Are you ready for the 2020 election?
That sound you hear is probably a few million voices answering “no” in unison.
Having just gotten through with a municipal election, and now heading straight into the holiday season, you’d be forgiven for not wanting to think too intently about politics or campaigns at the moment.
However, we are glad someone is.
The Cheshire Public Library is looking to spark debate in Cheshire on a variety of hot-button topics. The plan, as explained by Library Deputy Director Deborah Rutter, is to determine which issues are most important to local voters, via a survey being offered to residents right now, and then organize panel discussions around those topics.
According to Rutter, the events would kick off sometime next year — likely in the summer — but the planning will begin now.
With voters of all political persuasions increasingly separating themselves into information bubbles, anything that can burst comfort levels is a positive step forward. When a person only consumes the opinions and ideas that reinforce their previously-held beliefs, it’s easy to be convinced that the “other side” of the issue is not only wrong but motivated purely by the most sinister of intentions.
Such beliefs drive toxic wedges between individuals who may have more in common than realized, and it creates an environment where people either are afraid to express opinions they believe may fall outside of the “mainstream,” or feel threatened when such ideas are shared.
If done correctly, the types of discussions planned by the library can be invaluable. They remind us that conversations, even comfortable ones, can be productive. They show us that debates need not turn into screaming matches or insult competitions, even when the two sides debating are vehemently opposed to one another.
It seems that most people understand and are in some way disturbed by the unhealthy nature of our political discourse. But changing the culture of anger and outrage and “cancel” starts with “we, the people.” National media outlets follow the audience, and as long as there is an audience for the type of zero-sum culture war that is peddled today, there will be someone willing to feed it.
Will a few issues-driven debates held in Cheshire over the period of a few months in 2020 turn the tide? Of course not. However, if more communities organized such events, and if more people took part in them, then maybe a small spark could be enough to light something more substantial.
Americans don’t need to agree. We don’t all need to think alike. If we believe in the concept that diversity equals strength, then we must accept the messy consequences of that diversity. People from different faiths, ethnicities, and upbringings are going to clash on a wide variety of topics, and the only way to truly live with our fellow man is to provide as long a leash as possible for everyone to express their opinions in public.
Next year, the Cheshire Public Library will be looking to burst some bubbles. Hopefully, they are successful.
Go, engage, debate, and even risk the chance of being offended.