Two Neocons Solving the Worlds Problems

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Taking the Pledge

Jeff Jarvis has published an excellent proposed Post Election Pledge. I'm especially jazzed about point 3:

: Uphold standards of civilized discourse in blogs and in media while pushing both to be better.

I would love to see the blogosphere become the starting place for a whole new kind of political discourse in this country. Maybe it wouldn't be all that new, in fact. How newfangled does any of this sound:

Conservatives and Liberals can and should be friends. I was listening to Dennis Prager on the radio driving back from voting. He had a string of conservative listeners (his base) call in and talk about their despair in dealing with liberal friends and family. Each one bemoaned the fact that they "can't talk to these people." Here's a thought — why not find something besides politics to talk about? I doubt any of these people realize that they, too, might be "impossible to talk to" from certain points of view. If you, or the people you're talking to, can't discuss these matters without getting upset, try a different subject. Sports, weather, movies.
Just this morning I was asking Stephen why we spend so much time talking about politics and hardly any talking about food? That's the kind of thing that has to change.

Presumption of Good Will
This one will be hard to bring back after decades of demonizing the other side. The various political machines have done an extremely effective job. Glib, unthinking condemnations of the people who make up the opposition are such standard fare that most people don't even realize they're doing it. Also, fear sells. It's easier to get people enthusiastic about preventing The End of All Things than it is to get them to support The Kinds of Policies the Make Sense to People Like Us. But it would be truly powerful if we all started giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Optimism could sell, too, after all. And how wonderful it would be if we all didn't have to feel that we're engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the folks next door (or down the street.) Maybe we could even get back to that place where we recognized that our disagreement is a key part of the process.

What if it wasn't all about being right and winning and putting the other guy in his place? What if there was some deep little corner of our souls where we all allowed a truly dangerous notion to dwell:

I could be wrong.

Lord knows that I don't much care for that idea. Even as I was typing it, I was thinking more about how it applies to others than it does to me. My views are reasonable, after all. It's all those unreasonable people who need to acknowledge that maybe they're wrong.

Yeah, well...what if?

What if each of us — even though we're the reasonable ones, the people least in need of doing so — were to incorporate this idea into our thinking...if only to set an example for everyone else? What if we created an "I could be wrong" meme? What if the whole blogosphere decided that, while it's cool to be passionate and certain in your beliefs, it's even more cool to allow a little bit of leeway?

Wouldn't that be something. The blogosphere is already forcing the mainstream media to return to and uphold professional standards that were slipping away. Why couldn't the blogosphere do the same for our political discourse as a whole?


Blogger Beyond Words said...

"Here, here!" I think that's what they say in Parliament. I experienced that collegiality and assumption of goodwill today as a Republican poll watcher in supposedly hostile territory. I had a jolly good day with the election officials.

It was changing. I really want the experience to last.

November 2, 2004 at 2:49 PM

Blogger Stephen Gordon said...

In the practice of law we have a mandatory code of conduct that falls under the heading of "ethics."

Beyond the "thou shalt not" ethics there are the "thou shall" guidelines of "professionalism." These guidelines normally address one attorney's conduct in dealing with another attorney who is his adversary.

Entire books have been written on the subject of professionalism, but it can generally be boiled down to a modified form of the golden rule that I'll paraphrase as follows:

Expect counsel opposite to zealously represent the interests of her client, just as you do the same for your client. This means that you are professional adversaries, not enemies. You will not, for example, file pleadings that do not advance your client's interests, simply to burden your adversary.

Every year attorneys have to take "continuing legal education" and, in my state, an hour of this is spent on professionalism. This hour may help to remind attorneys of these issues, but I've found as a practical matter that the best way to increase professionalism is for more attorneys to get to know one another.

It always seems to be easier to be a complete ass to somebody you don't know and will never see again. But if you know the guy and know that his kids go to your kid's school, well, you just tend to be more professional.

What we are aiming for is something akin to the relationship between that sheep dog and Wile E. Coyote. You scrap for all its worth during the day, but when the whistle blows, you go home as...well, if not friends, at least mutually respected peers.

Maybe that's something like what we should aim for as bloggers.

November 2, 2004 at 2:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed talking to people from the other side of the aisle and even made some friends along the way this election season.

The Kerry-crats, as a group, seem to be a little on the foaming mouth side of things, but I've found that if you can slow down and avoid labels, you sometimes can have a nice conversation and that's very beneficial to me.

The biggest shock to me this election has been Christians voting for Kerry and yet still claiming to be for peace and pro-life.

November 2, 2004 at 3:13 PM

Blogger Phil said...

Stephen, that is one ugly photo!

November 2, 2004 at 3:45 PM

Blogger Stephen Gordon said...


I went looking for an appropriate picture for this article, and when I saw this one, I nearly spewed my coffee.

That guy was elected before the media age.

November 3, 2004 at 6:17 AM

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