A few things have happened over the last weekend to make me wonder about what has happened to the ability to have a polite disagreement with those we don’t see eye to eye with. It’s one thing to realize that you don’t share the same viewpoint. It’s another to just go crazy over it and cause problems.
Encounter One: My cousin put up a picture of the President carrying a copy of the book “The Post American World.” The picture is set up to make you think that the President is reading a book by a Muslim extremist who wants to explore a world without the US. The reality is that it’s written by an American who emigrated from India, and is about what the US needs to do to stay a global powerhouse in a world that it has created and changed.
I saw the picture he put up and calmly explained what I wrote above. That is, that it’s not a treasonous thing for the President to read. The next person to comment made a comment about hating the president. The person after that said it was photo shopped. The dialogue then was reduced down to name calling, and bashing. It made me sad. I thought we’d actually be able to have a reasonable discussion about an interesting topic. Instead, my attempt to have rational conversation was lost in a debate between two “little girls.”* And, in the end, we didn’t even touch on the linchpin of the terrifying idea that we’d ever decide any literature was treasonous and should be banned.
*That is what they called each other.
Encounter Two: Close to a month ago now, the mosque on our base had it’s windows broken in. Jandarma (Turkish governmental police) immediately began investigating and informed our side of the base that they suspected it to be Turkish teenagers and not a big deal. Fast forward a couple of weeks and a news agency in our city releases a report that it was American soldiers who desecrated the mosque and their holy books. (I don’t want my blog found by people searching about destroying certain types of books so I’m not naming it specifically)
I can’t blame the people for being upset. We all get upset when the news tells us something bad. Especially when that bad thing happens close to home. I don’t even begrudge them their right to get together and talk about how mad they are. What I do begrudge them is my being stuck on base because it’s considered un-safe to be around those who are protesting. And, okay, I also am not a fan of the guy who forced his way into the gate area of the base while his friend taped him on a cell phone. I thought that only happened on college campuses around the US. Though, I am sort of a fan of the TURAF guards who beat the snot out of the guy once they realized he wasn’t going to blow up.
The sad thing is, that I don’t see much difference between to the two instances. In both cases, rational dialogue and the truth did not matter. Even though the Jandarma had released a statement that it wasn’t Americans, that didn’t matter. Even though the author of the “treasonous” book isn’t Muslim and the book subject isn’t treasonous, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that people are willing to say otherwise and others are willing to believe whatever they see. Civil dialogue is lost in favor of the need to be loud and angry.
It’s a sad statement about our world.