Terry Paulson

When Newsweek recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Forty percent couldn’t identify our enemies during WW II. Sixty-one percent didn’t know that a senator’s term is six years. Some high school history teachers are reportedly pulling out their hair. Try taking the civics test to assess your basic knowledge.

Newsweek rightly acknowledged that educating voters on entitlement reform is critical to balancing the budget and that civic ignorance is “a big problem going forward.” They quoted many experts on why we’ve become “incurious know-nothings.” They listed everything from the complexity of our political system to income inequality and market-driven programming in television. None mentioned the absence of good old-fashioned political dialogue across our political divide.

Do we avoid talking politics for lack of knowledge? Was it our mothers who warned us not to talk about God or politics? Is it our fear of being attacked by our political adversaries? Are we lacking in knowledge, confidence or courage?

After posting and commenting on Facebook about a political YouTube video, one friend responded: “I am actually commenting on the fact I have no comment. Last year, I stopped all political Facebook posts.”

My response still reflects my view: “I understand your choice, but I have made a different one. Too many have stopped having conversations about political differences. It's those conversations that make liberty count. The trick is not to demean those who disagree. I value difference and know that many very wise and well-meaning citizens disagree. I try to be sensitive, but I think political discussions are more important than ever today.”

My friend wrote what many feel: “I find people just become angry. The Republicans post horrible things about the Democrats, and Democrats post horrible things about the Republicans. Both sides seem to refuse to see any good in the other side. I’m surprised we don't have a civil war soon!”

Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.

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