I had an IM conversation today about politics with a friend of mine. He and I agree on quite a few things and disagree on quite a few more things. During the course of the conversation my friend got the impression that I was perhaps becoming upset. That was not in any way the case but I know why he thought that. My argument was becoming more accusatory and less fair. It made me think for a while about the nature of our national political debate. Things in this country right now are particularly harsh. At least they seam to be. Partisan politics have taken on a mentality that seems more oriented towards team spirit than ideology. We have come to think that there is some fight that must be fought. Always an adversary that must be bested. We are more interested in standing beside the person that shares our party orientation than we are in standing with the people who we respect and enjoy. I have friends of many beliefs, many faiths, and many ideologies. I have friends that hold my political beliefs in the highest possible contempt. But I can't help wishing that all of my friends were sitting together at one table, talking about our beliefs and what course we think that a government should take, if it must involve us all. I'm sure that my friend the christian and my friend the communist can break bread with my friend the libertarian and my friend the socialist. I'm positive that all of these people have sound minds and compassionate hearts. We disagree on a great many things in this country, and in this world, but we agree on so much more.
Another friend of mine this week told me that he thought that Americans were ignorant and xenophobic. Perhaps he's right but I suspect that Americans are too interested in taking sides and not interested enough in understanding each other. I don't want to sound all bleeding heart soft, moral relative, all people's opinions are equally valid. I simply don't believe that. Ideas and opinions have very distinct consequences, some are destructive, some lead to very bad places. But I do think that free people, open people, honest people can disagree without silence and without animosity.
I guess my point is this; sure I think my evangelical friends ideas may be bad for liberty, and certainly I think that my socialist friend's ideas will lead to bureaucratic sludge and destruction, but I don't believe that they pursue those ideas with anything other than a full heart and an honest goal for the betterment of our world. Anyone like that may drink in my home and eat at my table. Removing ourselves from each other simply because we disagree over important issues can lead to nothing good. Sharing those ideas helps each of us to understand the people that disagree with us. We may not change each others minds but it's more difficult to go to war with someone you know.