Civil political discourse in America is as dead as disco.

Citizens have as much a chance of entering into meaningful dialogue on the important issues of the day as the Bee Gees have of a remix of “Nights on Broadway” making it back into Billboard’s Top 40.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past where adults watched the evening news, formed opinions and then discussed them across chain-linked fences with neighbors. Face-to-face interpersonal interaction at city parks, local bars, restaurants and VFW halls were the social media of the day.

Issues were rationally discussed. Varying opinions shared and, every now and then, positions of participants actually shifted.

My dad was a great example of this phenomenon. A Navy veteran who raised his family during the Cold War—and proudly displayed his military service in World War II via an anchor tattoo on his forearm—evolved in his position on Vietnam. Originally, he believed that the communist horde had to be stopped in Southeast Asia or else it would take over the world. As he started attending funerals of draftees from our hometown, he began rethinking his views on the war.

Eventually, he changed his view, believing Presidents Nixon and Johnson to both be inept wartime leaders with no plan for success. And it was a view he shared with others in polite and thoughtful conversation at the Rock Bar. He may have been challenged in his views, but he was not called a RINO or other moniker used so often today on social media.

And there is the rub. In today’s world, political views are seemingly etched in stone and then people find news sources and social media outlets that support their given pre-determined world view.

Take any breaking news story and watch a channel slanted to the right. Then watch a channel slanted to the left. Both news outlets will likely herald the story as precisely proving their differing viewpoints. Almost immediately, those viewpoints are posted to social media.

Is there anyone else that longs for the day when a neighbor expressing an opinion stood on their porch instead of hiding behind a keyboard?

Recently, I tried an experiment by attempting dialogue with someone who holds a political position opposite mine. It started off well enough. I (without giving away the origins of the ideas) expressed support for a few positions originated by members of his political party. Without giving any ideas of his own on the topic, I was told to go back to the 17th century.

My experiment—while disheartening—proved my original hypothesis of people today being so set in their views they are unwilling to hear what is being said.

Maybe someday soon, we’ll be able to talk with our neighbors on meaningful issues in a respectful tone. Until then, I’ll continue to use social media to post music videos and cat memes.

If we’re not friends on social media, head to the basement, pull out your old record players and dance your heart out:

Blamin’ it all on the nights on Broadway,

Singin’ them love songs,

Singin’ them straight to the heart songs.

Blamin’ it all on the nights on Broadway

Singin’ them sweet sounds,

To that crazy, crazy town.


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