On Necessary Dialogue

As a nation, the United States faces its share of problems. Now is a time needing meaningful solutions; however, finding meaning solutions requires meaningful dialogue between individuals who come to the table with ideas, a willingness to listen, the desire to find a solution, and as few sacred cows as possible (preferably none).

On the other hand, we live in a society that loves “it’s all about me at all cost” attitude of reality shows. After all, I’ve often wondered if reality television is mimicking society or does society mimic reality television.

We also live in a society with commentators who promote their position with a flamethrower in order to scorch the other side rather than educating their point of view. We live in a society whose politicians and supporters who find it difficult to have meaningful discussion beyond taglines and rhetoric.

For example, not long ago I asked a guy about his retirement system, which he explained. It was interesting, thus I used his example to explain an idea of a new Social Security system. Not long after I mentioned “Social Security”, he and another guy immediately blurted out some meaningless and possibly inaccurate tagline that had nothing to do with the conversion.
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I fired back – “This is a meaningful issue that needs good conversation. I tried to foster a discussion, and I got meaningless, unrelated political horseshit – and you wonder why we can’t solve important problem.” Needless to say, the conversation was over!

38 thoughts on “On Necessary Dialogue

  1. I know I’m guilty of that too (on the correct side of the argument, of course). I am trying to be better about it and accept that there are real reasons why folks believe otherwise. Well, except for the fact that they are selfish, mean spirited … oh dear. I need to try harder.

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    • Elyse,
      All of us are probably guilty at one time or another. In this particular case, it was interesting how the conversation quickly deteriorated, thus why I ended it as quickly. Thanks for sharing your reflection.

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  2. I think people today are frustrated, scared and deeply concerned about so many thing in this country and the direction it is heading which makes EVERYONE very passionate on many issues

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    • Kellie,
      I see what you are saying, and agree that is true with some. However, many can’t go beyond the partisan tagline so what appears as passion is actually ignorance. In this particular case, the individual was simply sharing some useful information, and then I made a carefully worded, nonpartisan question only to receive ridiculous statements in return. So in this case, it clearly wasn’t frustration, concern, fear, or passion in their statements. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I think the problem is that although we can vote, that doesn’t mean we’re going to get politicians acting as we would expect. On too many occasions now politicians make decisions that have the population reeling (like the carbon tax that’s now in place after our deceitful and worst Prime Minister EVER went to the polls saying, ‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead – and introducing a carbon tax was the very first thing she did). People don’t like being lied to. And it is actions like this that are cause the population to become very worked up and is it any wonder.

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    • Spiced,
      Yes – people don’t like being lied to – especially from elected leaders. On the other hand, this conversation was between citizens (voters) and these individuals clearly couldn’t participate in a conversation. Then again, part of the problem may be they could be following the lead of the elected heroes. Thanks for sharing the carbon tax info in Australia because that is something the rest of us can learn from your situation.

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    • LouAnn,
      Respectful dialogue in all countries needs to be among its citizens, among its leaders, and between the leaders and the people. Interestingly, so far I’ve seen similar comments as yours from Canada, Israel, Australia, and the U.S. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Frank! Yes, keep trying to have meaningful discussions. I like that you called out the bullshit knee-jerk responses. I like to do this too–to point out the nuances of our government. We are capitalistic, socialist (SS as you brought up), even communistic in our community relationships. Just because you’re for one thing doesn’t necessarily mean you are entirely against the opposite. I ALWAYS try to listen to the opposing view and then try to find SOMETHING we can agree on.
    Then we have some wine.

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    • Les,
      Great example. I like these two of your verbs: listening and trying … In may little story, it was obvious that neither happened. Just like in another situation I had where we were debating tax increases on the upper incomes. My opposition said we would like to see total tax reform, and I concurred … and then he said I didn’t say that – he was correct because that wasn’t part of the discussion until he through it in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  5. Sometimes I wonder if political discourse has just gotten worse during our time, but then I read about the Adams and Jefferson presidential campaigns and I realize that it was always bad. George Washington did warn people not to allow political parties but to no avail. I’m surprised anything ever passes that is useful to Americans. I’m with you, I’m tired of politicians spouting useless facts to try to enforce their own beliefs and power. What happened to the greater good?

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    • TBM,
      Great point about the Founding Fathers because they weren’t on the same page. (I think most of us imagine them in a room either all agreeing or the group respectfully philosophizing … and neither was the case. Thanks for your insightful reminder.

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  6. It’s a cultural problem. In the last fifty years, there’s been more and more emphasis on the subjective point of view, on Me… and politics has become more vicious. Seems to me, that if we want to have a dialogue, we have to find a partner… or partners, to engage in the give and take. Just as we can’t start dancing at a football game, and expect others to join in… there’s not much point in looking for a dialogue among the fighting cocks of politics.

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    • Shimon,
      Outstanding points. Dialogue involves a partnership, and to achieve that, one must be willing to be a partner … and that seems to be the lost art. Interestingly, the comments on this post are (so far) from people in four countries who seem to have a common problem. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. You have hit on two major problems in this post (1) politics is no longer about reasoned arguments and debate and trying to persuade the ‘other side’; and (2) people don’t think too much about things any more, they let the media do the thinking and then regurgitate the cliches they hear, which as you rightly say is invariably shit, horse and/or bull.
    Nice try re the conversation with the other guys, but Mt 7:6 comes to mind!

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    • Fasab,
      Ah ha … horse or bull is the classic line here! Love it. To go along with your points, in my conversation I mentioned a suggestion for “reforming Social Security” (primarily a Republican idea) and the ridiculous responses were Republican rhetoric. Hmmmmm … does that mean I got them to argue with themselves? Thanks for commenting.

