THE LEFT/RIGHT CHASM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love reading the papers and talking about what’s going on in the world. You used to be able to do that without getting caught up in ‘partisan politics’. That time seems so long ago, you may have forgotten how it used to be. Let me remind you.

There used to be ‘facts’ about what was happening on any given topic on which everyone could agree. People may have disagreed about how to deal with a problem such as increasing crime and declining GDP, but there was a consensus that the former was in fact increasing and the latter was declining.

Not so today. Facts have been the meat and potatoes of partisan politics for too long now. Let’s say that if you’re a liberal and/or a Democrat you believe that unemployment is down. And let’s assume that if you are a conservative and/or Republican you believe that unemployment is up. How can anyone have a rational discussion about a problem if the nature or even the existence of the problem is itself the issue? When people argue whether a ‘fact’ is, in fact, a ‘fact’?

Talk shows and news interviews usually devolve into shouting matches about what used to be called empirically proven facts. I don’t want this to happen in my personal life. Therefore, unless I’m sure we are in the same ideological camp, I am careful not to talk about anything that could remotely have one liberal and another conservative interpretation. That rules out a wide swath of conversation topics and makes talking to strangers even more difficult for me. I’m not good at small talk under the best of circumstances.

It also presents the problem of how to feel out someone’s political views without bringing up a potentially controversial topic. I had a whole conversation with someone at a party about how much we love following the news. At no point did we reveal which version of the news we espoused. When she said that her husband only watched one channel all day, I surmised it was Fox News and that they were conservative/Republicans.

I later had my ‘guess’ confirmed by a mutual friend. I am so relieved that we had not marred our pleasant conversation with the revelation that we were ideological adversaries. We would not have agreed on the statistical reality about almost anything.

At a recent dinner with someone we just met, our new friend talked about how well the stock market was doing (Republican code for: Trump is good for America). He then asked what the problem was with Trump since “He hasn’t done anything bad yet.” There was silence at the table and then Tom said something like, “Well, that’s a debatable point”. We quickly moved on to other topics.

This is why even well-meaning, open-minded people like me have become polarized. I’m happy to listen to your views and may even be swayed by a good argument. But I will not be open to the idea that the earth is really flat, that evolution isn’t a scientifically proven process or that man-made climate change is not a real ‘thing’. In today’s world, I guess that makes me a closed-minded ideologue. So be it.

My political bent nowadays is towards any view that is based on facts that can actually be proven to be true. And I want to see the evidence and decide for myself if your ‘evidence’ actually proves your ‘facts.’

45 thoughts on “THE LEFT/RIGHT CHASM – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. I was trying to imagine me listening patiently to someone explaining why we should not vaccinate our children (those women infuriate me) … or people who think the earth is flat … or who tell me school shootings are done with actors. I don’t think so. Not in this lifetime.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know if I have enough self control or self-discipline to engage in a “pleasant conversation” with anyone who watches only Fox News or who genuinely believes that Trump “hasn’t done anything bad yet.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have that problem. A recently divorced friend is dating a guy who actually said that Trump hasn’t done anything bad yet! We have to face this (otherwise very nice) man over dinner regularly now! It getting harder to avoid any conversation about the world or politics. I’m not sue how this will play out.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The problem is, and this sounds really odd but is true. Most if not all people that watch Fox News only watch Fox News. Nothing else, Not other news shows, but no sports, no fictional shows, nothing. Just Fox. They live in an insanely isolated bubble.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The days of having a discussing, sharing points of view without fistfights erupting, are over. Sadly, in today’s society, you can’t simply disagree and leave it at that. People make it a personal affront simply because you have a different opinion on this that or the other. Geeze, it use to be only religion that caused such a stir! Now you must tiptoe around people less you say the wrong thing. It’s ridiculous!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Globurg, it’s difficult having “polite” conversation these days because (most) people find it hard to contain their emotions. I usually hold back, listen to others and jump in when I think it’s “safe”.

