Since the Presidential debates of 2008, I have been a believer in the potential of the Internet and social networking tools to be productive tools of public discourse. It was so exciting to come home from work every day and watch the news or the debates and connect online with people all over the country about issues.
I am decidedly left of center politically, a proud liberal dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and I am guilty of conversing with others who more often than not share my convictions. It is not that I don’t want to debate the issues, with people on the right, but I will admit that I don’t relish the conflict.
I would be interested in civil public discourse, but I have to say that the extreme views of the Tea Party led by Rush Limbaugh and the Fox Network are not conducive to such constructive discourse. And now it seems that some social networkers on the right are interested in public discourse, but only anonymously and only to be personally insulting and abusive to individuals who oppose them. At least that has been my experience.
It is natural for debate about important issues to make people angry, but if we can’t commit to treat each other with respect, and only resort to trying to intimidate each other by yelling down people with insults at town halls or tweeting cruel insults anonymously at people we disagree with, we’re never going to be able to find sustainable solutions to major problems.
I have invited conservatives to productive and respectful dialog here before, and I am doing it again. I continue to believe that finding common ground is possible, but this is a two way street, and people on both sides have to be willing to meet in the middle. Clinging to opposite extremes is only going to keep us stuck where are instead of moving productively forward.