News Herald – Juliann Talkington
In human societies there will always be differences of views and interests. But the reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist…. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. – Dalai Lama
Many people find it challenging to converse about subjects that matter deeply to them without getting into a dispute. As a result, public discourse about divisive issues is often characterized by destructive debate that eventually leads to division and violence.
Social media seems to have exacerbated this problem. Before the era of electronic profiles and discussions, communication was face to face, by phone, via email, or in writing. People could select written materials of interest to them and most people were careful to communicate their political and/or social views in ways that were not offensive to those around them.
Now many people log their societal and political viewpoints in social media posts without the normal inhibitions that control they way they communicate in person. Many times the comments are personal attacks rather than ideas. In addition, the caustic comments are continually linked to a person in a visual way that tends to alienate friends and acquaintances that have different views.
While it is comforting to have supporters, it is also important to have outside input. As a result, it is imperative that we find ways to encourage dialogue. For this to happen, people need the freedom to express their viewpoints, regardless of how unconventional or radical, the wisdom and skill to present those ideas in diplomatic ways, and a willingness to listen to opposing viewpoints.
Unfortunately, these skills cannot be learned by osmosis, but must be honed over many years. With the increased focus on standardized tests, many of the classes where students learned to participate in dialog through the discussion on complex topics like firearms, law enforcement, war, race, controlled substances, social programs, gender, corruption, religion, incarceration, media and money, etc. have been removed from school offerings.
Even though these classes are challenging to teach and require government entities to turn a blind eye, students need exposure to topics that have a variety of viewpoints and so they can learn how to effectively communicate with others for the collective good.
If we allow freedom of speech and provide education on effective dialogue, perhaps we can limit the division and violence that is prevalent in the U.S. today.