Rick: When I look at think tanks or universities, these are supposed to be places where folks like you and me have room to engage with a degree of seriousness and goodwill. We’re not politicians, we don’t have to attract votes, and we have a certain insulation from the passions of the moment.
We’re immensely fortunate in that we get to spend our time talking about ideas and we have a big microphone to share what we have to say. Given all that, it seems like the least we can do is work hard to model what it looks like to engage in a way that respects people who disagree. And I get so frustrated when this doesn’t happen, whether it’s Fox News or MSNBC, pundits at NPR or The New York Times, or professors at major universities. Those in our shoes who can’t be bothered to engage in respectful dialogue are, it seems to me, betraying the responsibilities that come with the roles we’re fortunate enough to play.
Pedro: I agree. When we lose our ability to listen to each other and engage in civil debate, we not only lose the free expression of ideas, we also diminish our ability to address the common problems facing our society. When all we do is to stake out our positions, we’re not really thinking through how to respond to the complexity of problems we face. This is true whether we’re talking about how we educate kids or how to reduce poverty and deal with climate change. If all we’re doing is fighting, we can’t work together to address these and other pressing issues. Polarization leads to paralysis, and that doesn’t bode well for us as a nation.