Free and open dialogue: talk to people you do not agree with

Devon Martinez

dmarti31@uccs.edu 

 Election years do not bring out the best in people. In the two-party system, people from both sides align themselves as the good guys and position their opponents as the bad guys as they attempt to win it all. 

     We all know that the elites and political parties will engage in bad politics, but what happens when we start imitating them? What does this mean for the country? 

     I can tell you one thing: it does not mean anything good, and it’s only going to get worse. I could spend this article bringing up moments when people from both sides engaged in the worst behavior to hurt those that they disagree with.  

     And if you are reading this and laughing at the idea that people on your side are to blame for horrid behavior that stifles conversation, then you are polarized to believe that your side is somehow more righteous than the other side.  

     Trust me, I used to be a conservative, and then I became a libertarian. Today, I am more moderate. I was polarized before and saw all people that disagreed with me as stupid and evil. I believed that I knew the best way for society to be governed. 

     This was foolish for several reasons. But how did I stop thinking like this? Well, it did not come from political adversaries yelling obscenities at me and calling me bad names. Most of my intellectual journey towards the center came from a free and open dialogue with people I disagreed with. 

     What I learned is that most people on both the left and right are good and decent and that most of this hate can be solved if both sides genuinely attempt to talk to each other.  

     Jonathan Haidt explored this in his book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” According to Haidt, both conservatives and liberals are fundamentally intuitive and not rational; their values are different, and if you want to persuade someone, you must appeal to their sentiments. Politics is about learning from people you disagree with and not about manipulation.  

     I encourage people to read this book if they want to understand why their friends and family hold views that they consider narrow-minded.  

     Being in the middle and being a moderate is not what I am pushing, and that is not the goal of political discourse. I believe we need the left and the right; the left provides progress, and the right provides structure. There is nothing wrong with being conservative or liberal.  

     What I am arguing is that democracy fails when people head toward the fringes and divide themselves over political disagreements.  

     Honestly, I do not care who people vote for in the upcoming election. The only thing I care about is if they are willing to talk and work with people they disagree with, because we can expect more radicals and more violence if we do not start rebuilding these broken relationships.  

     We need to understand the utility in disagreement; we need to be open to being wrong, and we need free and open dialogue. If we do not start now, then we can expect 2020 to be looked back on as the best year of the decade as we continue to rip each other apart. 

A political rally.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com