If we can’t discuss issues, how can we solve them?

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, November 7, 2017

By Tom Purcell

I’m afraid to discuss politics and current events with anyone except my wife and best friends, and it’s regrettable that millions of Americans feel the same way.”

“Ah, yes, you speak of the Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, a new national poll of 2,300 U.S. adults. It finds that 58 percent of Americans are afraid to share their political beliefs in the current political climate.”

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“You got that right. We used to have civil discussions about a variety of issues down at my neighborhood’s pub, but now people jump down your throat if you don’t support the prevailing groupthink of the day.”

“Do you have any examples?”

“Sure. I happen to think that a tax system designed to unleash the economy is a good strategy to generate the government revenues we need to fund our programs. If I argue that point, I am labeled an uncaring conservative who favors the rich and hates the poor.”

“That is regrettable.”

“If I argue that the best way to extend affordable health care to all is to keep most of it in the private sector and employ free-market strategies that can reduce costs and free up much-needed funds, I am labeled …”

“An uncaring conservative who favors the rich and hates the poor?”

“That’s right. Now, with our latest terrorist attack in New York City, if I suggest we more carefully screen people we let into the country to ensure they do not wish our people ill – rather than just granting people access because they are among the 50,000 lucky ones who win a free pass in a lottery – then I am labeled …”

“An uncaring conservative who is a racist hater of the needy and the poor?”

“Exactly. And don’t even get me started on climate change. I’ve been afraid to bring that one up since President Obama signed the Paris climate accord – and especially since President Trump rescinded our participation.”

“I can see your point. The Cato survey also finds that 71 percent of Americans believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions on the many challenges our country is facing.”

“It’s like everyone in the major media outlets in our country tells the rest of us what to think on the major issues of the day, and if you stray from the groupthink line, look out! You will be shouted down.”

“It is regrettable that no small number of our major journalists, whose role is protected by our Constitution, embrace a pack mentality as they advocate for the political ideas or candidates they like, and attack the political ideas and candidates they dislike. It does hurt their credibility. And that is a dangerous matter for a country that relies on its press to keep those in power honest.”

“Look, I understand that there is a huge divide in our country between those who think government can offer the best solutions to our challenges and those who think less government, with more individual freedoms, is the way to go. I’m just a regular guy trying to do my small part in our representative republic. My role is to discuss these issues in my own community, vote my conscience, and do what I can to get our policies right.”

“What do you suggest we do to address the fear of communicating freely and openly?”

“I’m not sure what others can or should do, but I figure I can try harder to work out my differences with others. I’ll do my best to listen to, and understand, their point of view. Maybe if millions of Americans were to do that, our country would do what we’ve done successfully many times over the past 240 years: create solutions that solve our problems!”

Tom Purcell is a syndicated columnist.