MINOT, N.D. — I write a lot about the importance of engaging with people you disagree with.
It's not healthy for any of us to live in a bubble.
Yet there are so many sources — from social media algorithms to cable news programming — which are feeding us only what we want to hear.
Even those of us who don't want to live in echo chambers are pressured into them. It can take some effort to seek out thoughtful and honest views that are contrary to your own.
Wess Philome, who helped organize the Fargo-based protests after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and continues his activism through the OneFargo group, decided to make me live up to my arguments against ideological bubbles. He asked me to be the first guest on what he plans as a series of discussions, broadcast via live streaming, on policy and politics.
I was happy to oblige and feel our conversation, though passionate to the point where you could almost call it heated at a few moments, was a worthwhile endeavor.
You can watch our broadcast for yourself, but what struck me about it wasn't so much our discussion — though I enjoyed it — but how many people didn't want it to happen at all.
Many of Wess' commenters wondered why he would bother talking to me at all.
I got a similar reaction from some of my readers.
As if desiring a dialogue with someone representing views you disagree with were wrong.
Our nation is about as polarized right now as it's ever been, and while there are more factors contributing to that reality than I could list here, is there any single variable that contributed more than widespread public hostility to dialogue and debate?
Americans have grown too comfortable with dismissing any argument originating from the "other side" as inherently invalid.
I know it happens to me every day. I see it on social media. Someone posts a link to something I've seen, and very often someone will respond with some variation of, "Yeah but that's just Rob Port" or "But he's a conservative!"
As if the source of the argument were sufficient rebuttal for the argument itself. And I'm not exempting myself from that statement. I've been guilty of this too, though I'm trying to do better.
We all must work harder to get away from the habit. We have to burst these bubbles around us.
I'm doing my part. I get my news delivered by RSS feeds — I don't want Facebook, Google, and Twitter deciding what I read — and I am a paid subscriber to content ranging from the Daily Signal and National Review to The New York Times and The Atlantic.
And I make an effort to talk to people like Wess, though usually, those conversations aren't quite so public.
I don't think I changed Wess' mind on much of anything last night, and I don't feel differently about the issues we discussed either, but that wasn't the goal.
I'm glad we did it, if only so that we should show one another, and all of the people who tuned in, that we respect one another's point of view and care enough to listen.
"I'll never win, and neither will you," Loudon Wainwright III sings. "So what in this world are we gonna do?"
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.