I have had a couple of experiences lately that, a year ago, would not have inspired much thought on my part. But this week, they did.
I was with a friend of mine, someone with whom I never discuss politics because we have very significant differences of opinion. And it is a sign of the times that we don’t talk. I remember a time, not so very long ago, when I could break bread with a table full of friends with divergent opinions and we could have a civilized, respectful, if spirited, discussion. Because of the polarization of our society, our country, we had tacitly agreed to disagree because on a personal level we like each other very much.
To my surprise, we had a discussion, albeit brief, about the fact that our world is in shambles. We agreed that the public life of our country is, currently, a circus. So, apparently, we have now somewhat less tacitly agreed to agree. And we have started to see Republican politicians expressing consternation over where we are, something I would not have thought possible six short months ago.
But I had another experience, one that I think has become commonplace in our culture. I allowed myself to be drawn into a political discussion, something I avoid like the plague these days. And I listened, I think politely, and I tried to express my opinion, as quietly as I could. The response I got was to be interrupted and told that I am silly, my views are silly and it was silly to discuss my views. This I think has sadly become the norm, where it isn’t even worth agreeing to disagree and there is no value in listening to one another.
If the hope is that we can return to civil discourse, to respectful disagreement and to the collegial solving of problems, then that first encounter gives me hope. Those few “moderate” Republicans quietly wondering give me hope. The election of women, transgender and gay candidates around the country gives me hope. Perhaps we are agreeing to agree so that someday, again, we can agree to disagree.