In 1965, James Baldwin faced down William F. Buckley at the Cambridge Union – two titans of literature, social policy and critical thinking. They had vastly different views, and the stage was set for a fiery debate.
When I watched this, I was stunned by the civility of the conversation – the depth of thought, the ends to understand each other’s viewpoints. What have we lost since 1965? This isn’t a criticism of either end of the political spectrum individually: elements of the left and right are equally guilty for stoking the fire.
But we’re all responsible, in some small way. Every time we dismiss someone as an idiot or call them a bigot without fully discussing what ideas they have, we make the problem worse.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
We must be able to talk to those we don’t agree with. We have to acknowledge that someone’s views being different from ours doesn’t automatically make them a fascist, or a communist.
It takes time and effort to have this kind of conversation. Maybe we should all strive to have them more often – before it’s too late.