Why Are We Shouting at the Other Side?

by on August 13, 2019 · 40 comments

in Ocean Beach, Politics

By Joni Halpern

Dear Ohio,

I have often heard over the past two years that the reason we are so polarized in this country is that we are not listening to the other side.  We simply brand each other as one thing or another, and shout across the distance.  Even when we get together with family or friends, we focus on harmless topics, lest we end up throwing cake at each other, the way our Commander-in-Chief did when he was a little tyke attending birthday parties that were not for him.

There is even a popular theory going about that if we were just civil long enough to hear the other side, we would alter our position in light of truth told by those who disagree with us.  I am a great believer in civility, in respecting the dignity of others.  But it is a natural law of the human eardrum, as immutable as any law of physics, that an unwelcome truth, regardless of how soft the whisper, is always heard as a shout.   And this is the source of our acrimony today.

Imagine what life would be like if the evils of prejudice, oppression, injustice, slavery, or greed could be defeated simply by politely introducing the truth about the harm these evils were causing.  Imagine the slave traders who, upon hearing the awful truth about the vicious harm caused by their enterprise, would have anchored their vessels, unshackled their cargo, and given these traumatized victims their freedom with a heartfelt apology.  Actually, there were hundreds of polite and civil voices raised against the slave trade.  But it took a civil war to loosen the iron grip of believers from the throats of those they had enslaved.

Imagine if the followers of Hitler had been confronted courteously by kind purveyors of truth about what was really happening when Jews were being branded with yellow stars and their stores were being smashed.  Wouldn’t the masses of people who shouted assent to Jewish persecution have been humbled by knowing the real harm they were causing innocent people?  In fact, there were hundreds of voices warning of the terrible path leadership was taking, but Hitler’s followers were in no way diverted.  It was only the shedding of blood by Allied troops that finally brought an end to the horror.

We are all humans, so we are all vulnerable to false gods.  We invest ourselves in their vision until it becomes our operable truth.  It’s like a dream that seems so real, a dream in which we feel so right, so strong, that we never want to wake up.  So the theory being touted now is that all it takes to wake people up is to state rationally and thoughtfully the opposing reality that is so unlike the dream.  As if we could simply say, “You believe this way.  But here’s this fact you might not have considered.”  All of a sudden, the person who embraced a vision that brought pain and suffering to innocent people would dissipate like a vapor carried away on the winds.  It would just be a matter of showing people that what they thought was true probably was only part of the story or was not true at all.

But that has not worked in our country, Dear Ohio.  For reasons we can only surmise as humans, the followers of the despot’s dream are impermeable to adverse reality, no matter how nicely it is expressed.  They see opposing truth as a creeping vine that can grab them by the ankles and upend them.  Instinctively, they fight it, just as unwelcome truth has been fought in every era by humans across the millennia of history.  We have disparaged our neighbors, destroyed our communities, banished our adversaries, broken our free presses, killed our children and forsaken the source of our goodness, all in the service of another human who has conquered our will by promising us we will always be right if we follow him.

So people great and small, rich and poor, schooled or not, cling to him, thumbs in their ears, fingers flapping, tongues lolling side to side, chanting loudly, eyes squenched tight, to block out even the most courteously imparted contrary fact.  They already possess the truth; therefore they do not seek it.  They only want information that confirms that the ship of state, leaking and listing from abuse and neglect, will be saved by a helmsman who has only one life preserver on board.

We are shouting at them, Dear Ohio, because we see the water in the bottom of the boat growing deeper all the time.  It will not be just the helmsman’s followers who go down with the ship.  It will be all of us.  What is at stake if we capsize?  Our free press, our right to make our own peace with conscience, our efforts to save our planet, our progress in clean air and water, our struggle for equality in a country of diversity, our attempts to care for each other, the salvation of our national parks, our oceans, and resources, a public education system that once was the envy of the world, the legacy of our Constitution, the bequest of a free country for our children, our place as a leader in the free world.  The painful reality of these losses will dwarf the false visions of the helmsman.