      Glo, you’re right. People take it personally if you don’t agree with them. A pity.

      We should be able to discuss, to argue without going ballistic. It’s healthy and educational.

      Religion: Glo, I remember my first trip to Ireland in the mid 60’s. A stranger in a pub. A fellow came over and greeted me cheerily. “A stranger, eh! Welcome! These are good folks. Just steer clear of two things. Religion and politics! Have another round on me ..and tell me more about yourself”.

      A Pilgrim’s progress, Glo.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I guess I just have a hard time with the anger I now encounter. It just didn’t seem to be that way in years gone by…we didn’t hate anyone for a different opinion, even if we tried to convince them to come around to our point of view. Religion is another story, but I still cringe when I hear about supposed Christians spouting that God hates certain people…He doesn’t and the Bible does not say anything like that…yet, they insist otherwise and with great venom. Those are the ones I’d like to thump with my Bible. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

        1. People who need to hate others will always find justifications for their hatred. People who discriminate against others often sound the most moral and self righteous. In the past we seemed to put a social muzzle on overtly spouting hatred and degradation. Now, the filter is off and you can say anything, no matter how hateful and predjudiced it is. And you can feel justified and morally superior! Overt Nazis are running for office as Republicans! Every World War II war hero is turning over in his grave!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Glo, RANTING seems to be “in” today, replacing civilized exchange. Observation: You cannot hear what the other person may be saying if you are ranting…not even if you have GOOD hearing.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. The problem isn’t that we have different opinions, it’s that we have different facts! It’s hard to argue over facts with someone who is sure you are wrong and you know you are right. There is no room for opinions or subtleties or gradations. Either immigrants are raising the crime rate or they’re not. Either health care costs are going up or they’re not. You literally are not capable of discussing anything with someone who has a different set of base facts. That’s like trying to have a sophisticated conversation with someone who doesn’t speak english. It’s just going to frustrate everyone and get nowhere!

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      1. I am very slow when I use the self checkout. A young black woman walked up behind me. I apologized stating that I was sorry I was so slow. She responded with anger telling me she had not asked me to hurry! I had intended nothing other than letting her know I was sorry for taking so long. Northing suggesting she had made any complaint at all to me. Now, it seems you can’t even be nice without offending someone.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Glo, I NEVER use the self-checkout. It intimidates me. So, I’ll use the longer “Express” check out or another line. The woman’s anger with you is unfortunate.

          You just don’t who’ll you encounter these days. You don’t know why they are angry. Sometimes they are just in a bad mood or anti-social. I usually tongue/bite my lip and get on with my business. I know I get irritated when I’m behind someone in the express line, they are buying or cashing in lottery tickets and taking FOREVER to wrap it up. There’s also the elderly (yes, joke is on ME) person, digging into his/her pocket, for change to pay bill. Takes FOREVER.

          You’re a better person for trying to be nice.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The joke’s on me too! lol As a Christian, God has called me to be as loving as possible with everyone who crosses me path…that is sometimes a tall order! Still, it is disheartening to meet people who are angry at not just me, but the world. They are missing out on so much! And I always have my card out and ready to pay! But I have been guilty of using coupons & change! tehehe

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Glo, nothing wrong with using coupons. Truth be told: We always FORGET the coupons. They’re hanging on fridge whiteboard with clear reminder to use them. UGH!

              Glo, it’s hard to retain sense of civility sometimes in crowd of miserable people. Often, I am guilty of uncivil thoughts. I try to rein them in before they become words leaping out of my mouth. Hard, very hard to do.

              Liked by 1 person

      2. Ellin, you’re right. “facts” are hot button issues. That’s why Tommy and I laugh at the Bozos who question our knowledge even when we say “..But we were THERE!!”

        We are a nation of Bozos (Sorry, Bozo) and nobody is laughing at us. Except the Russians.

