I have a television in my kitchen. It’s on a turn table so I can watch it while I’m cooking, or turn it and watch while I’m eating lunch at the breakfast bar. ‘Tis true I can live with out it. We’ve periodically turned the cable off to save money, but there’s nothing like mindless TV – or sometimes a good learning channel program – to keep me entertained while I’m cooking. I’m especially fond of cop dramas. I enjoy the mental and scientific analysis that goes into solving the crimes, and the slight emotional detachment that is required in order to see the big picture.
My husband on the other hand, prefers conservative television and radio, which while it can be analytical, is not usually emotionally detached. Sometimes the host makes a good point. But if they yell too much, or get snippy, I’m not sticking around to hear the point. Lately I’ve been watching other TV stations for the purpose of getting different view points. I’ve noticed that liberal media pundits are slightly less loud, but much more snippy, and no more concise in their arguments. Sometimes the host makes a good point. But to quote Mark Twain, “If you don’t read the papers, you’re uninformed. If you do read the papers, you’re misinformed.” Nothing much has changed.
What I find deeply frustrating is the raving hatred that my mostly liberal Pagan community feels free to express in my presence based on this – um – information? The mere mention of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck can produce gnashing of teeth – if not true foaming at the mouth. Posting something from Glenn, or something sourced from Fox news on Facebook carries with it a guarantee that there will be criticism. As deeply as I appreciate that the personal is political, I just don’t think this polarized attitude serves our community well.
What any rhetoric lacks is the full truth about any given issue. It over-simplifies. Anti abortion activists ignore the cost of fatherless children, and the very real difficulty of giving up an unplanned child. People who want guns to be illegal for the general populace offer no plan for getting guns away from criminals, and ignore the fact that guns are not the only method that can be used for killing.
Rhetoric also eliminates the possibility of compromise. The more impassioned the argument, the more difficult it becomes to back down or see another point of view. Saving face becomes far more important than finding actual solutions to a given problem, and demands an all or nothing mentality that never works. Pure Communism has never existed on the planet, and neither has pure Capitalism, yet we often argue as if they have.
As Pagans, we take pride in our diversity, but that inclusiveness and tolerance often does not extend to varied political opinions – which is a source of friction between different types of Pagans. Pagans do share common views: the Earth is sacred, women are inherently valuable and have the right to decide what happens to them, ritual is a valid and beautiful way to create connection in our communities, and art and creativity are sacred. We value the hearth and home, family and community. But not accepting that global warming is a real, man-made phenomenon and we must reduce our carbon emissions right away or the Earth is in Big trouble is treated as blasphemy. And being pro-Israel is equally unacceptable.
It is not my purpose here to argue these points, but to give examples of opinions that produce an exclusionary response. Why should it matter if there is disagreement on certain subjects? It may even be the case that these heretics have something of value to say. Holding such opinions does not make one a bad Pagan, and they are unlikely to have a change of heart on the matter if treated with contempt or indignation. Better to find out first why such an opinion is being held. Listen first. Then say “thanks,” and go about your day. Think about it. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Decide if you are even working from the same premise. Then come back and ask more questions. Only when the other person’s point of view is thoroughly understood is it possible to understand what arguments they might hear.
As Pagans we often pride ourselves in being well-read. But unless one is pursuing a post-graduate degree, one is unlikely to have read all the literature on both side of a given issue. Our gods do not require humility, but they are all too capable of giving us the two-by-four treatment if they think we need it. Political punditry is not worth the emotional engagement that it so often produces, and in truth does not even serve any agenda, including that of the person holding the opinion. It solves no problems, and creates no coalitions. And really, it’s ok to respectfully disagree.