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Time to burst the bubbles



Readers of The Star should understand that opinions published on these pages do not necessarily represent this newspaper’s position. We print many articles that do not.

That we would do so seems to surprise some. That very surprise is, in and of itself, an indicator of something that has gone terribly wrong in our society, and it’s getting worse rapidly.

The concept that civil discourse, our ability to argue a subject and hear all sides, is a necessary skill for democratic society, seems to be getting lost. Or perhaps “violently exploded” would be a better metaphor to describe the current inclination to turn the channel to one that makes us feel better about our own leanings or to “unfriend” someone on social media whose views don’t coincide with our own, sealing ourselves within our own opinion bubbles.

It is critical to fight this inclination, so this newspaper prints even opinions with which we strongly disagree.

A case in point: Jesse Utz’s column last week, which we will here rebut.

Utz’s statement that “civil unrest is OK, civil disobedience is not” was a stunner, especially so soon after Martin Luther King Day. MLK, Ghandi, and Henry David Thoreau, just for starters, are a few of the names associated with civil disobedience. Add to those every American patriot who took up arms against King George and killed to repel tyranny and establish the liberties this country has come to symbolize the world over. That was civil disobedience in the extreme, and don’t imagine those patriots weren’t hated by their countrymen for disrespecting the crown. Civil disobedience is ugly and sometimes necessary.

This is not an endorsement of destructive riots or violence in the streets, which are just as abhorrent as any injustice or loss of liberty they supposedly seek to protest. It is, however, a plea that we recognize that our nation and our society have come to a place that is revolutionary and upsetting in so many ways that perhaps our country’s most basic survival skill will be developing, again, the ability to listen, without offense and in constructive argument, to those with whom we strongly disagree.

The onslaught of technical change in the digital era is making this both more challenging and easier at the same time. Every person reading this now has the ability to make his or her thoughts and ideas known to the world, even as news outlets of every stripe and social media tools are making it easier not to listen.

There is much to be said about the Divided States of America, but when freedom comes with terms such as Utz dictates, then it ceases to be freedom. And when civil disobedience becomes the subject of attack, we have a lot to fear.

America is still working on forming that “more perfect union” envisioned by the writers of the Constitution. And with each new generation, it’s likely the struggle will be renewed, loudly. That is, evidently, the nature of democracy, and always will be.

Unless we seal ourselves in our own little spheres of influence.

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