It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a reasonable person in this modern era. If you are not shouting from an extreme position, you are somehow not to be heard. If you are not on my side, then I must shout you down. Whether social media is driving this, or just our society’s evolution, the world is becoming increasingly deaf to the reasonable voices.
This morning I read a piece posted by the New York Times, that posed the question of whether liberals are actually helping Trump (I promise this post isn’t really about politics … so bear with me). It is a well written and thoughtful piece that brings up some reasonable points. However, when I returned to the comments, all that I saw was criticism for the piece and the notion there might be room for discussion with the other side. Though not surprised, I was a bit disappointed that there was not a single reasonable response. So, I decided to wade in.
In general I try to stay away from these hot-button topics. I have been stung enough, and I find little pay off for taking chances any more. But, somethings seem important enough. So, I posted my reasonable response.
Though I am extremely alarmed at this president, I’m equally alarmed that the party of “inclusion” is finding it so hard to recognize that many people who voted for Trump are otherwise good people. I don’t agree with their reasons for choosing him, and I agree that the divide was started from the right … but I know a large number of Trump voters who are very nice people. We certainly can’t just stay silent, but we should be able to have adult conversations, and try to find common ground where we can. Most of these people will recognize their own mistake, if you don’t force them to put metaphorical blindfolds and ear plugs on!
I knew that I was inviting criticism, and it did not take long. I was told that maybe I could accept it, being a white woman, since so many white women voted for him (I didn’t). I was told that there was no way any of the people who voted for Trump could be good people. I was told many other things that made it clear that these people have drawn a line in the sand, period!
I promised this was not about politics, so here’s where I expand it. When I started my journey back to serious riding (or my attempt at it, anyway), I found communities online who focused on classical horsemanship. This was my refuge from the storm that I saw in the competitive Dressage world … or so I thought. Just in the past four years I have watched those communities go down this same path of “take an extreme position or get out”!
Those who support competitive Dressage, or (worse) see the competitive world as actually classical, are quick to challenge anyone who raises concerns. Where are your gold medals? What world famous rider do you train with? Why aren’t you in the Olympics? I’ve seen and heard it all – every comment meant not as an opening to debate, but as a way to shut it down.
Sadder still, for me, is that those on the classical side began to follow suit. If you don’t ride a Baroque breed, can you truly be riding classical? If your trainer did not descend from a tiny handful that someone sees as the only true practitioners of classical, then you are definitely not classical! If you cannot rattle off the myriad of terms coined by the likes of Baucher, then you certainly are not classical! (Never mind that many who expressed that actually use or understand the terms incorrectly.)
I have long been a fan of debating issues. It has often gotten me into trouble, as I was willing to debate issues that people did not want questioned. I came from a Dressage background where you just did as you were told, and did not question. Most of my early instructors were either former cavalry, or trained by former cavalry. But even as a small child, I asked questions. I was blessed with parents who valued education, and encouraged my insatiable curiosity – but not all adults of that time valued it. Still, I have always asked – not to challenge, but to understand. It has also been my nature that I do not have to agree with you in order to respect your view – just so long as you can explain and defend your view. Show me that you have taken a conscious position, after putting thought into it, and you will have my respect if not always my agreement. But there in lies the main issue.
It can be a difficult thing to have to explain your position on any topic. Too often we take a position because others around us have. Or we take a position because we like how it sounds, without considering all of the ramifications. You see that a lot with people who are converts to Natural Horsemanship. They love the narrative, and it sounds so good and “logical”, that they never look beyond the rhetoric to see if it is supported by facts. That is not a condemnation of individuals, but rather of a weakness in our makeup that too few recognize.
It is the hardest thing of all to consider that you might not have the right view, or that a situation might not be as absolute as you believe it to be. How can someone vote for a bigot, without also being a bigot? How can someone proclaim love of an animal, yet do something harmful to that animal? It is easy to reduce these to black and white – in fact, it is most comfortable to do so. But life is more complicated than that. There are no absolutes in life, and you can never fully understand the motivations of another human being. Heck, we can never fully understand our own motivations!
This is not to say that there aren’t situations that justify criticism. Someone who beats up a Muslim, while yelling slurs at them, is perpetrating a despicable act and should be condemned for it. Someone who utilizes pain-inducing tools on their horse, in the name of “training”, equally deserves condemnation. But stick to condemning the act, unless you have proof of a history of these people acting in this way. History has shown that people who perpetrate such crimes can be redeemed – but not if you write them off as deplorable. They can just as easily be irredeemable – but you cannot know that until you try to reach them.
I am certainly not exploring any new territory with this post. Many have been commenting upon this divide that is characterizing this era. But if the reasonable voices do not speak up, for fear of being shouted down, then the shouters will win. We need people with all views, for the extremes help us to find the middle. But we cannot do that if we do not engage in conversation, rather than shutting people out for having differing views.
As I finish writing this, my comment on the New York Times article finally bore some fruit. Others who are moderate, and are trying to have dialog, have expressed appreciation for my position. If my words can help even a couple of people feel that there are other reasonable voices out there, perhaps they will be willing to add theirs to the conversation.
Be good to your fellow beings!