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  4. Or, as one friend put it, ‘god put old rocks here to fool us.” oookayyy. Politics is no longer a subject for discussion anywhere, I find. Nor is ‘did you see what X said on the news last night?” since it’s a 50-50 chance it’s the wrong “X” (the one you can’t stand) and it just opens all the wrong doors…
    Religion, politics, news, the government. Even mentioning the president (oh so carefully) can ignite that powder keg.

    One man, in one year, has turned this entire nation into 1952 and he terrifies me. He makes Senator Joe McCarthy look like the Good Fairy. I innocently (well, not so innocently) asked a flat earther the other day how thick the earth was, and what was on the underside, and he called me stupid. Lol. He doesnt know either.

    And I find that anyone who begins spouting political trash is no longer on my metaphorical Christmas card list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are the extreme religious people getting more political these days or did I just not pay attention to them in the past? It seems that the right wing churches are jumping on the Trump bandwagon with a vengeance. Apparently VP Pence is a real nutball religious freak as well and Jesus talks to him personally.
      As to your refernce to the McCarthy era – I’ve been thinking that a lot too these days. If the Democrats don’t sweep into power in congress in November, I fear we are in for some real 1952 style repression. Trump would love to start a new McCarthy era – against anyone who doesn’t lick his boots.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They have been like that for a LONG time, but they have gotten more numerous and thus more powerful. But yes, they have been around for a LONG time … like more than 100 years. Politically, they have always been the back end of the back end.

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    1. Things are a little too interesting for me right now, Leslie! I am putting all my hopes onto the 2018 elections. If Democrats don’t take over at least one house in congress, I will lose all hope, curl up in a ball and stop being curious about how things turn out. Because it won’t be pretty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ellin, I’m also hoping the midterms turn things around ….more than a bit and scare the bee-jeezus out of the clowns in the White House and elsewhere.

        I hope we can toast lots of new faces in Congress.

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  5. This reminds me of the last few years I was teaching Critical Thinking/Business Communication. I started integrating Critical Thinking into bus comm because my students could no longer identify facts (prices, sizes, what a customer said, etc.) in a case. They even said, “How do YOU know it’s a fact?” like it was a fact ONLY according to me. I’m not an Ayn Rand objectivist by any means, but a fact is a fact and objective reality serves us well in a discussion. My students thought this aspect of objective reality was something I “believed” in and they didn’t. In their world, when responding to a case, there were no wrong answers. For example, if a company had a “no refunds ever under any circumstances; exchanges only” policy (a fact) students thought they could still choose to send a refund to a customer. It never occurred to them that, in real life, that could mean they lost their job and, therefore, their answer was wrong.

    This is why I ended up hating teaching. I couldn’t respect my students. I no longer thought they had that thing called “potential” and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I thought, “You guys are going to live in your world. I’m not, not very long, anyway.”

    I was also at dinner once with the family of the Evil X. His brother said to him, “Where do you get your facts?” The Evil X listened to highly volatile speakers on liberal talk radio. His brother listened to the highly volatile speakers on conservative talk radio. I thought to myself, “‘Your’ facts? Facts don’t belong to anyone.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Martha, I’ve only subbed in the “arena” so I don’t have much experience. I know I tried very hard in history classes to make the subject “breathe” with reality. The kids were initially confused, saying it wasn’t in their ancient text books. During my brief tenures, they seemed to grasp what I was saying and the classes became more enjoyable.

      Fast forward: I was called to the principal’s office and lectured about straying off the curriculum.

      I gave it up. I thought I was bringing real life experience to kids who didn’t care about their moldy text books. The teachers and principals thought I was dangerous, muddying the waters. Too much internal politics for me.

      I’ve frequently encountered students I had as a sub. They’ve told me how much they enjoyed my classes and wish their regular teachers would “talk” to them.

      No, I’m no “Mr. Chips” but I do know good teachers are invaluable.

