Shouting into the Void

Let’s open ourselves up to an actual conversation about important events.


In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, CT last week, I am struck by the nature of so much of the national and local discourse that is taking place. “Struck” as in disappointed more than surprised.

So much that is being spun out into the airwaves and blogosphere sets up along two sides of a debate: either you favor gun control or you support individual ownership of firearms as enshrined in our current interpretation of the Second Amendment. A collectivist and common good view of society or belief in the supremacy of the individual. Eurpoean-style socialism or American capitalism. Mediocrity and decline or Exceptionalism. Higher taxes or entitlement cuts. Left or right. Liberal or conservative. Right or wrong.

We have an unhealthy love affair in this country with splitting things into two pieces so we can determine who wins and who loses.

It is very discouraging.

What about a more sophisticated and nuanced perspective? One that rejects the notion that we have to create sides and then choose one.

What if instead we agreed that the better question to ask ourselves is “How do we allow for an individual freedom that is constrained by what we agree is best for everyone in the society?” Or, “How can the common good best support important individual freedoms?”

Asking questions like these allows us to open ourselves and enter into true conversation where we might learn something from one another.

It is only by learning from one another that we stand any chance of making progress on our apparently intractable issues. Otherwise, we wind up just shouting into the void.