If you’re going to engage in political debate, cut others the same slack that you would like others to cut you.

I’ve got good friends on both sides of the aisle (so to speak). People who I respect and value. People who I know have put a great deal of thought into their opinions and choices. I don’t like it when conservatives assume that liberals must be idiots by taking their quotes out of context, and I equally dislike it when liberals assume that conservatives must be idiots for the same reason.

When you say or post to the effect of “you have to be an idiot to be a {liberal,conservative,republican,democrat}”, you are making it hard for me, and for others like me, to respect you as a thoughtful person.

Do you want a more civil political discourse? Then lead by example.

Mitt Romney Was Joking About Airplane Windows

Curtis Olson September 25, 2012 15:06

Personally I’m really sick of the wild hyper-partisanship and gross misrepresentations that are spread around every day on the internet.  I’ve started muting/hiding just about any political post I see on G+/Facebook, that way I’m not trolled into wasting half a day replying to them which does no good anyway.  If the postings continue after election day I’ll probably start muting/hiding friends, or muting/hiding facebook entirely. :-)  Lately I’ve really been growing to appreciate and value political discourse that shows clear evidence of careful thought and a willingness to ask or be asked some tough introspective questions.  Even if someone starts from a completely different perspective and ends up at a different conclusion – if they support that with logic and careful thought then that gets my ultimate respect.

I’ve always felt that democracy requires a culture of education and a culture of civility and some of that seems to be slipping away lately.  We think that we (humans) are continually getting smarter and better, but the internet allows any wild rumor to run rampant and before you know it, there is a tremendous vacuum of truth and common sense, and few willing to try to repair it.

In my own experience, when I actually have a serious, and carefully thought out discussion with someone on the other side of the aisle so to speak, most of the time we end up much closer to each other’s positions than we thought we were when we started.

Cristian Gafton September 25, 2012 21:35

+Michael K Johnson I generally agree with the main thrust of your thinking here, but I would heavily qualify it. I do not agree with the idea that most or any ideas or opinions are worth the same amount of consideration. And I also believe that there are opinions which, if held by somebody, make all their other positions hard to take seriously - if not discard outright.

So one one hand, anything that reeks of “republicats/democrans are idiots because they think…” makes me stop reading and move on.

On the other hand…

If you believe that Obama’s birth certificate is a conspiracy 5 decades in the making, then I really don’t give a crap what your foreign policy or economic views are. If you believe that Sarah Palin was ready or mostly ready to be president when she was picked for the republican ticket then I view you as a loon, not as a republican/conservative with ideas worth debating. You, as a person, can not possibly have any thought that is worth my time considering. You’re done - stop wasting my time, shutup, fuckoff and die…

The loony conspiracy examples are numerous. And I don’t have a problem with anybody saying you have to be an idiot to hold those views - on the contrary, I believe that to be the mark of a person deeply rooted in reality.

Michael K Johnson September 25, 2012 22:46

+Cristian Gafton I’m not sure how my desire for moderation on both sides can be interpreted as arguing in favor of wild speculation on either side. (Nor are you necessarily making such an interpretation in expressing your qualification.)

However, if you judge an opinion as not worth responding to with civility, I’m suggesting that it’s not worth your time to respond to. What good is it to be insulting? How is it ever going to convince anyone to agree with you? As I see it, insulting the other side, for whatever cause, is only ever preaching to the choir even if your opinion is right, and so is at best a waste of time.

So I’m not saying that every opinion bears equal consideration or weight. I do suggest that responding with insults does no good, without regard to the quality of the opinion.

Anyone may, of course, disagree with my opinion in this regard. That doesn’t change my preference for civil discourse.

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