Monday, June 18, 2012

What happens when a Devoted Conservative & a Die-Hard Liberal decide to talk--YOU'RE NOT AS CRAZY AS I THOUGHT (But You're Still Wrong) Potomac books

You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You're Still Wrong) : Conversations between a Devoted Conservative and a Die-Hard Liberal by Phil Neisser
and Jacob Hess published by Potomac Books.

This book, in my opinion, should be read by every American who might possibly be sick of the "punch & judy show" we call national politics. This is the rare nonfiction book I'm reviewing, because I think it's important (not because I do book pr, though I choose books I think are valuable).

Jacob Hess and Phil Neisser are the Conservative and Liberal, who engage in dialogue about “hot-button” issues seeking not agreement but understanding. And it hasn't come easily. The two met at a conference on dialogue. Jacob was one of the few conservatives presenting, Phil had recently published a book, saying how Americans no longer knew how to disagree constructively.

Though Jacob, a religious Conservative of Mormon background, has convictions totally opposed to Phil, who is a liberal atheist, they agreed that the nation has become completely polarized. Even if average people might not be as extreme as the media portrays our national politics, everyone is affected by the vitriol.

Contrary to the national past-time of liberals and conservatives bashing each other as "idiots," they decided to do something new that's as old as our constitution. Remember the play 1776, where in a steamy Philaelphia  summer, Puritans and Quakers, Boston Brahmins and Louisana plantation owners, came together to form a new country?

Did they do this by denouncing each other and creating political blockades, or by engaging in dialogue? Jacob and Phil went through a similar process. For more than two years, they engaged in extensive conversations, writing back and forth, coming up with nuanced answers to difficult questions and listening , often through gritted teeth, until they actually got where the other was coming from.

And while they still disagree, they did gain enough understanding to make them think we might yet find a bipartisian process that would enable the nation to make bigger strides. And on an individual level, they feel there is much to be gained by inviting that neighbor you think is a political weirdo for a beer. Mutual respect creates a lot more optimism than political paranoia.

Why do conservatives and liberals have differing takes on Authority?  What is the problem with gay marriage? Here are some of the "hot button" topics they address in a thoughtful way you won't hear on any station:

*Why the equal rights argument doesn't convince many gay marriage opponents
*Why many gay marriage supporters see their position as pro-family
* Should government be out of the marriage business altogether?
* What about the tricky question of biology?
* Isn't marriage just a legal contract to formalize an economic arrangement?
* In this time where so many children are born out of wedlock, isn't any kind of marriage a way to reinforce the institution?

* Are gender roles outdated or still crucial to our society? --e.g., Should women be raised to be nurturers and boys be raised to be protectors and providers?
*Do shows like “family guy” undermine fathers?
*Should transgender people be “normalized” in our culture?
*Where's the respect for working women, many of whom are the sole support of the family?

* Can an atheist be moral?
* How do religious and nonreligious people perceive evil?
* Is the separation of Church & State a God-less concept?
* What kind of ethics and community do atheists subscribe to?
* How can you plan a future, if you believe the apocalypse is around the corner?

*What is legitimate authority?
*Is the solution less government and more personal responsibility?
* Where does public assistance end and individual responsibility begin and end when it comes to aid to immigrant groups?"  
* Is the profit motive too dominant in our culture?
* Should Big Pharma have more or less government controls?
* What's the best role for government in education?

Phil and Jacob are proposing a "grass roots" movement for bringing  common sense back to American politics. Their blog is a resource for intellectual independence in this year of orchestrated political warfare. So read this book, if you've got the courage.