Wil Weaton (of Wesley Crusher fame) has a long and thoughtful post on dKos that is a followup to an article he wrote for Salon just prior to Christmas. In the article, Wil talks about a blowup his father had with him about the death penalty. Wil wrote the article as a way of dealing with his feelings over the incident and his anger with the way that the polarizing nature of our current political debate has destroyed his ability to talk with his parents about the most pressing issues of the day.
Unfortunately, in the course of writing his original article, Wil painted a picture of his parents that made them out to be wingnuts just like the people he was decrying. The post on dKos describes his subsequent conversations with his parents about the article and how it hurt them. It is a useful (albeit LONG) excursion into an experience that, unfortunately, far to many Americans are experiencing today.
Wil's parents sound like people who are willing to "talk it out" and reach some kind of consensus (even if that means agreeing to disagree). Those are the kind of people who you can work with, even if you have vastly different philosophical outlooks.
It is the True Believers, the One True Wayers and the Wingnuts who are really poisoning our political dialog, and that is what I think Wil was trying to get at in his original article. The mistake he made was in recklessly painting a picture that suggested his parents were of the same stripe when all he was trying to say was that the REAL wingnuts were making it harder for him to have reasonable discussions with his parents (and others) about the most important issues of the day.
There's a lesson here. The true wingnuts are a rare breed. But they are so loud and disruptive, and so many of the rest of us are so desirous of "just getting along", that the wingnuts come to dominate the political discussion. As a result, everyone gets painted into the most extreme corners where they don't fairly belong.
It is those people, the cockroaches as I like to call them, that we should really stomp on. It is the people like Wil's parents that we should continue to try to work with, even if we can never convince them of the correctness of our own beliefes.
We shouldn't let the scuttling of the cockroaches get in the way of our natural human desire to work together to make the world a better place. The spirit of cooperation is as strong a force in human history as is the spirit of competition (possibly more so). It is one of our greatest strengths and one of our most powerful survival instincts.
We fall when we fail to realize how much we are capable of achieving together.