Most of us – conservative or liberal, rich or not, black or white – spend most of our time interacting with people who are just like ourselves. Whether by choice or chance or convenience, we live in cultural silos. We choose to watch or read news that largely mirror our views. Describe an individual’s demographics, and you can make a pretty good prediction of the music they enjoy, the books they will know about, and their movie preferences.
While there’s nothing new about birds of a feather flocking together, the increasing opportunities to individualize our social and cultural exposure makes it harder to speak and listen across those boundaries. This truth comes home to me on Tuesday evenings when I am privileged to talk with people all across the country on a range of issues. Last night we talked about The Affordable Care Act, and folks from Texas to Maryland, Alabama to Florida called in their well-reasoned opinions and their hard-won experience.
A week ago the topic was domestic violence, which unleashed a flood of pain that nearly drowned all of us on the panel. Our phone lines were burning up with former victims who wanted to share. Callers who talked about violence they witnessed in their families 50 years ago were as emotional as if it had happened yesterday. The traumas were fresh, with rage and pain that had not faded with time.