The time of soft voices is passing, Dear Ohio.  Everyone shouts when they feel they are drowning.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Gary Huber August 13, 2019 at 7:29 pm

Well, I suppose by your reckoning, I’m part of the “other side”. I’m not a fan of Donald Trump, but the fact that the Democrats have, at the core of their platform, the killing of hundreds of thousands of unborn children every year, makes me consider voting for Trump as the least of two evils. I’ve seen my children on sonogram; I know darn well what a human being looks like. So I’ll shout back: since the Democrats won’t extend their laudable ideals to the unborn, they are rank hypocrites, even worse than the buffoon-in-chief.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 10:20 am

You sound like another one-issue person wearing blinders, Huber. So, because of the Democrats position on abortion, you’ll vote for t-rump? How about we save the lives of children already out of the womb? The Republicans have lead an all out assault on them. Cutting back all manner of environmental protections so children will again be exposed to toxic air, water, and land? Cutting social programs that children here now rely on? Trashing the public education system? Wanting to start wars that our children will be told to go fight? Believing climate change is a hoax? You want to fight abortion, go ahead, but to do so at the expense of far more children than your statistic below is self righteous madness.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 10:35 am

Suppose the Democratic Party has much better ideas on these issues than the Republican Party. Perhaps it does, actually; I’m no economist or atmospheric scientist, so I can’t say for sure. But suppose the Democrats proposed bringing back black slavery, while keeping all of their other great ideas. Would you still vote for them? Now replace black slavery with allowing the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent children of all colors. I do not see how that is any different.

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Avatar retired botanist August 14, 2019 at 12:15 pm

In addition to not being an economist or atmospheric scientist, Gary, you are also not a doctor or a woman.
Next time YOU get pregnant, then you’re entitled to an opinion on whether to carry YOUR pregnancy or not.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 4:04 pm

I don’t need a degree in economics, a Ph.D. in atmospheric science, a medical license, or a pair ovaries to know what a human being looks like. I don’t even need to be a human being to know that a mother killing her own child is unnatural and wrong, I just need to be a good mammal.

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Avatar retired botanist August 14, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Oops, there’s that word “child ” again.
And take care in that “mammal” category, since many males eat their young, abandon nests, prey on the ‘mother’…
And I would challenge you to distinguish the difference between a 16-cell blastula of a shrimp and a 16-cell blastula of a human?
Please think about your choice of words.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 5:15 pm

Here’s a National Geographic article you should read. You are demonstrating anthropomorphism. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/3/140328-sloth-bear-zoo-infanticide-chimps-bonobos-animals/

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Not a great comparison, Gary. The Democrats are not proposing to bring back abortion rights, those rights were established by law many years ago, that is existing law. They are defending those rights. If they proposed to bring back slavery, it would go nowhere because Democrats everywhere would rise up against it, it is not existing law now. Not every Democrat agrees with the party leadership on everything any more than every Republican believes everything the party leadership proposes. I vote as a Democrat, although I’m not a registered Democrat, because they have compassion. That compassion extends to poor women who find themselves pregnant and cannot have the child for many reasons. The Republicans want to do away with birth control, sex education, and abortion but they have no provision for caring for all the unwanted children. Where is the compassion in that?

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 4:05 pm

Where’s the compassion in allowing a woman to kill her own child? I probably would vote Democrat if they would change their stance on that.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 4:10 pm

The Democrats did not “allow” anything. This was decided by the Supreme Court. If you vote for t-rump because of this one issue, you will have done far more damage to children than the abortionists ever have. I notice you have not responded to my comments on that. Just the assault on the national healthcare system alone will result in much more damage. Voting as a one-issue voter is incredibly selfish. Do us all a favor and just don’t vote if that is all the intellectual capacity you possess.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 4:16 pm

Well, I am a single-issue voter, and I suppose the abolitionists of old were also. My big hope is that Trump, despite his many faults, will be able to change the compositions of the courts so that Roe vs. Wade can be overturned, and the states can decide for themselves. Making abortion illegal, at least in some states, will obviously do a great deal to lower the numbers.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Then you have no business voting because that is completely irresponsible. The people who are elected will deal with many, many more important issues. A one-issue voter is a voter that is too lazy or too stupid to educate themselves on the entirety of the positions the politicians. You do a disservice to the country voting that way. But, let me hazard a guess, your god told you to do this. RIght?

