Columnists are nothing without readers, and we relish reactions to what we write. We appreciate that not every reader will agree with what we write, and we subscribe to the thought that “when everyone thinks alike, no one is really thinking.”
This past week I have received a variety of comments, both verbal and through letters. While I often write personal notes to those writing, I seldom respond through this column.
But a recent criticism needs to be reviewed more clearly. What he wrote is in my mind one of the most disturbing things occurring in this country. The reader disagreed with my satirical approach to the “stand your ground” legislation backed by the National Rifle Association and nara-core conservatives. That’s fine — there are times when “stand your ground” makes perfect sense (and other times when it can be misused.)
The thing I found disturbing is the reader’s comment that, since the vast majority of a community is politically and socially “conservative,” a newspaper or any other vessel of information/thought should block out other views.
Yes, this is disturbing, and it is the reason we as a nation have become so partisan and narrow-minded that we mistake rudeness (and often ignorance) for courage or principled stands.
The Republican Party in Utah is currently being publicly challenged by this uber-partisanship with some activists trying to define exactly who is and who is not “loyal.” To these ultra-conservatives, a party member must check all the right boxes before receiving the key to the Republican kingdom.
And the Democrats in Utah are not blameless either. The “Bernie” crowd, generally new to politics and in some cases new to shaving, too often ridicules the more moderate Democratic establishment as being out of touch. They fail to realize that for Democrats to win in Utah, a coalition of progressive liberals, moderate LDS Democrats and even a chunk of disillusioned Republicans is needed. As shown in a U.S. Senate elected two years ago, you don’t run a competitive race when you nominate a transgendered grocery store clerk and boo a more-seasoned businessman at a Democrat convention.
You wonder why Congress can’t seem to negotiate and pass legislation favored by a majority of Americans? Many Washington, D.C. journalists claim it began with the Newt Gringrich-era when he advised Republicans to return home on weekends and not associate with members of the other party at church, school or social functions. Being apart from the other side drew a line in the sand, and that line has grown in importance.
By fooling around with voting district boundaries, the party label becomes more important than civic dialogue in who gets elected. Furthermore, we tend to live in ideological clusters (cities, vs. suburbs vs. rural towns) in which we may not ever hear a neighbor with a different opinion. This isn’t healthy; it is a path for bigots and demagogues to bully their way into public office.
We shouldn’t be afraid of people who think differently. If we use our head instead of listening to a loudmouth talk show host, we might even learn something. As a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said in his home state of Kansas, “the definition of democracy is ‘cooperation’.”
And that doesn’t come when voices are muzzled and we live in a one-size-fits-all bubble.