Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey
Over the years, I’ve come to understand a fundamental truth. People’s political attitudes are formed in the events and experiences that make up the chronology of their lives. These days, the foundations of those attitudes are, more often than not, based on deeply held emotions rather than critically evaluated information. Thus, there is no longer a widely held consensus of right and wrong. Everything is filtered through the prism of each individual's personal experiences. What seems incontrovertible truth to one is complete nonsense to another. This reality is a big part of the reason why politics is a subject considered verboten in polite conversation.
Our political attitudes have become tightly interwoven with our sense of self-identity and esteem. Consequently, when someone disagrees with us, we feel defensive, which then triggers emotional responses. And when emotion, by its nature an irrational state, enters into a debate, all hope of a calm, rational discussion is lost. My high school debate teacher once said, “You can debate conclusions; you can debate positions; you can debate policy. But you cannot debate emotion. Emotion listens only to its own version of truth, and refuses to entertain anything else.”