A change of seasons

Trent Ernst, Editor

Man, has it been an awesome November.

After predicting that the snow wouldn’t leave until April, the snow has mostly gone away.

While it has sucked for sledders and skiers, it has been pretty awesome for walking about. It’s like spring, six months early.

With the elections in the states finally done, sort of, I thought we could get back to life as normal, but no, it’s still dominating the news cycle.

But, like the weather, something has changed.

It happened almost as soon as Donald Trump was named President-elect.

Suddenly, all the Republicans, who had been pointing fingers at all the Democrats, saying they were being smug, self-righteous jerks, suddenly are coming across as smug and self-righteous, while people with left leaning sensibilities, who had been accusing the right leaning people of violence towards minorities, have started to riot. It’s like the entire system has been tossed on its head. In a sense, it has been.

Donald Trump, who claimed the system was rigged weeks before the actual election, became president. (One wonders if he had some inside knowledge on that.) Meanwhile, America’s first female president commemorative memorabilia has had to be recalled and destroyed. What? We did not print 100,000 copies of that magazine.

I’ve talked about the fragmenting of American society before, and I’m going to do so again. While I’m saying these things and you are agreeing or disagreeing with me, note that this is actually a subtle message for you and me and all of us. I’m cunning like that.

Psychologists call the idea that everyone is like us is a “false-consensus bias.” We assume that people think like us, so we are shocked when we discover that half the population doesn’t share our political beliefs.

Over time, this can turn into the belief that the people who don’t share this belief are crazy. They don’t get it and are worthy of our ridicule.

And suddenly, all our conversation becomes little more than ridicule. We communicate in memes that mock and make fun of the other side. Posting memes that mock the other side don’t reveal us to be well-informed, they show us to be jerks.

There’s a maxim that anyone who has been in a debate club should know. It goes, roughly, like this: if you can’t argue the other side’s point for them, you don’t understand the issue.

And nobody is taking the time to even listen to the other side, let alone hear what they have to say.

Sean Blanda, in a recent piece on Medium, argues that, instead of trying to win an argument, we should try and lose to the person arguing with us.

“Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers,” he says. “Instead try to “lose.” Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it.”

Because right now, we are, all of us in our own ways, standing on our respective lines in the sand, be they political, moral, or just a matter of what TV shows we like to watch, and yelling across the divide at the people who disagree with us.

I’m not saying that we all need to agree. But we need to set a baseline of respect for people others based on gender, race, religion, political orientation and whether they like (shudder) Rick Astley or not. It doesn’t make them a bad person. It doesn’t mean they’re dumb. It just means they think differently than you. Had different life experiences. And if we learn to see the world through their eyes, our own perspective is broadened.