Letter: How about some coffee and a face-to-face chat?
January 19, 2016
We mostly live in digital echo chambers of our own (unwitting) creation. Our Facebook feeds and cable-news choices filter stories and opinions that confirm our beliefs. I hear on a regular basis that Republicans and Democrats who are social friends can't talk to each other about politics. For meaningful debate and a thought-provoking challenge, you have to make extra effort. It's countercultural to want to understand and learn from opponents. How sad for our democracy if that trend continues.
As Sean Blanda wrote recently, in an article titled "The Other Side Is Not Dumb," the entirety of which I highly recommend, when someone communicates that they are not "on our side," our first reaction is to run away or dismiss them as stupid. To be sure, there are hateful, racist people not worthy of the small amount of electricity it takes just one of your synapses to fire. I'm instead referencing those who actually believe in an opposing viewpoint of a complicated issue and do so for genuine, considered reasons. Or at least for reasons just as good as yours.
This is not a "political correctness" issue. It's a fundamental rejection of the possibility to consider that the people who don't feel the same way you do might be right. It's a preference to see the other side as a cardboard cutout and not the complicated individual human beings that they actually are.
I was reminded of this truth when I got a range of reactions to my recent column about Donald Trump's campaign ("Trump's inaugural address," The Aspen Times, Jan. 9). Everything from "If Trump wins, I'm moving to New Zealand," to "You're being too hard on Trump," to "Rabbi, stick to talking about Judaism." It's so tempting to fire off defensive responses by email or join the Internet comment fray. And yet, what does it accomplish?
Moreover, when I write a column — like when I give a sermon — I'm looking to start a conversation. That doesn't mean I lack a point of view. But it also doesn't mean I expect everyone to agree. Quite the contrary: One of the best compliments to a sermon or column is for someone to disagree and want to engage. I welcome that! And I'm happy to say I've had that from several respondents.
Both President Obama in his last State of the Union and Gov. Nikki Haley in her response called for us to speak from our highest ideals and listen to one another as we work to fix America together. Unfortunately, we tend to reject the possibility that people with different views from ours might be right — and we also tend to reject even the chance that they might have well-considered, thoughtful opinions that differ from ours.
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In that spirit: Can we talk?
Either about my Trump column or the presidential race or any issue you want to bring to the table. I'll set up shop at the times and locations listed below. I invite you to join me to argue, to question, to challenge — and also to listen and learn. I think it's what our community and our country desperately need.
Monday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Bonfire Coffee, 433 Main St., Carbondale.
Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Victoria's Espresso, 510 E. Durant Ave., Aspen.
Jan. 28, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Saxy's Cafe, 104 Midland Ave., Basalt.
Or by appointment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-925-8245, ext.1.
Rabbi David Segal
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