Since one of my themes is the harm caused by “enemy images,” I can’t ignore our collective backyard, that is, U.S. politics. Talk show host Dev Ulz-Advokit recently interviewed me about this topic:
D.U. What is the harm caused by Democrats and Republicans railing at each other like enemies? Doesn’t it spice up the news a bit?
T.I. Sure, it generates great entertainment, but it doesn’t make a great country. If we didn’t see each other as enemies, we’d listen to the other side’s legitimate concerns and incorporate them in wise policies, instead of simply posturing to make the other look bad.
D.U. But neither party is going to jettison its position on the issues. Why try?
D.U. OK, so dissension is cool. What’s the problem then?
T.I. The problem is tone. Many debates are undermined when the speakers mischaracterize or ridicule the other side and/or its motives. Then more energy is going into attack and defend, than actual substance and problem-solving.
D.U. You heard that everyone: mischaracterization and ridicule are un-cool. But isn’t that the way of the world?
T.I. Maybe we all need to practice a new way. If Republicans and Democrats can’t even discuss the issues productively, how can we expect, say, the Israelis and Palestinians—who have a much deeper, visceral situation to address—to arrive at a peace agreement? Or the various Iraqi factions to chisel out a viable government?
D.U. Right. So is there anything the average Jane or Joe can do, or are you just blowing hot air?
T.I. We all contribute to the climate of the country, so yes, there is plenty an average person can do. Consider your words, watch your tone. Present your ideas without blaming, put-downs or ridicule. Talk to individuals of a different political persuasion from you and uncover their underlying, after-peeling-away-the-layers concerns and hopes.
D.U. And then what? Don’t leave us suspended.
T.I. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if you found out their core values were about the same as yours—let me guess—they want security, freedom, fairness, respect and caring? Even if you disagree on how to manifest those values, at least you’ve discovered you’re both humans of the same species who can engage in a constructive conversation.
D.U. Well, thank you, Ms. Idrobo for speaking with me. Now, to our listeners, any dissension out there?