Why is it that conversations about political and quasi-political topics among Latter-day Saints almost always devolve quickly into posturing and name-calling? And why, in my experience, does it seem that those who are conservative are more likely to head in that direction first? I admit that my perception may be biased by the fact that I’m “liberal” (read “middle-of-the-road” everywhere but among American Latter-day Saints). I may overlook more easily the faults of those who agree with me. Nevertheless, my impression is that because they are the mainstream of the Church, conservatives often tend to be smug about their position, assuming immediately that those who disagree with them are not only wrong (that follows by definition) but stupid, ill-willed, uninformed, and perhaps even evil. One need not respond to them, one need only dismiss them. And this is true even for many people who otherwise are intelligent and quite willing to engage in civil discussion of difficult topics.
One consequence is that many Church members who are not in that political mainstream are effectively silenced. We don’t say anything—or post responses to some of the issues that come up here—because we see no point in doing so; rather than engaging in a discussion, we’ll find ourselves having to defend our intelligence or testimonies. The pile-on by conservatives that follows any disagreement with their position is daunting, sufficiently to make those of us in the minority think that disagreeing is seldom worth it.
There are exceptions. For example, though I disagree with some of the other permanent bloggers on T&S, I find them always willing to engage in respectful discussion of the issues. But I think it is not difficult to look at some of the recent threads on this list and see that they really are the exceptions.
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