to change your mind than your tribe.
Or perhaps the answer was best stated by someone from our old neopagan group: Throw a better party! Do you really want to spend your time with depressing angry people or with people having fun? Rage is a great fuel for the first stage of the rocket, getting it off the ground, but probably not for the Starship Enterprise, which has farther to go.