The pitfalls of symbolism and how we might better go about persuading our perceived opponents.
Jeff, I agree with you in principle that this might be an effective way to approach those who ideology/belief/politics do not conform to our own. I am a strong advocate of (almost) unfettered free speech with common sense boundaries and civil discourse and debate. It might work with those with whom we share some common values. This approach, however, is wholely ineffective when dealing with zealots who truly believe they are doing God's work, whose world view is nihilistic, who seek and embrace death and view martyrdom as the ultimate good, who do not value human life, who do not value even their own fellow believers and countrymen, and who see world domination or, failing that, world annihilation as a goal to be sought by any means. If we do not fight back and destroy such as they, we will not survive as a society.
I think it's also important to go into these discussions without the assumption that your views are automatically correct. I came away from this article with the impression the author feels he's always on the right side of things and this was more of a guide on "how to sway people to your point of view" instead of an actual path toward discussion and mutual learning and understanding. It's not always about making converts.
I think you're being too generous, particularly with the trash can lady, and underestimating the predictive strength of a symbol one chooses to present to the world.
By way of illustration: a few days ago, I happened to finally pick up my wedding ring, after more than a year of marriage. Despite already having the privileges and responsibilies of marriage and parenthood, I have found that wearing my wedding band has bestowed upon my psyche a tangible sense of feeling like a "serious person". It was very unexpected. Based upon my aforementioned procrastination, I clearly didn't previously romanticize wedding rings; it just seemed like some expensive ephemera I was afraid of misplacing and having to replace, lol. But now I can feel what the ring symbolizes: a commitment to something greater than myself.
More directly related to your post: this past year I also created my first political signs, joining a rally and collecting signatures for political measures. It's no small thing, the symbols and words one chooses to associate with IRL. It takes effort, conviction and commitment. One caveat: Yes, symbolic meaning can be intentionally misconstrued and undermined (see Gadsden flag, for example).
This is so important. I realize this approach is not for everyone, but I believe those who can manage it should do it. I have changed my views wildly over the years. For one thing, my goals changed. Another thing was that life happened. It took being knocked down a few times to understand some people and being raised up at times to understand other people. I had to have children to understand parents and so on and so forth. Many people can only judge themselves by what they know at that moment. Or, what has happened to them in previous tries at something. Some people just like being ornery and combative just because. You have to know when to move on, but how will we know until we try?
I’m going to try this with my children. Thank you.
Well said, Jeffrey Shupe. We need more voices like yours.
P.S. I also enjoyed your book, the Bathwater Brigade. Another great contribution.
I often work with my clients in mental health precisely on this issue of communication and variability in Values. All too often the belief is that one’s initial assessment/judgment is completely accurate, even in the face of the stated intent and worldview of the other person. There’s no dialogue from a place of epistemic humility, it’s simply feelings trumping the experience of anyone deemed inherently wrong. Not only does this ignore our common humanity but it’s based on the absurd claim that symbols are intrinsically meaningful rather than given that meaning within the various contexts of history and personal experience. Values simply do not have an automatic and singular behavioral expression. We can disagree on that expression and we should, as that’s how civilizational progress occurs. If any are interested, a worksheet that I use, the “Values Pyramid”, is a way of exploring a foundation of Valeus for dialogue. www.lifeweavings.com/resources