Two Very Different Worlds

I was reminded about the other world that lives next door today. It looks similar from the outside, but could hardly be more different.

Like mine, it’s a world that sees things as they truly are. It’s a set of beliefs that are unshakable. It’s an educated, enlightened, and literate world. It’s a world that believes in our country.

But my truths are falsehoods in the other.

These worlds are the left and right in the United States today. There seems to be very little middle left.

For the last year or so I have worked to engage on some level of civil discourse. I have had very limited success. When I am gentle and polite, I am reviled for my obvious weakness. When I am firm, I am just another person with rigid views. I am quite sure I am neither.

Since Charlottesville I have read numerous pieces about how we must speak out about racism, or ways to talk to a white supremacist that will undermine their arguments. These are well-meaning articles, but I cannot see how my variant of truth could possibly penetrate the world view of a person who believes even the edges of racism, much less someone like a white nationalist.

I do see that many people were assaulted by the reality of the violence of Charlottesville, and the stunning developments afterward. Solidarity and support is badly needed. Nearly any non-white-male group has been assaulted by having their worth as humans questioned. Nearly everyone, including us white males, living in the world I live in has been assaulted. Our beliefs have been challenged, and we’re horrified to see people cheering for what seems like nothing less than hate, tribalism, and fury.

One thing is clear to me. The Internet is not The Way. Newspapers, TV or nearly any other broad medium are not the way. Speeches on campus are not the way. The only successes I have had are one on one, in-person conversations. And these are exhausting conversations, even if just to find something we agree on as a starting point.

I grew up in a town with as many conservatives as liberals. We argued at times, but mostly found that we lived in the same world and largely cared about the same things.

I cannot find that country any more. It has been displaced by anger, rage, and mistrust. On both sides.

Trump will pass eventually. The fringe groups will slither back into their holes. But this broad swath of people, our countrymen who see an apparently inverse world to the one I live in will still be next door. And I’ll still be next door to them.

That’s a lot of really exhausting conversations.

That’s a lot of exhausting conversations.

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