Why civil discourse is not possible in the era of President Trump

Let’s start with some definitions. I took a short-cut and asked the web about definitions of the term “civil discourse.” Here is what Google found for me.

Def. 1: An engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding.

Def. 2: Civil discourse is engagement in discourse intended to enhance understanding. Kenneth J. Gergen describes civil discourse as “the language of dispassionate objectivity”, and suggests that it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences. In Book III of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke contrasts between civil and philosophical discourse with the former being for the benefit of the reader, and the public good: (sic)

These definitions prompt some fairly obvious questions.

  • Does conversation with Trumpists – did it ever – “enhance understanding”? In this and all to follow provide concrete examples.
  • Do you feel respected by those who voted for Trump?
  • Does “The Donald” and his cabinet picks so far reflect “modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences”?
  • Do you think that engaging in “civil discourse” is likely to change Paul Ryan’s plans for the demise of our social safety net? Again, please provide your evidence for wanting it to be so.

As you have probably guessed, as a Democrat and progressive, I have no truck at all with the underlying belief that engaging in “civil discourse” will better the lot of the common woman (and man). I could write you a book on what all of Trump’s campaign promises mean for the general welfare and how the press gave that a pass and how “civil discourse” is bowing to Trump.

We are engaged in the fight of our lives (to paraphrase the head of the ACLU – I think). This is a zero sum game. You cannot both have Medicare and have Ryan’s Vouchercare. You cannot have the Dreamers on track for citizenship and deport all of them. You cannot provide universal health care and at the same time repeal Obamacare without a valid replacement.

Oh, silly me. I thought that my arguments might persuade those of you who think that the end product of “civil discourse” is some grand kumbaya. So let me direct your attention to this video of one woman’s final acceptance that she has every right to be seriously pissed about those Christian Republican Trumpists.

To show your listening skills, please spend the next 8 minutes and 44 seconds of your life listening this woman venting her feelings about how she is forced to see things from the perspective of those who care not about what she thinks or who she is. If you are a believer/practitioner in/of “civil discourse” and are not emotionally moved and cognitively changed by this video, then I regard you as not a fellow traveler in the great battle to come. You have every right as an individual to continue on your path of “civil discourse” but I will do everything in my power to lead progressives and other critical thinkers into the right fight, the fight of our lives.

Here is the link to the video. h/t Sherry Moreau


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