OPINION: The art of conversation
| May 19, 2023 1:00 AM
In the furor of our divisive Idaho politics right now, we have lost the important ability to talk with each other as people. We have lost the art of conversation. TV and internet news is full of reports and images of angry people yelling nasty names at those who disagree with them. Is anything constructive accomplished by the screaming? No. And even those who organize the fight know this.
Their goal is not to communicate differing ideas and share information to inform others. Their goal is to divide us. It is happening at the national level, as we all know, but it is also happening right here in Idaho and, even more specifically, here in Kootenai County.
Nationally, I believe the chaos is funded and organized by far-left influencers wanting to break down our culture and system of government. Statewide and locally, I think the anger, misinformation and manipulation are from far-right folks trying to mastermind control of North Idaho. Much of their funding comes from outside the state, and could even be from far-left powers masquerading as righteous warriors. Either way, their plan is to undermine our trust in each other as people worthy of conversation.
And that’s what it all comes down to, a civil discussion about issues of importance. There are almost never only two sides to a problem, there are often many. We are not all alike, and we have different life experiences and information to bring to the table. But first we have to stop yelling and agree to sit down for a talk.
I’m reminded of my Idaho Senate experience on the Commerce Committee. We sometimes heard legislation impacting a certain profession. I’m not exaggerating when I say the committee room would be packed full of professionals, literally with one side of the room for the bill and the other against it. We listened to hours of testimony by those in that field who explained the pros and cons of the legislation from their standpoint. And on more than one occasion, we told them, “You are the experts. Go find a round table, sit down and talk to each other. Then bring back a compromise solution, if you can find one.” And these groups often did come back with better legislation. That’s the power of conversation.
It’s much harder to hate someone if you sit across a table and look into their eyes as they explain their beliefs and experiences. A few years ago, I invited one of my online critics to coffee. He brought a list of bills on which I had not voted the way IFF demanded. We went through the list and I explained my votes, revealing wording or actions of the bill that my critic did not know. We parted much more amicably than we started, and we certainly had a better understanding of each other as people.
But that was all before the political climate in North Idaho took an extreme turn. Now the anger and name calling from the far-right seems to be their competitive sport. In response to columns questioning their actions and tactics, they do not address the issues raised, nor respond with information, explanations, or discussion. They call names. “You are a bad person,” or “You think you’re sooooooo brave.” No.
The famous anarchist Saul Alinsky said “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” He instructed his followers to “Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” The KCRCC/IFF have studied his tactics and adopted his methods. It is sad for our political health in North Idaho.
What are they afraid of? Why can’t they engage in a conversation about their actions? Are they worried their power will drain away, as well as their donations?
People confident in their own beliefs should be willing to discuss their ideas, respectfully, with others. To exchange information and experiences helps us all grow in understanding. We may not change the views of others, and they may not change ours, but there is a personal connection that comes from the engagement in conversation. Let’s not lose it.
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Mary Souza, a Coeur d'Alene Republican, represented District 4 in the Idaho Senate for eight years from 2014 to 2022.
Facebook: @MarySouza-Uncanceled and Unfiltered