America’s political divide continues to deepen; national conversations are becoming more acrimonious. Friendships have been destroyed by political differences. People have had family members disown them for their views. Even marriages have ended because of politics.
To make matters worse, the culture wars have bred resentment on social media and in the lives of ordinary Americans. But how did political discourse become so strained? There are likely many answers to this question, but one cannot overstate the impact that a lack of understanding tends to have on relationships.
Conservatives understand liberals more than liberals understand conservatives.
As most people know, the key to peacefully resolving conflict is a level of mutual understanding. While Americans on both sides have retreated so deeply into their respective tribes that civil dialogue appears impossible, this lack of understanding is more prevalent on one side than the other.
Sarah Silverman Demonstrates Progressive Perception
In a recent appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher, comedian Sarah Silverman discussed her new show, titled I Love You America, in which she travels to middle America. The series depicts Silverman’s journey as she interacts with Americans who do not live on the coasts — in other words, ordinary people.
During her chat with Maher, Silverman gave her opinion on the Trump supporters who live in the areas she visited. Maher asked if she changed any minds. She answered: “Probably not, but I’m changing mine. I mean, not politically, not ideologically, but you do realize there is a difference between the liars and the lied to.”
Maher followed up by asking if these hapless conservatives knew that they were being deceived. Silverman said: “No, of course not. They don’t know they are lied to. It’s like cults. Cults don’t know they’re cults.”
Does One Side Lack Understanding?
Silverman’s comments demonstrate the fact that the progressives living on the nation’s coasts are so trapped in their echo chambers they cannot begin to understand the rest of the population. Indeed, it seems that progressives like Silverman feel as if they are in a different country when they decide to step off their lofty perches to interact with people in middle America.
In his book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt — who is no conservative — explains the results of his study, which revealed a truth that might be surprising: Conservatives understand liberals more than liberals understand conservatives. In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, he said:
“In other words, conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. More precisely, conservatives’ version of liberals matches liberals’ version of themselves better than liberals’ version of conservatives matches conservatives’ vision of themselves.”
To many, Haidt’s assessment is no surprise.
The left controls the establishment media, the entertainment industry, and academia. Most Americans are subjected continuously to progressive messages. By default, the average person is exposed to leftist viewpoints at multiple points during their daily lives. However, this dominance over the country’s most essential institutions ensures that those who are raised in the left-wing echo chamber are effectively shielded from views that contradict progressive thought.
Who Is the Real Cult?
It appears that Silverman might be projecting when she claims that Trump supporters in middle America are similar to members of a cult. The argument could be made that the far-left progressive movement is far closer to a cult than their counterparts on the right.
One of the hallmarks of cultish behavior is isolation — individuals do not typically expose themselves to ideas outside of the accepted dogma. It is a commonly-known fact that many on the progressive left live in restrictive political bubbles that are common on America’s coasts. Since our institutions are controlled by the left, they have their own ideas repeated back to them on a routine basis, which means they are unable to comprehend conservatives without putting forth significant effort.
The fact that Americans seem unable to get to a modicum of mutual understanding is one of the most significant contributors to the hostility that is rampant in the nation’s politics. It is also the reason that progressives are loathe to engage in debate with their political opposition; they do not think right-leaning Americans have faulty ideas so much as they believe that conservatives are evil. They cannot comprehend the notion that someone could disagree with them without being a bigoted fascist.
The only cure for this disconnect is to inform and educate those in the leftist bubble and show them that conservatives are not rabid monsters. Unfortunately, leftist leaders use their power over the media and learning institutions to reinforce the many misperceptions that cause these individuals to dehumanize their fellow Americans. If the left is allowed to maintain their control over the culture, it will get far worse before it gets better.
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