I am fascinated with boundaries, with the point where something stops and another thing starts. If you and I disagree on an issue, I want to try and go back to figure out exactly why. We agree here and here and here, but right here is the point where we diverge—why? Most of the time I think we can pin down the reason for the divergence, even though it’s often not obvious at first just why we disagree. Many disagreements arise because of a disagreement about an underlying principle, not so much in the points above or below that point. If I believed as you did at that crucial juncture, then I would agree with you about the final apparent disagreement, and vice versa. I find there is value in determining that critical divergence point. Usually it helps people stop seeing the one they disagree with as less than human.
For instance (as I hope to elaborate upon later), many people who care about the poor find satisfying political expression of that caring by voting for Democrats, progressives, liberals. I’ve never voted for a Democrat. Once a progressive knows this about me, if they don’t know anything else about me, they are liable to write me off as a shill for rich businessmen who cares nothing for the plight of the less-fortunate. But I care a great deal about the poor, and hope my work in the world is some small contribution to benefiting them. To many progressives, this makes no sense. In their minds, the only reasonable course of action to combat poverty is to join political progressives to shape society to make it more just for the less fortunate. People who don’t do this can’t be very serious about combating poverty, they believe.
I hope that my writing here can help explain some of these conundrums, and dispel some caricatures. Perhaps I might change a mind or two along the way, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d be happy to build understanding, to create a few more human connections between different people and groups of people.