I‘m reading through Marilynne Robinson’s collection of essays When I Was a Child, I Read Books. As always, she offers some interesting ideas on a range of issues. But I was particularly struck by a couple of quotes on the nature of public discourse in America today.
The language of public life has lost the character of generosity, and the largeness of spirit that has created and supported the best of our institutions and brought reform to the worst of them has been erased out of historical memory. (Kindle Locations 105-107)
I found it interesting that she thinks there is a “largeness of spirit” that has characterized public dialog in America historically, even though she fears that we have lost it today. And I completely agree that any meaningful dialog needs to be characterized by generosity, and that this is often lacking in what passes for discussion and debate today.
And a little later she cautions against the kind of judgmentalism that leads to tribalism and the end of community:
There is a great deal of cynicism at present, among Americans, about the American population. Someone told me recently that a commentator of some sort had said, “The United States is in spiritual free-fall.” When people make such remarks, such appalling judgments, they never include themselves, their friends, those with whom they agree. They have drawn, as they say, a bright line between an “us” and a “them.” Those on the other side of the line are assumed to be unworthy of respect or hearing, and are in fact to be regarded as a huge problem to the “us” who presume to judge “them.” This tedious pattern has repeated itself endlessly through human history and is, as I have said, the end of community and the beginning of tribalism. (Kindle Locations 500-505)
What a great warning against the tendency to blame “them,” whoever they might be for you.