Monday, November 19, 2012

Miscommunication, Part 2

One of the biggest problems currently facing the United States is that we can no longer communicate with each other.  People on each side of any given issue are coming from such a different worldview that they literally cannot understand what their opponents are saying.  At the same time, however, they act as though their opponents understand them perfectly and are willfully disregarding and disrespecting that knowledge.

One of the things I love about Jon Stewart is that he makes a serious effort to dialogue with those he disagrees with (i.e. most Republicans) - something that rarely happens these days, even on "serious" news programs.  But even he doesn't always succeed, as the above clip demonstrates.

Granted, Stewart has a perfectly valid point when he notes that many (if not most) viewers would interpret Mike Huckabee's commercial as saying that anyone who fails to vote in line with the religious right's agenda is going to hell.  Even some evangelicals haven't studied the Bible well enough to recognize the allusion to the testing of believers' works by fire mentioned in 1 Corinthians.  And the fact that Huckabee would give the go-ahead to such an easily misinterpreted message exposes his own blindness to the fact that not everyone understands his perspective.

Unfortunately, Stewart gets so caught up on that point that he leaves himself with inadequate time to point out that the commercial's intended message is just as manipulative, and only slightly less threatening.  Huckabee may not be threatening people who vote the "wrong" way with a one-way trip to damnation, but he is still telling them that to disobey the religious right on the issues in question is to go directly against the will of God.

It's a message that gives Huckabee's allies a reinforced sense of their own rightness, and leaves them feeling as though they have done their duty to try to correct those who disagree with them.  It's also a message that fails completely to communicate to anyone who doesn't already agree with them, while widening the rift.  And Stewart, though I commend him for trying, failed to bridge any of that distance.  I often wonder whether such a bridge is even possible in our current political climate.

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