Everything lately seems to be a reaction to something else, someone else, with the end result being entrenched positions and the belief that any difference of opinion means that other person is the enemy. Pretty soon all we're going to have left is a "no man's land." And nothing happens there.
It's impossible to have a discussion of mental illness and violence without incredible blowback. And it's impossible to discuss gun control without someone thinking the second amendment is threatened. And that's just one of the currently hot topics out there. It seems that anything that can possibly be divided into either/or is, even if this is always a fallacy.
The middle ground seems to be growing smaller and smaller, disappearing as we find more and more things to divide us.
And there's no shortage of folks reinforcing their foxholes and girding themselves for war.
What's lost in this back and forth of competing facebook statuses and blog posts and newspaper articles and petitions and memes gone wild is the underlying message.
Fear prompts much of this, and so do our wonderful heuristics, which are great to have until they bury the message under so much baggage it's a wonder the message isn't forever lost and relationships forever torn apart.
In our own families and friendships, we either learn what we can talk about safely when we disagree or those bonds are damaged and broken. In the online world, shifting allegiances based on issue-positions leave me, at least, with whiplash.
We can keep ourselves firmly chained to our beliefs, ostracize anyone who thinks differently, or engage others in a continual attempt to challenge our own beliefs and work to find out how the world really works. Being skeptical, being a critical thinker, means constantly challenging one's beliefs and conclusions, looking for disconfirming evidence. It means being open to new data. It means living precariously on the edge, admitting that very little is absolute. It doesn't mean further entrenching oneself and crying foul when one's beliefs are challenged.
The scientific method is the best chance we have of finding out how things really are. It's awfully hard to maintain that skeptical, show me attitude consistently throughout our life and apply it to all our beliefs. But if we don't, we can be certain of one thing: messages will be lost and we will see the world as we want it to be rather than as it is. And as long as that happens, it will be impossible to effect real, lasting positive change.