Friday, March 4, 2016

Forgotten Core Values: Thoughts on Civil Dialogue

When debating over heated and divisive political issues, I believe that it is helpful to abide by two rules.  The first rule is to reflect on the core values that motivate many - perhaps most - of us, no matter where we stand on these issues.  That is, we value peace and justice; we want human rights to be enjoyed by all people, regardless of distinguishing characteristics like religion or ethnicity.  These abstract, moral principles are the starting point from which we begin our journey towards apprehending truth.  Of course, it is true that we may veer off the path, perhaps because of simple logical or factual errors committed along the way, or because of pride - to which we all succumb.  But when we remember this common starting point, we are less likely to vilify one another or to interpret our disagreement as a “clash of values”, and we are more willing to engage in fruitful dialogue. 

This leads me to the second rule: in order to engage in such dialogue, we must open our minds to opposing views.  As I always tell my students, do not believe everything you hear.  But believe that you need to hear everything.