Every national election we are treated to a map that divides the country into red and blue. Other times issues are framed, relentlessly and predictably, as the clash of two sides, two extremes. Whether it’s liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican, business vs. labor, economy vs. the environment, on and on.
The wonderful linguist, Deborah Tannen, addressed this in her study The Argument Culture. She writes, “The argument culture urges us to approach the world—and the people in it—in an adversarial frame of mind. It rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done: The best way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate; the best way to cover news is to find spokespeople who express the most extreme, polarized views and present them as ‘both sides.’”
The problem with this, with the argument culture, is that it reduces complex reality to simple and frequently silly positions. It makes choosing the “right side” more important than solving problems or facing challenges. And it doesn’t really encourage thought, creativity or imagination—it stifles all those things.
We are at a serious impasse in America today. I am not sure whether “the argument culture” is chicken or egg, cause or effect. But I am sure that this form of (non)thinking is putting our society at risk, destroying human community and the undermining the crucial sense that we are all this together. The argument culture’s mindset are a big part of the impasse that impedes progress.
So, why do I love Crosscut? Because it doesn’t fit these dull, reality-distorting conventions. Crosscut “cuts across” the usual polarities. Its writers tend to be solution-oriented or willing to think out of the box. A good Crosscut article leaves me thinking: “Golly, I hadn’t thought about it that way.” Moreover, Crosscut writers regularly point us to the delightful complexity of our city and region, and to the mystery that abides, waiting just around the corner, to surprise us.
I urge you to contribute to this effort by becoming an annual Member of Crosscut. "Think about it that way!"