In Support of Pluralism

I was reminded again this weekend the wide range of views that people, even in my circle of friends, tend to have on various topics.

The hot topic this past weekend was President Obama’s remarks about the Crusades and Inquisition at the a prayer breakfast. The views from the right wanted to crucify him for making “unnecessary comparisons” while the left quickly came to his defense by reminding the world of the terrible actions committed by Christians throughout history.

While I do have particular views on this topic, they are extraordinarily not important in the light of the beautiful concept of pluralism – a great mix of diverse views being espoused.

Yes, pluralism can be maddening at times. It can bring “progress” to a halt. (I have to put that word in quotes because of the dizzying array of connotations that it drags along with it.) The U.S. Congress has pluralism through the roof – even without parties there is diverse ideas and disagreements.

Let’s face it, we all would love to live in a non-pluralistic society ONLY if we, ourselves, got to be the dictator. If we could live out our “rightness” then what a great place it would be (for us, that is). But the reality is that if we are able to have discussions and freely disagree with our friends and enemies, then we life in a pretty great country.

Democracy necessitates pluralism. And the amount of pluralism that a country has indicates how free of a democracy it really is. Sometimes, a high degree of pluralism seems to be showing the weakness of the society, but being able to see the weakness is exactly one of the reasons why a country is strong.

Think about it. When a country goes out of the way to put on its best face possible to show how strong it really is, you can be sure it is a country that has an authoritarian central government. Look how wonderful life is in North Korea! The North Korean government will prove it by telling you so!

Embrace disagreement and dialogue. Encourage discussion and debate. Do so respectfully and civilly. Pluralism is a wonderful tool where we can challenge our own biases and perhaps even grow in our beliefs and convictions. This will in turn give us more opportunity to debate some more.

Go ahead and lament the slowness of pluralistic bureaucracy, but never wish for anything else.

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Is Society More Dysfunctional Than It Used to Be? (not really)

It’s easy to think that we live in a dysfunctional society. When’s the last time Congress worked together on an issue to accomplish a big task? Hmmmm …  ???

We complain about everything. Education (Common Core), Health Care (Obamacare), Economy, civil rights, and whatever are the big issues of the day.

I think that’s the point – whatever are the big issues of the day.

We live in a society and world where everything is magnified because of the media which surrounds us day and night, but the reality is, life has always been messy because democracy is messy – pluralism is messy – a free society is messy.

Why is it messy? Because it can be.

North Korea is not what we would call a messy society because they have no choice to be messy. The lives of the people depend on everyone falling into line, knowing their place, kowtowing at the appropriate times. They have no choice, despite the great suffering that the population endures. It is theirs to endure if they want to live.

We, who live in open societies, have the luxury of being messy and dysfunctional. It’s as frustrating as heck sometimes, but it’s also normal. Messy societies allow the free exchange of ideas — actually, they demand it!

You need proof that American society hasn’t always been dysfunctional and messy? Here’s a few to think about.

  • One of the most dysfunctional bunches of representatives who ever assembled was the Continental Congress which nearly allowed a chance for independence from Britain to pass by due to their bickering and backbiting.
  • What about the anti-FDR Republicans who fought him tooth-and-nail during the 1930s, which led FDR to, in turn, propose the most outrageous and preposterous legislative idea of his own by wanting to pack the Supreme Court more to his favor?
  • Do we even need to mention the Red Scare and McCarthyism of the 1950s?  But did you know the same type of tactics and discrimination happened to many after WWI as well?
  • What about the 1928 election? Alfred Smith, the Democratic presidential candidate was skewered for his Catholic religious beliefs. Some propagandists even used the building of the Holland Tunnel, which was meant to connect New Jersey to Manhattan, as proof that Smith had evil intents. They tried to scare the public that it was going to be a secret tunnel to the Vatican.
  • How about the 1896 presidential election of William McKinley which was basically bought outright by a few wealthy Robber Barons.

These are just five simple examples touching upon a little political history. I’m sure we could scare up a bunch of examples from many aspects of society.

The point is this: it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day tragedies and frustrating situations which we hear about from the media. It’s easy to rain gloom down upon our heads and wish for the “good old days.” But the reality is that each generation has their own demons and struggles with which they have to deal. Each generation has its positive and negatives, and it will always be that way as long as we allow freedom of expression.

Messy dysfunction is much preferable to the alternative. Too bad we can’t ask the North Koreans if my supposition is correct.