The Epistolary Illusion

I experience a lot of voter contact, these days. Texting is high-volume contact, and supervising others for a texting program is even higher-volume. It’s intense—because a lot of people are fairly blunt in this impersonal medium—and it’s also repetitive. Patterns emerge quickly and tend to repeat, repeat, repeat.

The conclusions to which they lead are certainly not encouraging.

The notions that political choices are driven by policies, or issues, or values—or that they are responsive to information—seem increasingly fanciful.

A recent direct exchange with someone I know, personally, may however be even more discouraging.

This person wanted my support for a policy initiative. I said that I would not be able to support it, then, when asked for my reasons, I explained them. This person agreed that all of my objections were valid.

Then continued on the same course anyway.

This exchange took place via e-mail, yet since then I kind of imagine it taking place in person. In particular I envision a brief confused awareness playing across this person’s face, like someone who woke up in unexpected surroundings. Then it’s gone. As though, struggling to reconcile a programmed path with conflicting information, the brain just resets.

This, moreover, is closer to real dialogue than the majority of exchanges seem ever to get. I kind of laugh at the person who, caught by a response for which apparently no substantive rebuttal whatsoever came to mind, resorted to “1. Bite me, 2. Take me off the contact list.”

Yet this sort of fixed, totally bare, rejection of evidence and reason seems to be pretty much everywhere beneath our illusions of dialogue and debate. In fairness I can recognize the tendency within myself, even if I manage to overcome it with any regularity.

The joke, if any, would seem then to be on me.

P.S. Let’s also include a reference to the number of adults who all respond to a message “Hi, is this ____?” with the same line from a children’s cartoon about anthropomorphic marine creatures.

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