Can we find a way to bridge the "yelling gap" in the immigration debate?
Part of my work at KETC as we delve into the topic of Immigration is to look at hundreds of the comments and news items every day. No one is listening! I see no way of bridging the gap conventionally.
So what is going on? Why can't the 2 sides find any common ground? Why can't the one side hear anything that the other says? Why do the important facts for each side mean nothing to the other?
I think the answer must be Cultural. A cultural filter on each side makes it impossible to understand the "Other" so the "Other" must be Stupid or worse Evil.
If this is true, there is no hope or "finding middle ground" - no hope of finding facts or conventional arguments that may convince both. No hope of a direct conversation on the issues.
But I think that there is hope in exploring the cognitive and cultural barriers.
If we can see where the "other" is coming from, then maybe we might find a way. If we can see the "other" and what shapes their world view then we might be able to find a common agenda that makes both sides feel OK.
So who are the "Tea Party" folks really? Who are the "Liberals"? Where do they come from?
Source:Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White-Male Effect in Risk Perception - Dan M. Kahan, Donald Braman, John Gastil, Paul Slovic, and C. K. Mertz*
Where do you fit on this grid? Let's look at the polar opposites so that we can see the split in America more clearly.
I am mid point bottom right - Strongly Egalitarian and Communitarian. My whole being and so my identity is rooted in the belief that we are really all the same and that community is the best way to look at anything.
I am very uncomfortable in hierarchies. I see a lot of grey and not much black and white. In the American Context these values tend to be Jeffersonian - anti all formal positional authority - idea based - very cool about religion - family is what works - acceptance of difference - yearning for the new - global - feminine - nurturing - these are the values you see on the Statue of Liberty.
If you fit in the opposite quadrant - top left - You are strongly individualistic and while you hate tyranny you feel comfortable in formal hierarchies such as a church or the military.
You are clear about what is right or wrong. Black and White are clear and there is no grey. Legal or not - it's simple. Much of the American culture is drawn from this perspective. Dislike of Central Government - Stand on your own two feet. Respect the law. Honor and Duty. Formal Christian Religion is a cornerstone of America - So is the Traditional Family - Eurocentric - Strongly masculine - self reliant. These can be described as Jacksonian values.
Both sides dislike central authority. But Jeffersonians dislike all authority whereas Jacksonian likes hierarchy.
There is common ground between the 2 groups but also deep divisions:(Here is the best piece I know on this split - there is a complete description at the link author Walter Russell Read)
One way to grasp the difference between the two schools is to see that both Jeffersonians and Jacksonians are civil libertarians, passionately attached to the Constitution and especially to the Bill of Rights, and deeply concerned to preserve the liberties of ordinary Americans. But while the Jeffersonians are most profoundly devoted to the First Amendment, protecting the freedom of speech and prohibiting a federal establishment of religion, Jacksonians see the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, as the citadel of liberty. Jeffersonians join the American Civil Liberties Union; Jacksonians join the National Rifle Association. In so doing, both are convinced that they are standing at the barricades of freedom.
So let's now apply this screen to some of the issues that swirl around the Immigration debate.
- Legal or not? - Jacksonians - that is the end of the matter - if they are legal it's ok if not they have to go. Jeffersonians - yes legal or not but how can we deport millions and break up families?
- Secure the Border? - Jacksonians - Of course this is the starting point - National Honor and the Nation is at risk. Jeffersonians - yes BUT if we don't deal with the issues that drive people here we wont achieve anything
- Welfare? - Jacksonians - Real Americans don't use welfare anyway - I want the smallest government possible - I want the less taxes possible - millions of free loading immigrants are therefore immoral and wrong. Jeffersonians - we all have to look after each other - of course people need help to adjust
- The Economy - Jacksonians tend to occupy those parts of the economy that has lost very badly in the last 30 years - they are very sensitive to wages being ao low and jobs being so scarce their fears are rooted in decades of bad things being done to them at work. Jeffersonians tend to be in the less formal aspects of the economy and have not suffered so much - they are less dependent on the formal economy. Many are entrepreneurial and want more high end immigrants.
- The State? - Jacksonians - the Feds are using this to get bigger and to tell us what to do - tyranny from the elite is growing and this issue is giving them more power. Jeffersonians - Tyranny is growing from racists locally who are using mob rule - the only defence is the Feds and the constitution
- The Constitution - Jacksonians - see America as a "Tribe" of people like them - White - Christian - citizenship is based on being part of this tribe. Jeffersonians see America as a melting pot where new Americans must assimilate to a set of values that put liberty first. The 14th Amendment is therefore a battles ground between two visions of the nation.
So where do you fit?
Does this view of the 2 sides make sense?
If it does - what do you think we can do to get talking to each other?