The ways that most of us gather information these days keep us “grazing on the same side of the fence.” We read or watch thinkers and commentators who reinforce our own somewhat entrenched positions. If we do peek over the fence, it might be to mock the laughable stupidity of Fox News or to be reminded that radicals like Russell Brand may be entertaining but their offensive language justifies not paying attention to their content. How do we really understand what it’s like on “the other side of the fence”?
I think that intentionally seeking to understand, with at least some degree of empathy, the views of people who disagree with us on important but controversial issues is one of the most important practices needed in the world today. It should be as much a part of our spiritual lives as prayer and giving to charities. And it is sorely lacking in my habits and, I suspect, most of yours.
So I’d like to encourage a small, but intentional, movement in the direction of some of us getting better at this. I’d like to start something of an “other side of the fence club” – an online gathering of people committed to sharing, distributing and reading/watching the best material that helps us get a deeper and more appreciative view of the interpretations and perceptions of those who disagree with us on key issues.
To this end, I would like to start collecting links to articles, quality blogposts, book reviews, videos etc. that you have experienced as really being effective at helping you understand those who see an issue differently – possibly even changing your mind a little. (Suggestions for sources that you think fairly and effectively represent your own views to “the other side” may be ok but are less interesting than sources that you have found that helped you to appreciate those who differ.)
So, if you know of any great examples of relatively short (I love books, but that’s a big commitment) and readable, or watchable, pieces that fit the above description on a controversial political, religious, ethical or other divisive issue, please send it to me (in the comments here or on Facebook or the feedback form below).
When some of us have gotten together and collected enough links to get started, we’ll start a website and roll out regular (weekly?) links highlighting the most recommended examples. So here are the kinds of links I’d love to hear about from you, in order of priority:
1) Links to articles, reviews, videos and other posts that really effectively helped you to understand or appreciate a position that you disagree with.
2) Links that exemplify a great and fair understanding of both sides of an issue
3) Links that you believe would really help someone who disagrees with you to understand or appreciate a position that you hold