It’s possibly I can be dispassionate only because I live outside the US and am thus not being bombarded by US election news to nearly the degree that people in the US are. (It’s election season here too, but I don’t watch Dutch news, I don’t have to do anything about it, and it doesn’t seem to be nearly the circus US presidential elections are. Anyway, I am getting very tired of belonging to a country that seems to be getting more and more polarized. I know it’s not a new thing in American politics – Fanny Trollope makes that perfectly clear – but I still feel like I need to speak out about it. If it doesn’t do any good, at least I’ll feel like I’ve put down the first stone for a bridge.

I’ve posted the following in Facebook:

I’m not going to write one of those election-season “you can ban me if you don’t want to see my opinions posts. For one thing, you’re all smart enough to figure it out for yourselves. And for another, I don’t want you to – I WANT you to read posts where other people disagree with you, not to change your opinion but to understand why they think that way. I want to keep reading posts where people disagree with me, and I won’t ban anyone for disagreement (I reserve the right to ban for incivility, though). I don’t want to live in a bubble where everyone agrees with me, and I don’t want you to – civil discourse is more important than always being right.

It’s important to know that people disagree with you, and even better if you can understand why. I grew up in Philadelphia and then moved to Texas, which means I saw a lot of “I don’t now how that guy even got elected – no one I know voted for him!” from both liberals and conservatives.

I’m not talking here about people who are avoiding election discussion entirely to focus on other topics, just the ones who only want to see one side of it. I think the people who avoid the arguments entirely actually are trying to build bridges by focusing on other topics that can be discussed civilly (assuming they do go vote in November, but I’m sure all the people I know who are avoiding election talk plan to do that, and are in fact avoiding the arguments so that they can vote, without being completely unable to bear the whole thought of the ballot by then).

I don’t think it’s necessary to change your opinion, but if you understand why other people think differently, it might be possible to find common ground (someday I’d really, really like to see pro- and anti-choice people working together to improve the adoption and foster-care systems).

Mostly though, I just think it’s important to know that other people believe differently and to figure out why if possible. A hint: they’re not all stupid and they’re not all evil. You can try to convince yourself that they’re all deluded, but then you have to figure out why. Are things that desperate that people are willing to believe anything that offers a change? Is the educational system that bad, that people don’t have the resources to spot delusions? If so, how can those situations be improved?