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In an e-mail between my cousin and I, I told him about my blog, inviting him to keep up with me through it if he liked. I told him it generally discussed politics and religion. He begged off, suggesting that he found these subjects ripe for argument, and thus unhappiness between friends and families.

And I don’t disagree. They do foment discussions that often erupt into argument. But perhaps we need to rid ourselves of the niceties of “Ms Manners” and recognize that our rejection of such topics in “polite” conversation is precisely what is wrong in this country and perhaps the world.

It seems to me that those who engage in “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” tactics in a social context are really helping to cause the extraordinary hardening of positions that we find in America today. It’s really a matter of degree. Most people, let’s face it, don’t pay much attention to either-what they understand of either of these subjects is pretty much limited to small sound-bites they hear through the day and evening, or see in headlines on newspapers they only subscribe to for the sports section.

Frighteningly, these people think nothing of voting based on these vague ideas they have about health care, the economy, the deficit, and all the rest.

Another group have distinct personal ideas of what they think and then go out and look for confirmation. They are the Fox Noise watchers, the fundamentalists, and frankly, the extreme left. They feel cheated somehow by the society and look for scapegoats and there are plenty of those around to point to.

A small group are those who sincerely wish to know. They seek out lots of points of view, stay actively engaged in the news from several sources, and think. They have learned to read and think critically about these issues.

I suggest that the largest group is the first, the “too busy for that stuff.” These people must be reached, and the way to reach them is to engage them in talk. They are unfortunately the ones most likely to push back with the “not in polite company” remarks.

We have lived with that rule of thumb for decades, and it has gotten us nothing but the worst polarization of all time in America. (No doubt a good argument could be made for the run-up to the Revolution, and the Civil War.) It seems we must discuss these things, no matter how difficult and painful it might be in families and among our friends. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity that we make good decisions, not ones based on knee-jerk talking points and other silly “feel good” phrases like death panels, and Obamacare, and anchor babies.

On the other side of the coin, I read an article yesterday that suggested that a small but very vocal group of right-wing Catholics blog with the intent to expose any and all Catholics that they feel are not orthodox enough. They are having some impact. I can tell you that the ones I have visited, have no qualms about calling very well-known and revered religious personages, heretics.

I recall in discussions on a right-wing forum that the argument was made about conscious thusly:

Of course, one must always follow one’s own conscience. That’s in the CCC, but what cafeteria Catholics don’t get is that it says that one’s conscience must be “properly formed.” If one finds oneself in disagreement with Catholic teaching on ANY subject, it means that one’s conscience is not so properly formed.

Of course this is not at all true. The Catechism is quite clear that one’s personal conscience is ”
man’s most secret core and his sanctuary.” (PT III, Art. 6, #1776)

It speaks to the formation of conscience and that “the education of conscious is indispensable for human beings.” (#1783) Further, “it is a lifelong task.” (#1784)

When we are talking about matters of either religion or politics, we would do well to accept these reminders of what is entailed in making up our minds about all these issues.

What it is not, is some simplistic, “I like A better than B.” What it is not, is some “A is better for me than B.” What it is not, is that, “I’ve always been a Democrat or Republican and so I just vote the ticket.”

It is about learning to read and think critically. It is about reading broadly, as much as possible from sources that have no obvious point of view. It is about seeking out those who have spent years studying such issues through their education or work. It is about avoiding people who are “industry” insiders, whose financial interest is likely to taint their opinion. It is about viewing the issue from different points of view–especially how other countries and ethnic/racial/religious/groups view the matter.

It is about, if you are so inclined, praying often and deeply on these matters. It is first seeking above all to be moral in your choice. It is always seeking to do no harm to anyone or anything, if that is possible, and to seek to minimize such damage if it is not.

That’s my take.

Ezra Kline has a piece on what the GOP intends to do in regards the EPA if they gain the House. I’m going off to read Fred Upton (R) and his op-ed piece as to why he intends to declare war against EPA standards against pollution. His cohort, Kit Bond, in the Senate, claims he will attach an amendment to every Senate bill stripping the EPA of any ability to control greenhouse gases. I’d like to know why these folks are taking that position. Wouldn’t you?