Kelley: Can we ever disagree but with civility?

Posted 5/18/22

First thing: This is not a political speech, at least not how one might imagine.

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Kelley: Can we ever disagree but with civility?


First thing: This is not a political speech, at least not how one might imagine.

We can begin by agreeing that there is a clear divide in this country, even worldwide.

Though an oversimplification, the differences in these viewpoints tend to split people into two main groups.

Both sides believe they are correct, that they have the high ground. After all, aren’t their beliefs founded on immutable, moral principles that negate all counterarguments? Sadly, I don’t think truth matters anymore, and folks in the middle (the majority of us) are held hostage by those with the loudest voices.

Who, you may ask, are those people?

Politicians, the Media, athletes, actors and actresses, Youtubers and TikTok-ers — the list goes on. Constantly bombarded with a barrage of opinions, it does not matter if the views we hear are facts; it only matters that we hear the idea, and the more loudly spoken, the better. We hear many lies. Many stories are fabrications.

What are the consequences? We are now tribal, each finding the tribe where we feel most comfortable and settling in. We only hang around with those with whom we agree. We do not like associating with people with different views. We do not want to hear what they have to say. We have normalized violence against those believing differently than we do. It seems that no form of retaliation is forbidden, that we can do or say whatever we want.

Enter Elon Musk. No single event in recent memory has set the social media sphere ablaze as brightly as his purchase of Twitter. The world is ending; the sky is falling, and civilization as we know it is in deep trouble.

To paraphrase the Ghostbuster’s crew from the 1984 movie, “We are heading for a disaster of Biblical proportion ... real wrath of God stuff. Fire and brimstone falling from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”

Funny, right? It is in a movie, but isn’t that how we live now?

We are so polarized that we do not see what we have become or what those screaming the loudest have become. While watching a video today, I observed a guy asking students at a college about free speech, especially concerning Musk’s recent purchase.

One young man said something so profound yet straightforward in its conclusions that I was left speechless.

The question: “Elon Musk purchased Twitter for $44 Billion. Do you think that was a good thing?” There were a variety of answers, but this one stuck with me.

“When you’re not being exposed to other ideas or other people’s points of view, you become like a superhero in your mind because, like, I’m on the side of righteousness, and then when you are censoring someone else, and you’re not getting any kind of pushback or conflict, and you know the whole point of debate is to come out with shared knowledge and a greater outcome of how to handle a situation, you know, you’re really stifling progress.”

I know it is a little rambling, but not much. In a nutshell, the brilliant young man was saying this. If you only allow yourself to hear one point of view, you begin to believe it is the only one, or at least the only valid one. We are fortunate to have two perfect and recent examples.

In 2016, Democrats had no clue Donald Trump would soundly defeat Hillary Clinton. Some folks still cannot believe it. The same happened on the other side in 2020. No Trump supporter would have, in their wildest dreams, thought that Biden would defeat Trump. There were clear signs in each instance, but no one saw them because the only “press” they were paying attention to was their own.

I have my own political opinions. They are strong. I hope I have successfully kept them out of this writing. My point is not to present an argument for one side. I wish to mourn the death of free speech. It does not seem that we can disagree anymore and remain civil.

What a tragedy.


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