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  8. Thanks! Your post was a much needed cry from the wilderness for people to take time to participate in respectful discussion about the major issues of our time. It’s true that some of the media have built their ratings on the number of flamethrower commentators they can promote to superstar status. It’s also true that some of the people have liked the media formats that pit pundits and “contributors” with extreme views and rude behavior against each other. What I understand you to say is STOP! Turn off your electronic devices and take time to talk to a real person. And don’t be afraid to dive into the old taboos of politics and religion.

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    • Tim,
      Dialogue starts with a willingness to listen and engage to find a common ground. Because of the many who say “we can’t sacrifice our principles”, its existence is fading away in politics. Unfortunately, that has a problem with too many citizens. As we know, not all, but still far too many. Thanks for commenting.

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  9. What really irritates me is when on radio or TV interviews and discussions, our politicians just carry on talking the biggest load of rubbish, not allowing anyone else to get a word in edgeways, and when the interviewer tries to interrupt them, they just ignore him and carry on regardless. Both parties almost came to blows during one such programme, and the interviewer in the middle, was almost in tears. 😉

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    • Paradise,
      That gets to me too. I can’t stand (1) not answering what was asked and (2) multiple individuals talking at the same time. At least we know this is true in at least 5 countries! … and stuff like that spills over into the population. Crazy! Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Great post and a great reminder. I think it says a lot that candidates are elected now on the basis of tv ads and media bytes (read: knee-jerk rhetoric) rather than civil debates… Or at least it must be this way, considering where campaign funds are spent.

    I was flipping through radio channels over the weekend when I heard a man talking about what sounded like “liberal” doom-and-gloom … broken systems in this country, outdated modes of thinking and governing, etc…. I was surprised when I realized it was Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps all the “sides” have more in common than they think.

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    • Twixt,
      Good point about knee-jerk reactions, which is something most of us have done before. Toss in the point that many of the ads are intentionally misleading or includes out-of-context sound bites. Simply crazy. I wonder what the purpose of the ads really are … are they to try to get a vote or to inspire a supporter to send money. Hmmmmm …. Thanks for sharing your insight!

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  11. society mimics television, but television borrows from and then mutates society. television looks at society like play-doh. makes what it wants with it, and then puts it out there. then society takes it and solidifies it. for example, that horrible “jersey shore” show. mtv saw a segment of society, re-created it, but then very much distorted and fed it with crap in order to poison it and push it close to a ledge, hoping it would step off on it’s own while cameras rolled. and it worked. once society sees it on television, it seems “legit” enough for society to then mimic it. once society mimics it, then television can claim they were just showing “reality.”

    as for discussions about SS and other things, we’re guilty of tag lines. we’re guilty of seeing a headline from a biased “news” organization or from a party spokesperson, and we then assume it’s true without finding out for sure. a poll result i saw yesterday said that 80% of people were incorrect when they answered the question, “which candidate will raise your taxes more if elected? obama or romney?” as it stands now, i believe that the correct answer is obama, but i’m not really sure, and i’m a fairly educated and up-to-date person on news. however, i also know that i don’t need to know that answer for a couple of months yet. and i also know that that answer/question will not sway my vote. but let me back up – headlines. too many times a party spokesperson spits out what they call a “fact,” but it’s not. but we hear it, and we accept it.

    last night i saw how michelle bachmann was spouting off about how the “muslim brotherhood” has infiltrated the white house, the cabinet, and is influencing the “policy makers” of the government. the reality is likely something that some muslims visited the white house, and that’s probably all there is to it. but too many people hear that and run with it. i have family who are very guilty of that. this morning i was watching FOX news, and they showed mr. and mrs. obama at a sports event. they were put on something called the “kiss cam,” in which a couple is put on the jumbo tv in the arena,and they’re supposed to kiss. on FOX, they showed the first couple not kissing, and they speculated that there must be trouble with their marriage and that obama can’t possibly focus on the country and an election if his marriage is in trouble. and they also speculated that mrs. obama likely disagrees with her own husbands policies, and he should just quit the election to save his marriage.

    so that was FOX news. however, on CNN, they showed the same thing, the first couple at a sports event, showed them on the “kiss cam.” on CNN, they kissed. but on FOX, they carefully edited the tape so that it seemed like they didn’t kiss, thus allowing all those false speculations.

    that’s not helping us become educated people.

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    • Rich,
      I appreciate your explanation of reality TV.

      In terms of the kiss cam incident, the report I saw/heard (on CNN) said they were on the kiss cam twice. The first time this didn’t kiss … so they got a second chance later in the event … and then they kissed. So FOX made it seem they didn’t kiss and then said something total absurd. Let me add one more thing to media bias, let us not forget listener/viewer bias, which also influences one’s opinion of what is biased. Thanks for taking the time to explain many thoughts!

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    • Randel,
      The oddity about this incident is that it wasn’t about ideology! Saying the magic word was like hitting a light switch, I sounded off and then it was over. Thanks for commenting.

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  12. I honestly don’t know who frustrates me the most Frank. People who are going to stick to their opinion and not even allow a dialogue to expand their perspective on it, or the people who seem to have NO opinion on anything and are tuning out entirely. Either way it is a small margin of people who remain politically interested enough to have some idea of the major issues, and then it gets to an even small minority who are capable of meaningful dialogue. It’s a sad observation! D

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    • Debra,
      Good points. I’m fortunate enough to have one good friend with respectful dialogue. He’s on the left, but enjoys learning about how the middle thinks. Then again, dialogue like that doesn’t happen very often. Thanks for visiting.

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