      Hey, a good chat!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The atmosphere in which one teaches makes a huge difference whether one is a good teacher or a bad teacher. I was a good teacher for 30 years. Then, I became a bad teacher. But at the end I had one of my life’s most remarkable students and I saw that the good teacher never went away. I also saw that students have something to do with how things work in a classroom and their preparation makes a huge difference. I had not believed that before, but No Child Left Behind and the educational theory of Obama’s administration, which put all the emphasis on testing, stole the soul from the magic that happens when people learn. 😦

        In one of my final classes, I taught an Iraqi girl who asked why we had to read Fahrenheit 451. And I said, “Because it’s a book that changed the world and the lessons in it should not be forgotten.” that was Spring 2014. She believed me. I recognized an intelligent student in that girl who was challenging me. For her the class was, from then on, filled with the right magic. She’s about to graduate and she wants to change the world. I think she will. ❤

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It must be so gratifying to know you reached someone and shaped their mind at a key time in their life! You’re right about teaching to the test style education. I’ve read a lot about how it has taken all the air and inspiration out of teaching. ANd how it ends up leaving lots of kids behind in many ways.

          Liked by 2 people

                1. You’re so right Marthat! School is to teach you how to learn and ow to think. Law school doesn’t teach you “the law”. It can’t. The laws are different in every state. So all a national law school can do is train people how to “think like lawyers’.That’s the goal of the whole three years of rigorous training. You learn how to analyze facts, evaluate precedents, form positive arguments and knock down your opponents’ arguments. It’s a three year mind game. The goal is creating critical, analytical thinkers. I think that should be the goal of all education, at every level, even grade schools.

                  Liked by 1 person

    2. I find it really weird living in a world where people don’t accept facts as facts, that they feel that “their feelings” are the “real thing” and facts are somehow illusory.

      I cannot cope with that at all. There are things I know and I know them because I learned them, studied them, and know they work … or know they work because other things based on them work and one does not happen without the other.

      This really IS the fault of a lack of basic science education. And a lot of “elementary school” teachers who are so busy building up their little ones’ egos so they don’t have to feel like failures, they never teach them that there’s such a thing as a “wrong answer.” They literally don’t understand how you can get it wrong, as long as you can explain how you got your wrong answer. Your feelings count. Reality doesn’t exist.

      If I were still out there in the working world, I would totally lose it. I lost a couple of plummy jobs because I was “interviewed” by the writing staff (chief writer) and I said that to me, a deadline was a deadline and while deadlines could, with agreement all around from developers and other people in the boss department, as far as I was concerned, work at any speed you find comfortable, but don’t miss the deadline.

      They found that … are you ready? — VERY THREATENING.

      The idea of being held to a deadline was outside their culture.

      It was certainly outside MY culture that anyone working in the business world would NOT be held to a deadline.

      It is why I usually worked alone as the only writer in the department. Especially when we were really going to press — as in we had rented a press to publish books. It costs tens of thousands of dollars a day to rent the presses of say, The Boston Globe. Renting the presses are one of the ways newspapers keep from going out of business, so when you rented them, you absolutely had to have your book there on time on the right day and if you didn’t, they would still charge you. I had developers who said “but i need to change something” and were trying to insert changes in the book as the guys from the press were trying to haul the crates of pages out the door. And that was 30 years ago. They believed that no deadline was a REAL deadline and were lost when they discovered that their customers had a different opinion — based on (gasp) — a contract.

      We were built for a different culture. A fact-based culture. With contracts. Where agreements were agreements and truth had an actual definition.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marilyn, we were inspired to read, to imagine, to dream with those books we were so lucky to have in our homes BEFORE attending school.

        We were lucky.

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    3. Very depressing to hear about your experiences with students, Martha! I didn’t realize that a whole generation has been poisoned by the alternate facts myth. How will these kids function in a world where there still are rules and realities? How do they determine which “facts” to believe? Is it just a gut feeling or are there any objective standards with which to test a “fact”? That sounds like a very scary world where you have no way of knowing what is real and what is not. Even scarier for the teacher! Glad you got out of academia in time to salvage your sanity!

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