To Understand the "Other Side"
I've been giving a lot of thought to the way people's minds diverge from mine as they think about the world around them. A good deal of the things that have been different from my conceptions have been centered around fear, respect, and the ideal of America.
A good number of the beliefs about what the world should be, have stemmed from fear of something. There have been those who have feared going to hell, or feared people that are different to themselves. This is a powerful motivator for positions on immigration and homosexuality, potentially on race as well. There's a potent force behind "fear of the unknown" that shouldn't be underestimated. A good friend of mine likes to say that people are wrong to say liberals in cities are living in a bubble. He says that people that live in global city centers are the least bubbled communities. They are communities that interact with and grapple with the integration of dozens of beliefs, identities, and ethnicities every day. Rather the people who live off in more homogenous communities are the bubble-people because their communities allow them to continue to hold fears and stereotypes about people without ever having to interact with them.
Respect has been another big flag that has cleaved perspectives apart. I've heard across multiple interviews, the feeling that protesters are disrespectful of property and their communities. I've heard that illegal immigrants don't respect our laws. I've heard that minorities don't respect the values of the community. There is a level of protectionism people feel toward their way of life or the things that they think are normal. Many of the critiques of respect come from people feeling that their way of life is not being given the respect it deserves by people who don't buy into their values. There's something to be said for the value-level enforcement of community behavior. In fact, this is one of the places I think conservatives have the most solidly pragmatic perspective. Communities don't function if they are not held together by cohesive sets of values and identities. It's something I think liberals too often forget in their zeal to make a space and value-set for everyone. At the same time, it seems odd to brand someone's different set of values as a disrespect for one's own. I'm curious to see how this develops over the course of more interviews with more people.
I had a thought about America as I was sitting in a house in El Paso talking to a colonel and eavesdropping on a conversation in the other room. His political identity constructs America as a platonic idea of a country, something that exists apart from the collection of people that make it up. Most of the people with a somewhat conservative worldview have mentioned that politicians don't do "what's right for the country" these days. As I probed them, they seemed to have some detached idea of "the country" that has a distinct meaning beyond the collection of individual interests of the people that make it up. I figured when conservatives see identity politics or other sorts of specific interest targeting, they see that targeting of politics toward a subset of the electorate as some sort of ego-based perversion of the general goal of governing for "the country." This doesn't seem entirely unreasonable, though it runs somewhat counter to how I see the world for the moment.
Conversations with people thus far have filled in the details of my broad-brush understanding of the country. It feels easier to love the person behind the argument when something contradicts my worldview, rather than understand the intellectual perspective of a counter-argument. There is a meaningful change there. The difference between knowing and feeling. As I talk to more people, it may become easier to understand the soul of an argument rather than the structure of the logic. It's something I hope this project will eventually help other people do as well. I figure I have to master it first though before I try to communicate it to other people. Hopefully that's possible. I'll keep y'all updated.