So Obama gave his farewell speech last night. And for a second time, I find myself blogging about a speech he's made. The first time was before he took office.
I didn't watch the speech live, but I went back and read the transcript after the fact. A few bits in particular caught my attention.
For too many of us, it's become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or on college campuses or places of worship or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. And the rise of naked partisanship and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media in a channel for every taste -- all this makes this great sorting seem natural.
Even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it's true or not, that fits our opinions instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.
And this trend represents a third threat to our democracy.
Look, politics is a battle of ideas. That's how our democracy was designed. In the course of a healthy debate, we prioritize different goals and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point and that science and reason matter, then we're going to keep talking past each other.
It's that last bit especially that caught my attention. And I really do think it's important. If confirmation bias runs rampant and people increasingly only accept information that agrees with what they already believe rather than remaining open-minded, it's going to do some serious damage to this country.
I also thought this following bit was masterfully written.
America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured. In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity and liberty.
But from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.
And so we have to preserve this truth with jealous anxiety that we should reject the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties that make us one.