Last weekend, graduation ceremonies were held at my alma mater, Brigham Young University. Thousands of new graduates and their families gathered on the BYU campus to receive diplomas and hear uplifting addresses from classmates and educators alike.
Arthur Brooks – musician, social scientist, best-selling author and the president of the American Enterprise Institute – received an honorary doctorate at the BYU commencement ceremony. He then was given the opportunity to share a few thoughts supported by social science research. In his address, Brooks discussed the dangers contempt is creating in our great nation.
“America has developed a culture of contempt,” Brooks stated. “We’ve created a habit of seeing people that disagree with us not as merely incorrect or misguided – but as worthless.”
Brooks went on to relate how this culture of contempt is leading to destruction. He relayed the fact that “1 in 6 Americans has stopped talking to a close friend or family member over politics since the 2016 election.” As a result, “Ideological polarization is at higher levels than at any time since the American Civil War.”
It’s no secret that this political divide is causing harm here in the states, but it’s also having an impact on the rest of the world. Our country is supposed to stand as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. We are supposed to be the example of democratic capitalism.
So what’s the next step? It’s not to agree more.
“Disagreement is good. Competition is good. It makes us sharp and strong,” Brooks said. “We don’t need to disagree less. We need to disagree better.”
That means no more curating the information we take in to solely agree with what we currently believe to be true. That means we need to stop limiting our social connections to those who maintain similar viewpoints as us. That means we all need to start viewing our fellow Americans as exactly that – fellow Americans.
“If we are going to beat the problem of contempt, we are going to need something more radical than civility – something that speaks to our hearts’ true desire.” Brooks noted. “We need to love.”
And I, for one, could not agree more.