Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

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Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
From this quote from the “Statue for Religious Freedom”:

 “Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them”

it is clear that Jefferson expected Americans to argue and debate controversial beliefs--like those surrounding religion--in a search for shared insights and truth.  However, typical modern Americans shy away from openly discussing controversial topics, except in specific forums--like talk shows, letters to editors, Internet forums, etc.  

Some argue that, as a result, we rarely experience having our minds changed through public debate; instead, we tend to talk and listen to small communities who share our opinions and beliefs bur rarely challenge them.  

In the General Assembly discussion thread entitled, “Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America,” write a brief post in which you characterize the state of American argument, debate, and contradiction.  Using your own life and experience as a basis for your explanation, do you believe that the current state of democratic discourse is consistent with Jefferson’s vision?  Where possible, integrate your reading of Franklin, Jefferson, and the Romantics into your writing. [Note:  Keep this characterization relatively short, that is, less than 500 words.]
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Cynthia
I think with the current state of democratic discourse is consistent with Jefferson’s visions.  With religion people are going argue or challenge what is the right way to think.  Throughout my life I have always been very open minded with religion. I do not feel its right to disregard something just because I do not believe in the same beliefs.  Growing up catholic, I had a lot of Christian friends.  I never let that change my mind of our great friendships.  I think with America today, there are so many religions out there, that it is ignorant to commonly believe that there is just one right way to do things.   “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all”.  This quotes by Thomas Jefferson, stats my thoughts exactly.  This quote means that one should speak what they believe, not what will be popular. America’s contradiction of speaking your mind, in political situations, can turn the way people think, unfortunately.  We are always taught to believe in what one thinks right, but then we are criticized for the exact same meanings.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Courtney
Cynthia-I could not agree with you more. Religion is such a heated topic because there are so many different views. It’s like talking about abortion…you will always have someone who does not agree with you. I feel the same way in the fact that you should not disregard something just because you don’t have the same beliefs. Everyone in this world is different and each of us has individual rights to practice whatever faith we choose. I am a firm believer in speaking my mind and I believe in what I think is right. What may work for me may not work for someone else, but diversity is one of things that makes America what it is today. No one would be happy if there was only one option. People need valuable information to make the choice that fits them the best. Great job!
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Kendall Plummer
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Our ways of debate and dealing with issues seems to fit well with how Jefferson described it. Truth is the only way one can settle something. When people aren't honest, nothing will be resolved. Each person is entitled to their own opinion. One of the problems in society is that most people tend to think that their opinion is the only one that matters or that it is the 'right' opinion. During a debate, there most likey isn't going to be an agreement to the issue, that's the reason it's called a debate. However, if the people are trying to agree on something, then compromises are going to have to be made. The most important thing in a debate or even just a conversation with people is the listening factor. Let people talk. When interruptions are made, this is where people shy away. They begin to feel as if people aren't willing to listen to their side, and it causes frustration and anger, which is not ever going to help solve anything. Everyone should be able to have a voice, we were given one for that purpose, let it get used. I think the main reason people tend to stick close to those who agree with them, and avoid debate, is because people have an issue with respect towards one another when opinions don't match. With politics, when one doesn't agree with a certain party, automatically they think of negative things to say whether it be jokes or fabricated stories. In religion, people talk about "not being able to see" whatever the belief is, or "that can't be proved", or "well science says...". Whether one person agrees with what another has to say or not, they should show respect toward them, we're all equal, and we all have our rights, that's all that gets settled at the end of the day anyways.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Kevin Connors
In reply to this post by Cynthia
After reading over Jefferson's writings I see why some many use his name to describe their ideals.  I personally believe America is at a small turning point in the great American debate. I' am impressed with the citizens of the tea party.  I think for better or worse the last Bush presidency made Americans note that in order for this idea to work we have to talk, argue, and shout sometimes to get it done.  I think new social media like twitter and Facebook allow people who weren't politically active to become active and find a voice.  At the same time you won't learn to compromise if your only around people who agree you.  One issue I see is people having a general lack of knowledge about how their government works or their topic in general.  I also would argue that we as a nation need to learn to fact check better.  I often meet people who only have one news source and they rather blindly fallow that source.  I enjoyed Jefferson's letter to Mr. Carr.  Critical thinking is a talent easily taught, a lifetime of mastery. You could also argue with the lowest voter turnout of any first world nation that the discourse is only dominated by a passionate few.  As with most things the idea of discourse and debate really starts at home and in the school.  We need to challenge children to think critically and question information and their government.  More importantly we need to challenge parents to question their own ideas.  You could also make a strong argument that many people don't understand how debate actually works.  I find myself questioning my ideas about policy and government constantly.  Without the constant struggle to Govern the country would become stagnant and intellectually retarded.   So rip this thing apart and lets get the debate going!
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Sha Trent
In reply to this post by Cynthia
Well put, but aren't Catholics Christians? (scratching my head)
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Sha Trent
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Although, I think that the current state of democratic discourse is tied to Jefferson’s vision, I think it's blurred. Jefferson's writings and work were very consistent in regard to the individual rights and thoughts of people, but so many Americans elect to blend in and simply accept what is prominent.  I think because people's views differ they have a tendency to avoid discussions relative to religions, as a form  of convenience and an out to not have to deal with debates/arguments, in every degree. I personally do not have an issue with people voicing their opinions, because if it were not for the individual opinions, beliefs, views, and thoughts of others, I would be without my own voice. It's significant and necessary to listen, understand and disagree with others, as an opportunity to grow intellectually and form an understanding and opinion of your own. Despite, the current, blurry state of Jefferson's vision, he prevailed in making certain that we have a voice to express, it'd just be nice to share it openly.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Woubet Gebreab
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Today’s democratic discourse is consistent with what Jefferson had vision but overtime society has been facing away from religious issues, debates and arguments.  People do respect their own religion and beliefs.  If certain groups of people want their religion to be respected and known then they in turn have to respect and acknowledge the different religions that exist today in America.  This does not always happen in this world and as humans most people stereotype certain religions’ and we all make the wrong assumptions sometimes.  It would be great if certain people educate themselves and learn by reading, listening and watching different kinds of news media instead of just one source they agree with.  It is the same ideals as what they have so it will not teach them anything new.  This does not always happen in this world and as humans most people stereotype certain religions’ and we all make the wrong assumptions sometimes.  Growing up I was brought up by my family an Orthodox Christian.  I acknowledge and respect other people and their religion.  I think in my opinion, there is only one God even though there are many different religions’ out there.  I think people should be free to follow any religion they want to, but not just to fit in with in the same community.  It should be the same religion they follow and practice in private and in public too.  The government or state should not be interfering with religion and people have the right to voice their opinions without any danger or harm.

