America is dying for open dialogue

Published 10:05 pm Monday, October 9, 2017

By Joseph L. Bass

It should be evident to everyone by now that a few Americans with radical and violent views and actions are disrupting the social fabric. Because of this, our democracy and the safeguards of modern society are in danger.

White supremacist radicals have staged demonstrations, resulting in violence and death. A radical liberal demonstration resulted in violence and arson in Washington, D.C., on the day of the Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. There have been riots involving arson and murder in several cities.


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And recently, a wealthy investor who enjoyed high-stakes gambling committed mass murder in Las Vegas for no apparent reason.

Too often, problem solving in America focuses on situations like the above as if they were the problems, rather than symptoms of underlying problems. This approach involves symptom chasing instead of identifying and addressing root causes.

A major challenge today is the lack of public dialogue among reasonable, informed people. What passes for dialogue often involves people with radical positions shouting past each other.

Staged “debates” are controlled through limiting topics discussed and moderators asking biased questions that avoid real issues. Political correctness driven by the mainstream media suppresses free thinking and free speech.

In his 1903 book “The Souls of Black Folk,” W.E.B. Du Bois identified a major source of our real problems: “But the hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing. It leads to some of the best of the critics to unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose listeners. Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched — criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led — this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society.”

Without public dialogue dealing with real issues by reasonable, informed people, a great public frustration has developed. A broad scope of American citizens considers their thoughtful views to be suppressed and unvoiced. The constructive role of our best critics has been silenced and paralyzed in their efforts at dialogue and social improvement.

To safeguard our modern society and democracy American citizens must recognize the value of free thinking, free speech and open dialogue among reasonable, informed people. We must insist on and actively promote activities that bring to the public place ideas that are now suppressed.

This must be done to relieve the pent-up pressure felt by the few that burst into passionate and intemperate speech and action.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at