For weeks now, I’ve listened to all sides of the debate about which lives matter. For months, I’ve tried to have an open mind about COVID-19 and all of the conflicting information. For years, I’ve tried to be empathetic to various groups of people, listen to them, and learn about them. I’ve attempted to engage others in discussion so that we can benefit from what the other has to say. I do belong to a political party, but I listen to all sides, watch various news agencies, and research voraciously to find the truth and assemble the facts. I’m not afraid to call out things that are incorrect, but I’m not too proud to listen, learn, and be told that I’m wrong.
I say all of this not to toot my own horn but to point out something that is missing in our world today, something so vital that I firmly believe it holds the key to everything, to solving all problems, to helping all people, and to enabling all groups to get along and work together.
For several generations, we’ve all been told something that is wrong, just wrong. Blatantly wrong, egregiously wrong, simply, basically, and morally wrong. We’ve all heard the advice, that has now become a rule, over and over over again, and that advice is the one thing that is at the crux of all the problems we have now. We have created generations of people who have been given the very worst piece of advice to follow in an intelligent, literate, and innovative society.
We have all been told from the earliest age…
Never discuss politics or religion.
And it’s so, so wrong!
We have created a world of people who are unable to intelligently discuss anything because, really, everything boils down to politics and religion. Moreover, we have created a society in which nobody can calmly and rationally talk about anything!
We have created a world of people who cannot engage in a civil conversation because they either become enraged and unable to discuss or because they clam up and walk away.
From the most ancient times, human beings recognized the importance of civil discussion and friendly debate. In the second half of the 5th Century BC, people were taught that all discussion was meant to entertain, impress, or persuade someone to accept another point of view. Socrates saw the error in this. He knew that the only way to advance society was to learn to engage in civilized discussion about moral and philosophical issues. He developed the Socratic Method, “a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions” (Wikipedia). In places where Socratic Circles are used today, “the goal of this activity is to have participants work together to construct meaning and arrive at an answer, not for one student or one group to ‘win the argument'” (Wikipedia).
My girls have had friends tell them that they are often uncomfortable when conversations in our home turn to politics or religion, and I find that not only sad but alarming! I’ve noticed people who, at these times, shut down, become silent, play on their phones, or simply find other ways to disengage, and it breaks my heart. We should all be open to hearing things that make us uncomfortable. On Father’s Day, our family had a discussion that turned political, and I was so proud of my eighteen-year-old nephew who stayed with the conversation, offered his opinion, and fully engaged in the discussion. How rare in this world!
For the most part, human beings have completely lost the ability to discuss anything but the most mundane topics. Even in colleges and universities, once thought to be institutions of higher learning and advanced thinking, students quickly learn to answer tests according to the philosophy of the teacher and to refrain from classroom debate and discussion because it might offend someone or anger the professor.
We have become a society that is not only afraid to engage in discussion but is encouraged not to discuss anything that might be the least bit offensive or adversarial. We cannot risk a discussion in which someone might – I gasp – disagree with us!
And where has this philosophy gotten us?
Political debates among both politicians and civilians become nothing more than shouting matches aimed at whom can be the loudest.
Name calling and insult-throwing have become the substitutes for rational engagement.
Discussions in which everyone is simply thinking of their rebuttals instead of actively listening and hearing others out.
Our youth are being led astray and following creeds and philosophies they don’t fully understand because they aren’t able to hold rational discussions on many topics and won’t listen to what others try to tell them.
Many people automatically shut down when a controversial conversation begins even though engagement in such conversations could be opportunities for growth and learning for all parties involved.
Houses of worship are losing followers because nobody actually understands what they are supposed to believe in or not believe in because nobody, even from the pulpit, wants to talk about anything that has any real meaning!
We are no longer a productive society when it comes to problem-solving because ideas, suggestions, and innovations can no longer be presented and studied in a rational fashion.
History has literally become a thing of the past. Because we cannot engage in intelligent conversations about the past, nobody really understands why things happened, how they happened, or whose side anyone was on. We are all now living in the nightmare that George Orwell predicted our lives would become!
I read an op-ed this morning which was reprinted from the Colorado Springs Gazette in which the author says, “In civilized debate, people can discuss the nuances of who we choose to honor and who…we should accept in the interests of reconciliation and national unity. Such a debate would recognize that history is messy and that some people who achieved great things were also deeply flawed. It would also provide an opportunity for all sides to feel heard and make any decisions.” The point is, we have forgotten how to engage in civilized debate, and the lack of civilized conversations and lack of true historical education are destroying our nation!
This has to stop. Americans must begin to TALK to one another. We must learn to LISTEN to each other. We must learn to engage in calm, rational conversations with each other. And we must recognize that it’s okay to disagree! It’s okay to see things differently. But it’s not okay to ignore the truth, to berate the opposition, to remain silent because you’ve been taught not to engage.
The only way out of this mess we are in is through thoughtful, rational, and courteous discussion. We cannot lie down and be quiet out of fear. We cannot stand up and shout out of anger. We cannot turn a blind eye to what is wrong or close our minds or our mouths to things that we fear are offensive.
WE MUST START TALKING ABOUT RELIGION AND POLITICS!
And history and philosophy and anthropology and literature and ethics and all of the things that modern society tries to push under the rug. We must stop rewriting the past and begin learning from it. We must stop turning away from God and dig deeper into the mystery of His presence in our lives. We must stop the fighting and the destroying and the name calling and the closed-mindedness and the silencing of those who wish to speak and be heard. We must stop leaving the room when someone discusses something that makes us uncomfortable and start contributing to the conversation. The time to be quiet is over. Let us remember the lyrics to a hit song by Whitney Houston:
I believe the children are our future.
Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.
Let’s stop silencing our children, stop telling people not to engage, and stop telling them that certain topics are not to be discussed. Begin today, at whatever age your children are, to talk with them (not to them). Discuss the world, politics, and religion. Let them know that not only is it okay to talk about these things but that it’s imperative that we talk about them. Teach them to discuss and not shut down, not walk away, not be afraid to engage. Let’s raise a generation that uses their words not their fists, that values the opinions of others but isn’t afraid to voice their own opinions, that speaks out and speaks up and encourages rational thought, productive debate, and problem-solving. Our future and theirs depends upon it.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).