“I cant believe I just read you brushing off a modern day lynching” (sic) moralized the facebook comment. Likes quickly piled up, with heart reactions also appearing. As I read the notifications, I saw friends of multiple years, some family friends, all eagerly liking this comment. Many of those reactions posted their own comments with similarly incredulous outrage about my apparent refusal to acknowledge racism, in fact, it was obvious I was hiding racism as so-called “reason” according to them. Here we are again right? America’s argument, one side vs. the other, the right side of history against the stubborn traditionalists, just happening again on a random Facebook post.
The funny part is, all of us actually agreed with each other.
I thought the defendants had committed a crime. So did my commenters. I thought that they had done extremely dumb things leading to bad decisions. Again, the commenters were in agreement. I thought that we were going too far past what we knew. Now, we disagreed. And because we disagreed here, we suddenly disagreed on everything else too. They were side A, the right side, the true side. I was side B with all the horrific faults of humanity on display wrapped up in a single human, irredeemable. We have all probably had this experience occur more than once to each of us. Someone puts out their thoughts and the brigade of “Actually, you’re a demon” arrives. What happens next is not an argument really, it’s a slur.
We’ve stopped engaging in arguments and rather engaged in mud dunking. We don’t answer the person’s argument but rather engage the person’s motivations and associations. When someone points out that net worth does not equal cash, they’re billionaire defenders and idiots. When someone says BLM, they immediately agree with black supremacy and reverse racism. Are you a white male in public health or policy with an opinion? Too bad, you’re a male, shut up about abortion, women, trans etc. and STAY QUIET! I want to help people, and you don’t, you see. Your tax policy is wrong not because of what it does, but who YOU are. Your president is bad because he’s YOUR president, but mine really loves me!
The idea for Blue State Conversations is drawn from the struggle of communicating ideas to large groups of people who do not agree with you. We think we are right, and you think you are right. We want to engage you, that’s true, but where we want to be is after the argument seeing how you learned and how we learned. As a conservative, I want to learn to think like a liberal so I can better your understanding of my beliefs. We want to attack ideas and defend people, not conflate the two. Cooperation builds civilizations and societies, after all.
Ideas are to be attacked, investigated, or defended. People are to be persuaded. When people are attacked, investigated and defended in order to persuade them of an idea, conflict is inevitable. The people who accused me of supporting lynching got their points scored. But the people who asked me why I disagreed with them got something much better. They got knowledge, wisdom, and insight. But also, they have a relationship of respect and trust that creates a lower temperature, a better social fabric, and the ability to see the person instead of the surface.
Two conservatives in a blue state generate lots of clashes. We’re usually not the popular side, and as such at a disadvantage. But, for every person raging at us, there’s someone else listening and learning. Even several people who five or ten years ago would have been angrily shouting at me are now engaged and even had minds changed. That type of experience is what we bring to the table, forged in the fire of having to get our ideas out when nobody likes them. We think the public is wide open for asking why instead of shouting no. We propose engaging the point first instead of making the point first. We’ll even let you score a point or two.