In totalitarian countries people are not supposed to think. They just blindly repeat the words of the Great Leader who knows everything. Any thought different from his is punished by imprisonment or death.
I often wonder how it is possible that in the freest country in the world many people voluntarily submit themselves to such mindless indoctrination. They want to hear nothing but the words of their idols repeated over and over; they don't care if those words make any sense at all.
This "dittohead" mentality makes any dialogue or conversation impossible. If you dare to express any thoughts, you are immediately called a moron, a Hitler, an idiot, or a gnat brain.
America has always been a country of ethnic and cultural diversity. In the past, differences were resolved in the "melting pot" of the common American dream. During the last thirty years, however, alarming signs of fragmentation have emerged. Ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, philosophical, and political prejudices are generating fierce and violent confrontations between different groups of people.
The so called "liberals" are as guilty of intolerance as the so called "conservatives." The popular talk-show idol has suggested placing liberalism in a jar filled with urine. (Does he have any idea what the word "liberalism" means?) On the other hand, our local "liberal" weekly newspaper has called a political candidate a "Neanderthal," suggested flashing our governor down the toilet, and declared that a former President of the United States should "rot in hell."
This decay of good manners, lack of decency, and blind partisan meanness are spreading like a cancer in our society. The very fact that people's beliefs are viewed on a one-track left-to-right scale is extremely disturbing.
It is crucially important for the survival of our nation to start reversing this trend. The first step is to start learning how to speak and listen to each other. We must try to understand the common values we share as Americans as well as our differences.
The Tucson Institute has recognized this need since the moment of its inception. We call ourselves a nonpartisan educational organization for better citizenship. Our founding document identifies as one of our basic goals "to attract people of all ages, through educational activities and discussions, to take active roles in society and improve their capabilities to participate in public affairs for the benefit of the community." We are trying to engage citizens in sustained conversations about issues relevant to society.
Let us stop throwing bricks at each other and start listening to the other side. Maybe we can find some common ground and common values.
-- Miklos N. Szilagyi
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