1970s – I’m eager to dive into any discussion with you. We may discover that we vigorously disagree; who cares. We’re committed to truth, exploration and honest communications. Things may get heated, and even ‘shouty’; but we’re guaranteed to be better friends for digging deeper. We always part feeling more connected and more alive afterwards.
1980s – I’m happy to discuss this with you. Not sure what you know; not sure where you stand. We try to be more intellectual and thoughtful, balancing some ‘asking’ with some ‘telling’. The debate has the potential for changing minds and deepening friendships. We part, taking away something to think about; there’s a small opening for a shift. We’re not yet standing in concrete.
1990s – I’m willing to talk with you about that. I’m pretty sure we don’t agree, and I’m pretty sure neither of us will change our minds, but hey, no harm in it. It’s a fun academic Saturday-night-dinner-party pursuit. We’re sometimes bold, but don’t say everything we used to. No point. Positions are more deeply entrenched, but we can still close it out with laughter and acceptance.
2000s – I’m hesitant to get into that with you. Our life experiences diverge. I don’t buy into this decade’s fear-mongering and politicizing of religion. Skirting around the edges of big issues, undeniable divisions of values are revealed. This shocks. This bristles. Let’s protect the relationship and just not go there. We’re aiming for safe, careful and civil. Some of the fun and fizz has gone out of it.
2010s – I’m scared to talk to you about that. I know for sure we don’t agree. Social media has signaled that in advance. You might respond in anger, accusatory tones, demeaning language, or rapid-fire data I have no way to confirm or refute. I’m no longer shocked. I’m done debating. Nobody is budging. I’m seeking commonality. I can’t be myself in this discussion; I can’t say what I think. We part frustrated, maybe angry, more distant, even isolated. Wait! What? How did we get here?
Where do we go from here as the patches of common ground shrink. Is the creeping caution an inevitable by-product of aging several decades, or is this a symptom of society and our changing times? Maybe I should revert to my 1970s approach? Vigorous, heated and ‘shouty’ sound more fun and alive, but they also sound like some of the media I don’t want to emulate. There’s got to be a better way.
“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” — Goethe