Many of the sentiments expressed by the Mr. Cannon in his recent opinion piece, “Thoughts on overcoming toxic family relationships during the holidays” are the spectre of divisiveness that looms from the far left and right of the political landscape, fraying the fabric of American society. In their many forms, the piece’s espoused positions threaten to obscure the ideal form of America that has been the goal of two hundred years of principled activism, the expansion of civil rights to encompass more and more Americans. To accept the reasoning of the piece, as many Americans already have, is to speed the fractured heat death of our society.
The author’s statements on the irredeemability of his family, and by extension all who disagree with him, demonstrate a lack of political empathy—a core ingredient to a diverse society’s survival. As one nation, empathy with our political opponents reinforces that every American has a stake in the success of our society, that a rising cultural tide should lift all boats. It is with empathy that enemies can be turned into friends; it is only through empathy for others’ mindsets that the splintering of America can be reversed and a lasting peace established.
The success of one cultural cause should not be a detriment to those not immediately invested in it, but the methods outlined in the article seem to endorse an “Us versus Them” mentality. The views and goals evoked in the article are not conducive to turning enemies to friends, but rather to turning enemies’ opinions to dust. Are our political opponents so irredeemable that we dehumanize them as sinners beyond saving? The thinking in the article shows little remorse at severing those deepest of familial ties over ideological differences; it would probably afford less to the strangers who make up most of America.
The article additionally advocates for ending critical civil dialogues across the ideological spectrum. A cessation to discussion on the serious problems that both he and myself agree plague our society would spell defeat for our causes. The pendulum of history is not swinging in our favor, and ceasing vigorous debate would allow the purveyors of cultural fraction to have their way with the future. It is only through public discourse that the formula for a united, neighborly world can be developed. Civil debate with political opponents is a strong tool for changing minds. The author’s willingness to discard it suggests that some on the Right and the Left have begun to turn away from this liberal precept.
The views expressed in the article are noble in intent. We agree that the United States can be a city upon a hill for every citizen, that the rights and lives of minorities who will soon represent the majority of Americans are tread upon with regularity. But retreating into sullen silence, no matter how principled, is a recipe for a decade of descent when the world needs ascendancy most. I urge readers who might shy away from tough discussions to persevere; have ugly talks with misguided family members and fellow citizens; aim to persuade, convince and redeem. The future belongs to all our descendents, and the fruits of a better tomorrow are planted by liberal debate and generous thought today.
Class of 2019