I have come to believe that most of the population is willing to hear people out and are curious about other people’s beliefs. The incentives for popular influencers to contribute to the firefight and create controversy are what cause these oversimplifications of Americans’ views to be so widely adopted. Everyone online seems to think half of the country are idiots while at the same time believing themselves to be fully informed, rational actors. Americans are not the caricatures that are spoonfed to us in the national press and through social media. The people depicted are real, but also rare. And their words are typically emotionally driven. They shouldn’t be given credence as representing an entire half of the country’s point of view.
What i have found when speaking to people about politics, is that most people have quite a complex and well-reasoned station of knowledge from which their policy ideas are formed. communication breaks down once the amygdala is activated. If you pay attention its a visibly noticeable phenomenon. People get more jittery and move in place more. They begin to talk fast and breathe short. It’s the fight or flight response associated with a highly active amygdala in our brains. Fight or flight is a primitive defense mechanism that helps us escape an enemy’s threat or neutralize it. For our democracy to function we have to try really hard in conversations to appreciate each others’ perspective for where it came from rather than from where we come from. That is to say, “…entertain a thought without accepting it”.
We will not have a properly informed public if the media continues to convince us that half of the country is stupid or crazy rather than having authentic experiences which led them to their beliefs. It is in our own best interest in all political cases to assume that individuals have not come across all of the same information as us. Call someone crazy sure but not with a fighting attitude or you’ll never teach them to be sane. Worse more, you won’t learn anything yourself. If we aren’t just emotionally venting and we want serious solutions to problems, we need to start considering how we can make people see eye to eye from across the aisle. Productive democracy will only occur in a situation where we have battles between FRIENDS with different ideas. No matter how different the ideas, both individuals should have in them a common commitment to the health and prosperity of our shared nation. Democracy requires neighborliness. simple as that.