Last night, I had the opportunity to hear from one of my favorite political voices, as a part of a leadership event at my church (I love when my worlds collide!). David Brooks, a New York Times columnist and leading voice for pragmatism and moderation in the political process, spoke of his most recent book and venture – joining the Aspen Institute to spearhead “Weave: The Social Fabric Project”. The aim of this program is to start to rebuild the connections between neighbors and within communities that have become eroded during this time of political upheaval and isolation.
I’ve long admired David’s well-reasoned, thoughtful approach to public policy, and I’m sure many of us can relate to the path his ideology has taken. But this is so much more than whether you vote for the Republican or the Democrat; it’s the broader conversation about why we’ve become a society that deals only in the extremes, the fringes…and how we increasingly view anyone with a differing viewpoint or life story as a mortal foe.
As he spoke of what he calls “radical hospitality” – the idea that you make the effort to open your world up to people who don’t always look or think like you – I was reminded of another author I admire – Arthur Brooks, whose recent book, “Love Your Enemies” discusses how we’ve gotten to a point where contempt has become the cultural norm. He argues that it isn’t that we shouldn’t disagree – it’s that we should disagree better:
You might be tempted to say we need to find ways to disagree less, but that is incorrect. Disagreement is good because competition is good. Competition lies behind democracy in politics and markets in the economy, which — bounded by the rule of law and morality — bring about excellence. Just as in politics and economics, we need a robust “competition of ideas” — a.k.a. disagreement. Disagreement helps us innovate, improve and find the truth.
We see all of this at the city level, too, of course, and just like the rest of the country, these conversations have gotten increasingly hostile – and almost shockingly personal. It is no longer enough to disagree on policy, we must personally attack and destroy the other side. The vitriol seems to be at an all-time high. And I think the cost of all of this is progress.
Shawnee is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family – we must never lose sight of that. And disagreement on policy is natural and can often be a very productive means of finding a compromise that will ultimately benefit our community. But in that conversation, we must reject those voices who seek only to tear another down, provide no solutions, and work to stir discord and division. They do not represent us well, and those motives will not serve us well.
Throughout this campaign, you’ll hear plenty about areas in which the candidates disagree – and you may even disagree with us. That’s okay. Let’s use that to create a truly meaningful, positive dialogue. Let’s be radically hospitable. And let’s disagree better.