With social media one need not ask for someone’s opinion as folks readily share their thoughts.
And what we see, more often than not, is what we love or what we hate. There is little moderation whether the topic is food, vacations, religion or politics.
Columnist David Brooks took on the topic of moderation in his New York Times column recently.
He said most people dislike the term moderate as it seems too milquetoast. Others may equate it with lukewarm or like Jello in that it takes on various shapes.
Brooks said moderation is less an ideology and more of a way of coping with the world and cited a few common ideas shared by moderates.
First – that truth is plural. Moderates understand that there is no one correct answer to the big questions. Moderates understand that both sides, or all sides, may possess a piece of the truth and leadership is about determining which viewpoint is needed at the moment the situation is unfolding.
Secondly, moderation leads to creativity as moderates are more willing to combine and merge ideas from both sides seeking new solutions while both the left and right are less willing to let go of their preconceived notions.
Noted author F. Scott Fitzgerald said it this way, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and retain the ability to function.”
Another key point in Brooks’ column was the idea that truth must come before justice. We have all been witness to people who discount the inconvenient facts that may injure their own cause or enable their opponents. Brooks said, “If you try to suppress those facts, by banning a speaker or firing an employee, then you are putting the goals of your cause, no matter how noble, above the search for truth,” which leads to fanaticism and then backfires.
A final key point is that humility is a fundamental virtue. He describes it as “radical self-awareness “ and “radical honesty” which leads us to understand that the more we understand we realize how much more is beyond our understanding.
The racial unrest in Charlottesville showed us that perhaps many of us don’t understand why folks feel so strongly about Confederate monuments. I have seen hundreds of opinions expressed on social media and none have promoted consideration of another’s view.
And just this week we saw polar opposite reactions to children and parents being separated at the border and put into detention centers.
People who have one view only watch the network news that affirms their view while those with an opposing view seemingly only watch or read the news that affirms their view.
Our nation sorely needs leaders who will consider all the views and develop new solutions through new coalitions.
Donald Rumsfeld was chided for his 2002 defense department briefing when he said “There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know.”
While it sounded like a riddle, it was actually an important understanding that gets to Brooks' argument that serious progress will not be made in any area of disagreement until we all admit that we lack full understanding. And then commit to exploring ideas that may help us understand.
Perhaps the one thing we can all agree on at the start is that we have a long way to go and for the sake of our nation we are willing to try.