LIMA — A conversation about conversation acts as the centerpiece of the latest episode of The Lima News multi-generational podcast “BoomXYZ.”
Featuring Ohio Northern University political science professor Robert Alexander, retired sociology professor David Adams and political science student Hannah Ray, the three explored why conversations surrounding politics have practically become taboo.
“For a lot of Americans, politics is about screaming at one another. It’s not necessarily about listening to one another, about being open to one another,” Alexander said. “A lot of folks don’t understand the American political process, and a big piece of that is having conversation.”
The result, Alexander said, is that many Americans are simply fed up with the entire process, which is not healthy for the country overall. He’s even seen college students come into his classroom with next to no experience talking about tough issues because many teachers forbid such conversations entirely despite the importance of current events on almost every level of the American experience.
Ray estimated that a third of her fellow students at Ohio Northern University were just unaware of the political events of the day altogether. Ironically, the conversation was recorded on Dec. 18 — the historic day the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump.
“The conversation about politics isn’t there,” Ray said. “People don’t want to talk about it, and when they do they already have set opinions about what they believe or what they feel.”
Reasons explored for the poisoning of civil discourse included the influence of anonymous social media postings, media bubbles and how politicians discuss issues.
Adams pointed out that the ’60s were also a tumultuous time in American history, but conversations about race, religion and culture were still ongoing. Today’s world, however, has made such conversations more difficult.
The 21st century has brought changes in technology use and the media landscape, and many voters are able to find “boutique” news outlets that align with their own political ideas, thereby confirming what they know rather than challenging it, Alexander said.
While the brunt of the conversation focused on such topics, the three did offer some examples of people able to talk about political issues civilly. Adams, who organizes the “Public Officials Dialogues,” said many people who talk to government leaders about local issues do so without getting heated. Adams also participates in Torch Club, a civic-minded organization that invites members to discuss tough topics — but like many such service organizations, finding new members has been difficult.
“Politics are supposed to be a little bit messy. The three branches of government are supposed to create conflict. That’s what the framers intended,” Alexander said. “And so that conflict is not always a bad thing. That’s part of life. You’re going to have differences of opinion. But how do we work toward something? That’s the bigger question.”
BoomXYZ can be heard online at limaohio.com, or by streaming the episode on most podcast websites, such as iTunes or Spotify.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.