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Topics: Ethical Living | Opinion

This election, let’s talk to each other like human beings

I make scornful comments on social media that I’d never utter in person

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I’ve been experiencing a political crisis of conscience. Not in my allegiance; I’m a lifelong leftist, and that won’t change.

No, what I’m brooding over is deeper and harder to admit. In my passionate support of liberal politics and social justice, I worry I’ve become the antithesis of the good person I’ve always believed I was. When I encounter conservatives, especially on the internet, my rage boils over. On social media, I make scornful comments that I’d never utter in person. Worse, I’ve noticed my attacks have sometimes been aimed at people, not policies. It’s making me wonder: is this attitude really consistent with my inclusive values?

I know people who vote Conservative, and they’re not bad people. Nor are they unedu­cated or ignorant. Some even share my own fervour for social justice. Yet their voting record often in­censes me, and I find myself errone­ously assuming conservatives care only about money and little for humanity’s oppressed.

To make things worse, I fear my denigration of conservative viewpoints has gone so far that I dismiss without consideration any argument coming from the right. The people I engage with on social media are all firmly on the left, and in person, too, I primarily socialize with those who share my views. I worry that I am helping curate an echo chamber of left-only intellectual ignorance with this lack of political debate. Am I a hypocrite who ardently upholds diversity in all aspects of life but politics?

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Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt of New York University has studied viewpoint diversity. He’s spoken widely about the dangers of having a student body and academic leadership that only leans left in American universities. In interviews and a TED Talk, he has lamented the political “purification” that a lack of respectful disagreement generates. Haidt warns that both moderate liberals and moderate conservatives are necessary to keep humanity evolving in a healthy political system of checks and balances.

I agree with Haidt. By blocking out the opinions, priorities and ideas of moderate Conservatives (I say moderate because alt-right, extremist or oppressive beliefs will never have my respect), my Liberal, NDP and Green party friends and I are creating social and political silos that encourage hard lines of division rather than a desire to find some common ground.

As we prepare to vote this October, I hope we can reframe politics outside the self-righteous, good-versus-evil binary. I hope we ask our friends and family what they’d like out of Canada’s next government, even if we feel we’re unlikely to agree.

If we move to a broader spectrum of civil discourse this election, one where left and right listen to one another and seek shared goals, we may just be able to keep our country as strong and free as our anthem claims we are.

This column first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Broadview with the title “This election, let’s get over our anger and engage with each other as human beings.” For more of Broadview’s award-winning content, subscribe to the magazine today. 

Jackie Gillard is a writer from the Toronto area.

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  • says:

    As a person who leans to the right I concur with the article. Humourously I wanted to say: "I know people who vote Liberal, and they’re bad people. They are unedu­cated or ignorant. Some even share my own fervour for saving money." But that would have been "politically incorrect" (pun)
    I find myself erroneously assuming Liberals love to spend money, and need a group hug.

    2 Timothy 3:2-5 states: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
    Wait a minute.... Paul is talking to Christians.

    My thoughts, we live in a world where everything is manipulating us in an instant. If you can't see it, read the "national" papers. The same article from Sun Media and the Star Media is presented very differently (heroes and villains), yet it's the same story.

    My take, win or lose, God puts who He wants in leadership of our country. We are obliged to pray for them, and to honour them within the boundaries of God's will.

  • says:

    A balanced piece. It's a mirror we should all hold up to our face. Thank you.
    Haidt's book "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" is a thorough reflection on the key themes of your opinion piece. If one is not inclined to read it, you can go to The Rubin Report on YouTube. Dave Rubin interviews many different experts on this matter, including Haidt, I believe. Rubin is a gay, non-religious Libertarian. A person about as stereotypically 'left' as one can be. So if you are on the left, don't be triggered because Rubin is clear that most of the intolerance against vigorous debate on every issue that divides us today concerning religion, politics, gender, and the meaning of tolerance itself is generated on the left of the ideological spectrum. Regardless where you stand on the spectrum, Rubin is a mirror that the mainstream media refuses to hold up to our face.