September 10, 2007

Drinking, Politics, and Open Discussion

I was at a party a while back. I somehow fell into a discussion of politics. Not a terrible situation on the surface. However, unless you mostly agree at the outset, I have not found many enriching discussions. Drinking of course does not help for level-headed discourse. Neither does talking to a Libertarian about capitalism and taxation.

I assume it has always been this way, people separated in corners and coming out swinging, but it seems most things I see or read these days is just vitriol spewed from both sides. I wonder if it is always been so polarizing. Probably, but I hope not.

I try to keep as open of a mind as possible. Some beliefs are pretty engrained, and there isn’t a likelihood of changing my mind, but I am always fascinated to hear why people think the way they do. And there are certainly plenty of issues where my opinion is malleable. Discussing and debating issues is what our government is based on. “Always stay away from religion and politics” – I just don’t find that satisfying since those two issues seem to make up a big part of people’s psyche. Unfortunately they often live up to their powder keg reputations.

Brian Baird a Democratic Representative from Vancouver Washington recently said that even though he has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, he has visited Iraq recently and thinks pulling out now would be an even graver mistake. When he spoke to constituents at home, he was ripped apart for “betraying” them. Republicans may say “even he’s on our side” or ridicule him for “flip-flopping” when he comes up for re-election. I think his statements shows hope. He hasn’t changed his feeling about the war, but in assessing the current situation, he feels it makes sense to continue our efforts. Opinions can evolve as situations evolve.

I appreciate that I live in a country that encourages freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to speak out against things you don’t believe in. The system is a bit broken, but it is the best there is. It could always be better, though, and that is up to us. I would love if the change started at the personal level.