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Letter: Pay attention and engage

Oh, dear. Just when we need a renewed commitment to civility, open-mindedness and listening skills, Roland McLean instead exacerbates a destructive trend to tribalism and polarization, simplistically categorizing, then dismissing, people who do not agree with his views (March 22 column, Post Independent).

In a rather bizarre review — even a celebration — of ancient feuding subcultures, Mr. McLean attempts to project into present day the foolish arbitrariness and inflexibility of some very dark periods of barbaric history.

It is a close call which is more foolish and damaging to civil discourse — Mr. McLean’s lumping of large numbers of people into homogenized blocs or his ridiculous labeling of education as elitism. Both are disappointing and not helpful.

One small point of accuracy in Mr. McLean’s column is his near-observation that Americans are a uniquely independent lot.

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Indeed, to varying degrees, we all think for ourselves. We are able to develop views on a diversity of topics without needing to look to some group-think checklist — and we can do that wherever in this country we live.

As a result, any one individual’s collection of perspectives is unique. It is possible to borrow Mr. McLean’s pet issues to appreciate the functions of government, be a strong adherent to religious faith, and believe that the country’s gun abuse epidemic is seriously out of control; or to be wholly committed to unfettered gun-possession rights without holding any religious beliefs; or any other recombination.

Contrary to his sniping about the effects of good education, the truth is that active learning, listening and study lead to discerning thought and to evolving points of view.

No one among us is permanently stuck in one set of opinions, and we are far the better for it — individually and collectively.

Let us continue to celebrate the principles of paying attention and engaging, and put stereotypes and sweeping insults aside.

Steve Smith

Glenwood Springs


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