One of the knocks on our political culture is the polarization that makes it impossible for both sides to come together and talk.
But, my friends, I have seen far worse polarization with my own eyes result in a cordial relationship where people respect each others differing points of view without compromising their own principles.
I am, of course, talking about the recently completed Salt Lake Comic Con.
If you think Republicans and Democrats are so far apart that they’ll never be able to come together, you have never been in a room with a bunch of comic book enthusiasts fighting over the finer points of their favorite universes.
These guys care much more about Marvel vs. D.C. and Star Wars vs. Star Trek than you or I will EVER care about politics. There’s just no way that American politics can match their intensity.
No. Possible. Way.
Many of these fans of comics and sci-fi and fantasy are so passionate about their favorite characters, they will spend weeks or months building and perfecting elaborate costumes. That takes real commitment.
Imagine how much better our political conventions would be if we had political cosplay? Delegates would dress up as their favorite president or senator or policy wonk. Sure, we have people who festoon themselves with American flag paraphenalia, but I’d love to see a Millard Fillmore, or William Howard Taft costume.
Consider this. A packed meeting room at the Salt Palace for a discussion about the Marvel vs. D.C. comic universes in film. Emotions are running high as people argue the merits of “The Avengers” vs. Batman and Superman. Throw in a controversy over whether Ben Affleck should don the cowel as Batman (yes, I’m a recovering comic book geek) and an ancillary discussion involving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and you get a fantastic nerd fight - with enough hard feelings to damage friendships.
But that didn’t happen. People agreed to disagree, even though there were true believers on both sides. Nobody changed their views, but the discussion was a healthy.
Now imagne that discussion about Keynsian vs. “supply side” economics, or gun control or same-sex marriage. There’s no room in our political culture to respect the views of others - only absolutism on these hot-button issues. You’re either with me, or against me. And, if you’re against me, you are the enemy.
What happens to an enemy? Enemies must be destroyed.
To me, The most striking takeaway from Comic Con was everybody listened to each other. That doesn’t happen in our political culture very much any more. Any ideas that are contrary to your point of view are dismissed immediately without a second thought. No space in the middle where people can come together.
Maybe we all need to take a lesson from our local comic book fan - we can disagree and respect each other at the same time. An alien concept in many political circles, but one we should really take time to understand.
If people who devote a good chunk of their lives to a pursuit can allow other ideas to exist, maybe the political universe can as well.