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Civilized Discourse in Unexpected Places


I was getting a small arsenal of podcast episodes in place about a week ago as I prepared for a 3 hour flight. I was going through my usual suspect list of programs when I came across an On Being episode that made me think, “that doesn’t make sense.” As a rule now, whenever I notice that internal monologue message go off, I try to stop and survey why I’m thinking that.

“'Krista Tippett is interviewing Glenn Beck?’, I thought. What is that all about?!” How had it come to be that the calm doctor of philosophy, seeker of spiritual insight, host of patient and curious dialogue and author of Becoming Wise was interviewing a man I think of as a fundamentalist antagonizing zealot?

i can’t say I was looking forward to the episode but I was intrigued to see what the conversation would entail and why it was taking place in the first place.

What took place in the discussion was a call to reconnect with our common humanity despite differences in value, to try as Brené Brown says, “to find our way back to each other”, and one of atonement. Beck said in the discussion he believes he is partially responsible for the division our country finds itself in today. The platform he held and holds, tone he struck and at times baseless tirades he let loose in part drove the country apart. He doesn’t regret it all but has had hard conversations with himself about it.

What I think is important about this episode and why all my progressive friends should give it a listen is a reminder that things we are suspicious of or frustrated by are not always what they seem or why they seem that way and a reminder that people and perspectives can change.

Beck was also quick to highlight how shows like Samantha Bee, whose show he has appeared on as type of counterweight to his own. He said each side see that extreme conversation is isolating us from each other. In the comfort of each of our echo chambers, we are safe and smart, its the other guys that are idiots. And both sides think this of the other.

4 months into Trump’s presidency, a portion of his support has faded, international coalitions are shaky and who knows where it goes, but the percentage of our country that is still behind him is an important reminder that many people do not like the alternative. And why is that?

Part of it may be rooted in values differences and part of it made be based in a history of discrimination but another part must be reckoned with from the progressive side of the table I heard one of my voices of reason, Fareed Zakaria, say a while back. It went something along the lines of, “progressives have still not found a way to show that globalization is good for everyone. And that is in part because it has left a portion of the population that once had it good behind. Our fast-changing planet and global economy is making life harder on people who have lost or are losing working and middle class lifestyles.

And if there is one thing we should know or recall from behavioral principles its that people dislike losing things twice as much as they enjoy gaining (see "loss aversion").


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