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Avatar Chris August 15, 2019 at 3:51 pm

You left out the part that there are Republicans who are also pro choice. You also left pit the Part that Donald Trump doesn’t really care about abortion one way or the other. He’s just going where he assumes most of his contingency is.

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Avatar thequeenisalizard August 14, 2019 at 8:25 am

The core issue is universal healthcare, and giving women a choice. You are just another man trying to control a woman’s body by criticizing the party that wants healthcare to save the lives of the living. Talk about hypocrites.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Nobody here seems to be concerned with giving the unborn child, who is very much alive, a choice of his or her own. I have two kids still in college. I would love to take a cruise, but I can’t afford it. Perhaps I should shoot them, and say, “Sorry, but a fetus is a fetus until it gets its college diploma!”.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 4:13 pm

Maybe you should do your kids a favor and shoot yourself so you will stop embarrassing them with ridiculous analogies like that.

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Avatar Chris August 15, 2019 at 7:55 pm

This has to be the dumbest analogy for the pro life argument I have ever seen. I’m going to get bold here and declare you yourself know that’s absurd yet you used it anyway. Geoff gave you a couple examples on why abortion needs to remain legal and I’m sure you’ve heard and read many more yet you knowingly used a lame clutching at straws argument.

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Avatar Vern August 14, 2019 at 8:51 am

Gary, you may want to read about current fertility rates in the USA before you assign your “evils”…

“… US women are having fewer and fewer babies. In some ways, it’s a sign of progress…
A decline in fertility is largely being driven by a dramatic drop in teen births and women joining the workforce. Second, America is simply looking more like its economic peers when it comes to the fertility rate — and that can be partially explained by the drop in unintended pregnancies…
A dramatic drop in the teen birthrate and an increase in older moms has nudged the fertility rate down…”

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 9:08 am

So that somehow makes killing innocent children OK?

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Avatar Vern August 14, 2019 at 9:20 am

Killing innocents, whether children, teens, adults, elderly, black, brown, red, yellow, white or, heck, even orange, fat skinny, medium, etc., for the sake of killing isn’t okay.

Again, you may want to read up on the kill rate of the unborn (maybe, check with Planned Parenthood, not Fox News).

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 9:31 am

I wouldn’t trust Fox News, since they are a bunch of clowns, and I wouldn’t trust Planned Parenthood, since they are doing a big chunk of the killing. So far, I see 638,169 in 2015, according to the Center for Disease Control. Perhaps it’s gone down some, but that’s still most likely several hundred thousands. If you want to quantify evil, that pretty much dwarfs everything else we are facing. I certainly don’t need the clowns at Fox to tell me that!

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Avatar Vern August 14, 2019 at 10:00 am

“Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.”
? Lao Tzu

Enjoy the rest of the week.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 1:16 pm

Here’s what the CDC said:

Unintended pregnancy is the major contributor to induced abortion. Increasing access to and use of effective contraception can reduce unintended pregnancies and further reduce the number of abortions performed in the United States.

That’s how you could at least lower the numbers of abortions but the Republicans don’t want birth control either.

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Avatar Jan Michael Sauer August 14, 2019 at 11:31 am

Progressives and conservatives have fought and died together on battlefields before and since our great country began. Our dreams have been built on our collective sacrifices . Maybe we should think about this and think about our similarities as we move forward .

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Wow, war would not have been the analogy I would have picked. Republicans and Democrats built the national highway system, created the public school system, cured a bunch of diseases, lots of positive things. Not war.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Well, I’ve got some attention with my rants on abortion. My choice of voting is between the Republicans and this party: https://solidarity-party.org/ I’ve lived in several swing states, but since California is not one, and any vote I cast for the Republicans will probably have zero effect, I will probably go with the American Solidarity Party. They are sort like pro-life Democrats.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie August 14, 2019 at 4:31 pm

Okay, Gary, that’s it for your anti-abortion rants.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 14, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Gotcha. Thanks for your patience!

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Avatar Michael August 14, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Article about the vitriol in politics, commenters proceed to point fingers, name call and villify each other.

I dont expect the tone to ever change and staunch supports on both sides need to start listening to the whole country.

It’s like trying to coral a group of kindergarteners. The smartest people I have ever met are humble and never profess to be 100% right. Somehow political commenters just have the whole world figured out.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Who exactly are you referring to, Michael?

