Thursday, November 04, 2004

Listening to the other

Thomas Friedman is a columnist of the NY Times and I find his articles thoughful and worth reading. Today he responded to the election of GW Bush by characterizing pro-Bush voters as follows:

It seemed as if people were not voting on his performance. It seemed as if they were voting for what team they were on.

This was not an election. This was station identification. I'd bet anything that if the election ballots hadn't had the names Bush and Kerry on them but simply asked instead, "Do you watch Fox TV or read The New York Times?" the Electoral College would have broken the exact same way.

This disappointed and I wrote him and told him so. I don't know if he'll ever read my note, so I thought I might just post here:

Mr. Friedman,

Your columns regularly offer thoughtful commentary on trade, politics and other issues impacting this nation and world. In fact, your time away from the "Times" this summer was like a long walk in across a dry wilderness.

Even your endorsement of G H Bush was thoughtful and made important points that should play a role in our public conversation. In spite of this, I was somewhat disappointed with your column today.

Your tendency to objectify all those who voted for GW is a denial of the uniqueness of personhood. While quantified research may give some slight indicators as to the reasons why people voted en masse for Bush to assume a simplistic notion like you represented is simply bad science and poor reasoning. You caricature Bush voters and then claim they represent a different America then the one you defend.

This disappoints me. I would think someone like yourself, with the nuanced thinking that is clearly evident in your columns would recognize the complexity behind why people act or vote in specific ways.

I am amazed at how often people praise diversity until someone disagrees with them. Now more than ever, our public discourse needs a good dose of Martin Buber and his call for genuine dialogue.

If we might take the risk of turning and facing some of those with whom we seem to vehemently disagree, we might be profoundly challenged and changed. And we might be surprised that these are real, living human beings who embody far more than a few social or political ideas that offend us, and in the process discover the amazing depths of commonality between us.

Keep writing. I look forward to keep reading.

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