This harks back to what I was saying in this thread
--that people, consciously or unconsciously, tend to read, watch or hear only that which echoes their existing opinions about the war. This writer poses an interesting challenge:
Hawks, doves: Look for foes' `partial truths'
Published April 3, 2003
The rhetoric is not unusual:
Our side is right.
And your side is not just wrong, it's inspired by an unhappy combination of knee-jerk ideology, corrupt motives, naivete and ignorant passions rooted in rumor and superstition.
These kinds of assertions fly back and forth during virtually every dispute at every level of government, so it's hardly surprising to hear them during debates on the war in Iraq.
What is unusual, though, is the temperature of this rhetoric, the polarizing hostility and flaming contempt behind it. The stakes are too high, the story too riveting and fraught to let us easily skirt the subject and agree to disagree as we often do when it comes to politics and policy.
Here, with daily death and destruction on live TV and the entire world in an uproar, there's no turning away, no shrugging it off with a "you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to" among friends.
But lost in all the fury is a simple and important truth: The other side has good points. The ablest of its thinkers have arguments supported by history, logic, patriotism and the best of intentions.
Maybe not great points or winning arguments. But respectable ones. Ones you should know before branding someone a traitor, a warmonger or a dupe.
So I have an assignment for you: Spend a little time embedded in the other camp.
If you favor the war, read five of the best articles, essays or speeches explaining the case against; if you oppose the war, read five of the best articles, essays or speeches explaining the case for.
In consultation with partisans from both sides, I've assembled a webliography of the best Iraq-related links--I call it a "warbliography"--and posted it to www.ericzorn.com/war . Each link, and so far I have about 20 on each side, features representative quotes so you can get a quick idea of the substance.
You'll find "An Unnecessary War" and "Next Stop Baghdad," dueling scholarly (yet readable) articles published in the prestigious journal Foreign Policy. You'll find British Prime Minister Tony Blair's eloquent pro-war speech to parliament and U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd's equally eloquent anti-war speech to his colleagues. You'll find "A Liberal's Case for Bush's War" alongside "Not in Our Name," an essay in which a conservative writer argues that "this is a left-wing conflict and conservatives should not support it."
I'm not suggesting you change your mind. I'm suggesting you widen your mind by looking honestly for what Rabbi Irwin Kula calls "the partial truths" in the opposing position.
Kula is president of the New York-based National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. For the last year and a half, he's been promoting what he calls the "Method of Pluralism," an approach to such debates that demands "empathic reading and listening" to the other side with an eye toward understanding and not simply refuting arguments.
"What are they feeling most deeply on the other side?" Kula said. "What are they afraid of? What are they hoping for? Do you have some of those hopes and fears as well?
"Maybe you'll come to see that they have 2 percent of the truth on their side. Or 5 percent. Or 10 percent. But our problem has been that to say so is seen as a sign of weakness. So people stop talking and you get a rupture in society."
Real war, Kula said, signifies the ultimate breakdown in communication. Which is why quelling wars of words is not a trivial exercise.
Pluralism--the incorporation of competing outlooks--"is the only way to find new solutions," Kula said. "At some point you hope for a breakthrough--the moment you say, `Oh my God! I really understand what they're saying! Now how do I address that in terms of my views?'"
It's more fun to demonize and stereotype your foes, I know. It's more comforting to read and listen only to material that supports what you already think and to believe if you only heap enough abuse on people they'll come around.
I've heard such name calling before, such nastiness, such anger. Many times. But it's never felt quite as poisonous and destructive as it does now. One country is already being torn apart by this war. Let's not make it two.
The warbliography: www.ericzorn.com/war
I've already read some of the articles he lists, but not all. I'm planning to settle in tonight and start reading the rest. I'd like to challenge each and every person who has a strong opinion on the war, pro or con, to do Mr. Zorn's "assignment": read at least 5 articles that oppose your own viewpoint of the war. Do it with an open mind, willing to acknowledge that there is at least some
logic and truth to be found there.
I'd hope that, at the very least, this will help reduce some of the anger, the sweeping generalizations, the name-calling, the catchy-slogans-masquerading-as-informed-debate that I see far too often, here and elsewhere.
Who's up for it?