Tom Stangl

Two weeks ago, I shared my thoughts about trying to bridge the widening partisan divide in our nation. In the week that followed, I was contacted by two readers: one conservative, the other progressive who were able to agree on at least one thing — I was naïve and had missed the mark.

I also had a revelation reading essays in the Nov. 5 issue of Time magazine on the issue of partisanship and I’d like to share a few thoughts with you.

In TIME, National Review writer David French said “This fall, a group called More in Common released a comprehensive survey of America’s “hidden tribes,” seeking to understand the sources of American polarization. It concluded that much of America’s political anger was driven by what it called “the wings,” which are flanked by the 8 percent of Americans who are “progressive activists” and the 6 percent who are “devoted conservatives.”

“The members of the tribes on each end of the spectrum share some common characteristics.

“They’re disproportionately white, they’re well off, and they’re intensely engaged in politics—roughly twice as likely to list politics as a “hobby” than the average American. They’re motivated. They have means. And they focus many of those resources and much of that energy opposing a political enemy they view as truly dangerous.

“This is a moment of profound historic importance. For the blessed, privileged class of Americans, the challenge is clear. A mass cultural crisis demands a mass cultural response. And if loathing for the distant partisan motivates us more than love for the close neighbor, I’d argue that we’re failing that test. That is the hate that will ultimately shame us all.”

In TIME, U.S. Military veteran and author Phil Klay wrote “…Civility is a style of argument that implicitly welcomes response. It is a display of respect and tolerance, which make(s) clear that you are engaging in a conversation, not delivering a last word. Unlike contempt, which generally seems less about your targets than about creating an ugly spectacle for your own partisans to enjoy, a civil argument is a plea to all fellow citizens to respond, even if in opposition. It invites the broader body of concerned citizens to fill in the gaps of my knowledge, to correct the flaws in my argument, and to continue to deliberate in a rapidly changing world.

“…Clearly, stoking rage and contempt in the public square can work. It excites us. It gives us courage to act in the face of uncertainty. If instead of hesitating before the other and acknowledging that we do not fully know them or their motives or the extent of their virtues and vices, we reduce them to the least charitable caricature possible. Then we feel on certain ground. But we're never on certain ground. And while abandoning a process of thoughtful deliberation can win you power, what it can never do is give you the hope of using that power wisely.”

Want to make a change? Turn off the cable news, take a break from pontificating in the social media town square.

We need to connect, eye to eye, with those we disagree. We need to listen and hear one another. I truly don’t care if this is seen as being naïve, I know it to be true. Humans need validation. Validation can lead to understanding. Understanding is the only path to change.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading; I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.

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