Gary is a frequent commentator on this blog. I think that it is safe to say that Gary disagrees with my perspective on virtually every issue discussed on this blog. He rejects evolution and thinks that Christianity requires a belief in the Genesis account of creation. He seems to be a Biblical literalist (or at least something close). And, please, don't get him started on gays and lesbians! (In one comment, he pretty much asked for my early demise since I once represented a group fighting a proposal to place a constitutional ban on same sex marriage in the Arizona constitution).
Still, I have immense respect and admiration for Gary. Why? Despite the fact that my blog probably makes him mad, and apparently challenges the very core of his belief system, he drops by here to read what is posted here several times a day. He actively seeks out opinions that are contrary to his own. He does not let himself live in a safe conservative part of the blogosphere.
I thought of this when I read a review of The Big Sort in the Economist:
Because Americans are so mobile, even a mild preference for living with like-minded neighbours leads over time to severe segregation. An accountant in Texas, for example, can live anywhere she wants, so the liberal ones move to the funky bits of Austin while the more conservative ones prefer the exurbs of Dallas. Conservative Californians can find refuge in Orange County or the Central Valley.
Over time, this means Americans are ever less exposed to contrary views. In a book called “Hearing the Other Side”, Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania crunched survey data from 12 countries and found that Americans were the least likely of all to talk about politics with those who disagreed with them.
. . .
Residential segregation is not the only force Balkanising American politics, frets Mr Bishop. Multiple cable channels allow viewers to watch only news that reinforces their prejudices. The internet offers an even finer filter. Websites such as conservativedates.com or democraticsingles.net help Americans find ideologically predictable mates.
. . .
America, says Mr Bishop, is splitting into “balkanised communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible.” He has a point. Republicans who never meet Democrats tend to assume that Democrats believe more extreme things than they really do, and vice versa. This contributes to the nasty tone of many political campaigns.
Read it all here.
We all need to learn from Gary. We need to get out of our habits of reading blogs we agree with written by people who think like we do. Like Gary, I doubt that this will change the way we think, but it will undoubtedly help us at least to to begin to understand different views of the world.
Of course, Gary, I am still hoping for a conversion!