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How Do You Talk To The Mirror World?

The guy who got me to start a weblog doesn't blog all that regularly these days, but he put up a post recently that I liked, not least because purple is one of my favorite colors. His "Can I Choose Purple?" is a rant about his frustration with the whole blue state / red state thing and expressing a wish that people could spend their time looking for the purple areas of agreement instead of the things that divide Americans.

Here's a sample:

Itís only when you force someone to pick sides that you start to polarize the issue. ďWell gee, I guess if I have to choose between a rock and a hard place, Iíll go with that team.Ē

I donít care what color you choose, but by putting up the context that you have to choose, youíre forcing people to go to one extreme, or another. Then with everyone entrenched on being either liberal, or conservative, youíve created extremists for both sides and isnít that what the whole War On Terror is about stopping?

Sure, America is divided when you force the artificial constructs of liberal or conservative, but for that matter, you might as well do a program about north versus south, because there are just as many differences there. The simple fact is that America is a diverse nation and whatever type of American youíre looking for, if you look hard enough, youíll find it.

By and large, I agree with him. If you look hard enough, you can find common ground on at least some issues with people whom you utterly disagree with on other issues. And that's a good thing. It fosters communication and a sense that we are all in this together.

But here's the problem: what happens when not everyone feels that way? What happens when people crank up their fervent rhetoric higher and higher to the point that there is simply no way to deal rationally with them?

There are unfortunately way too many examples of the kind of behavior I'm talking about. But the one that got me posting about this issue today was something Glenn Greenwald looked at in extensive detail this weekend: how an article in the New York Times Travel section can be so completely misconstrued by people firmly settled into the " Us / Them" mindset.

The short version of the story is that the Times did an article about the vacation possibilities in a Maryland town, and happened to mention that two top Bush administration officials have vacation homes there.

If you read any newspaper's travel section, you'll notice that articles about 'new' vacation spots are very often capped by mentioning which famous person happens to go there or own a house there. This is utterly normal stuff. Yet somehow, the fact that the Times dared mention Cheney and Rumsfeld in the article transformed it from a typical piece of travel journalism into ... I am not kidding about this ... an instruction manual for al Qaeda on how to assassinate those men, planted in the Travel section by Times editors who are pissed off that the Bush administration is not happy with their recent reporting in other sections of the paper.

No, I'm not kidding. Go read Greenwald's piece.

So, how do you start to find common ground when people can look at the same thing and come away with such completely different responses?


Comments (1)

I didn't know that I was the one that got you into blogging. :P

Thanks for plug and glad you liked the piece!


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 2, 2006 10:22 AM.

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