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Avatar Geoff Page August 14, 2019 at 4:45 pm

Well, if attention was all you wanted, you got that but it isn’t attention to be proud of. If you think a Republican vote would have zero effect, what do you think will be the result of a vote for the American Solidarity Party? Oh, and by the way, we have a celebrated history in this country of the separation of church and state. Maybe you should read up on that before you vote for them.

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Avatar triggerfinger August 14, 2019 at 5:52 pm

I have a novel idea… stop picking sides, stop putting people in boxes, stop the name calling. There are no sides, they are merely a self-imposed mental barrier from following creeds instead of exercising free thought. We are all individuals that can come to our own conclusions on what is best for ourselves, our family, our community, and country.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 15, 2019 at 9:21 am

If you think we are all going to sit in a circle and sing kumbaya then you don’t understand human nature. There have been sides ever since the first cave men and women walked the earth, there is no changing that.

“We are all individuals that can come to our own conclusions on what is best for ourselves, our family, our community, and country.”

Would that were true but people like Mr. Huber here want to control other people’s lives and will do so unless there is resistance.

If you don’t enjoy the discourse, then don’t read it.

And you are the second person to mention name-calling. I resent that and I would like you or Michael to point out where Huber called me any names or where I called him any names. Disagreement is not name-calling.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 15, 2019 at 10:54 am

Thanks, Geoff! I did come on rather strong at the beginning, and the others rightfully responded in kind. I called the Democrats “hypocrites”, so I guess that was name-calling from me.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 15, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Although we disagreed rather strongly, Gary, you did not resort to any sort of name-calling and I don’t believe I did. Calling Democrats hypocrites is an opinion and is not personal name-calling. I resent comments like this that come from people who just want to stop the argument. I personally don’t continue discussions that devolve into name-calling and that did not occur with our exchange or I would have stopped.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 15, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Geoff, and also for the animated discussion. Except for that one issue that really gets my goat, I’m middle-of-the-road on most things. Part of it is out of ignorance; I wish I had more time to adequately educate myself on economics and environmental issues.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 20, 2019 at 9:49 am

Gary,

One last thought. I didn’t intend to argue abortion with you, my issue was that you are letting one issue govern how you vote and the damage that has ensued from this idiot in the White House is too much to let one thing decide how you vote. I realize that abortion, for the majority of people, is a faith decision, very few people come to the position just intellectually. For that reason, I learned long ago not to argue with faith. I am pro-choice but it is not something I argue about. I hope you reconsider and look at all the harm that a re-elected t-rump will do to this country and the country’s children that are here now. You can still fight your battle but please, think about it.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 20, 2019 at 8:14 pm

Hi, Geoff. Yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard spot. In the past on these pages, I joked about putting solar panels on a combine harvester. But if climate change does indeed present a clear and present danger, and we are unable or unwilling to do anything about it, it will render our disagreements moot. Always something to think about…

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Avatar Chris August 15, 2019 at 8:18 pm

“I have often heard over the past two years that the reason we are so polarized in this country is that we are not listening to the other side. We simply brand each other as one thing or another, and shout across the distance.”

Well there is some validity to that. People on both sides do get pretty heated and there’s certainly no shortage of screaming and pointing and name calling (not referring to this thread). Both in person and social media. I’ve been called to my face “lib sh*t toilet diver” (by a wounded Iraq war veteran so I forgive him as a veteran myself) , and the most colorful thing I’ve ever been told was “You liberals like to eat the raspberries of clown poop”. Not sure that’s supposed to mean lol. My point tho is with this kind of polarization and divisiveness I don’t think things are going to ever get better, at least not in the near future. Not sure what to do about it. I’m not going to modify my views for the sake of unity and I don’t expect anyone on the other side to do that either.

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Avatar Gary Huber August 15, 2019 at 10:38 pm

We have two kids and three step-kids. Between the seven of us, we are all over the political map. When Trump got elected, the four younger kids were in high school and college. I had to give them a little civics lesson: Just because someone voted differently than you did, or would have, does not mean that he is evil or stupid. Of course, I haven’t always set the best example. The only time I plan to go into politics will be if I have to run for our homeowner’s association on the “Termite” ticket, if they don’t hurry up and tent our units. My “respect for life” doesn’t extend to bugs!

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