There’s a popular pie chart that’s been going around social media for some time now. It furthers the belief that arguing about politics is always and everywhere a futile endeavor:
I agree that most political arguments today—both on and off social media—quickly devolve into angry name-calling.
But I think this phenomenon says something more about those doing the arguing rather than about political debate in and of itself.
Robert Frost is reported to have said that “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” Men and women, if they’re educated, should be able to discuss and disagree about politics without getting nasty. They should be able to be passionate about something without giving in to their passions.
Unfortunately, most people’s educations no longer provide them with this ability. For most of us, school did not teach us how to articulate our own positions clearly and confidently, to seek out and identify shared principles with others, and to be gentle and generous towards those with whom we disagree.
Absent this important formation in mind and character, people are understandably much more insecure about their own positions—political and other—and feel threatened by challenges to them. Fear and insecurity, as you well know, often manifest themselves in anger.
As a medium, Facebook certainly has its shortcomings as a forum for discussing politics. And trolls are gonna troll. But if you’re an educated person who supports Hillary Clinton, you should be able to keep it together when you encounter a Trump supporter, and vice versa. And if you remain calm, who knows? You might actually learn something.
If you can’t seem to remain calm, perhaps you’re not as educated as you think.
Dan is a former Senior Fellow at Intellectual Takeout. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (MN), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his academic work at Academia.edu.