I liked this quote by Jefferson,
“Go on doing with your pen what in
Other times was done with the sword.”
- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine (1796)
Jefferson believed in educating the common people about religion, state and government in order to express their opinions and debate for what they stand.

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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Ben Morgan
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Truth...the actual state of matter; conformity with fact or reality; a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, or principle. Truth... I believe many of our forefathers, including Jefferson, spoke with passion and beliefs which were upheld as truths. And to prove how truthful it was, I believe that when tried in debate or argument, the very nature and identity of truth will defend itself. I think that this statement however does recognize how humans can contort truth and bend it from its original intentions and design. As I think of how often in todays society there are debates and arguments over laws and statutes which have been in effect since our countries foundation. Laws such as marriage, religion, sexual orientation are being debated and the truth of matters is being contorted. In fact, the very definition of truth I believe is being skewed. Truth itself no longer holds solidarity! As a result, there is nothing to base these numerous debates upon. Of course people shy away from topics such as these. Why?! I believe because as a result of societies abuse, there is no longer a truth. Absolute truths have been abused, misused, and ignored to the point that I believe many controversial debates and arguments will never find a resolution. They will forever be bottomless topics, hungry for answers.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Antonio Lewis
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
The state of American debate is very consistent with the views of Jefferson.  I have never debated religion, or any other controversial issues with those who are not close associates of mine.  Religion is a very touchy subject and some people are willing to die and/or kill others over different religious views.  I believe it was easier to debate back in Jefferson's time because America was still young and hadn't fully become the melting pot that it is today.  People find it easier to debate in discussion forums online, letters, and etc. because they can hide or stay out of harms way.  I think we need more public debates, because people these days are either too sensitive or extreme in their views.  People need to learn how to listen to each others arguments and put themselves in others shoes.  The new "Tea Party" is a movement that I am impressed with.  They have peaceful debates, and marches.  They also debate against anti-tea parties on talk shows such as HBO's Bill Maher.  
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Courtney
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I think that the current state of democratic discourse is consistent with Jefferson’s vision. I think that truth is the only way to overcome problems and honesty is key. Debates over anything and everything arise these days. We all need to realize that everyone is different but that is what makes us so special. Diversity is important on so many levels. We need choices…no one would be happy if they had no options. Life is all about making choices. Sometimes you make good ones and sometimes you make bad ones. The whole point of growing up is to learn from your mistakes, and we wouldn’t be able to do that if everyone made good choices because there were no other options.  
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Roland Simmons
Cynthia and Courtney I agree with both you on the topic of religion. Religion is indeed a heated topic with people from different religions who have different viewpoints. I too feel that if you have different religious viewpoints that you should not judge or discard someone else's religion or belief. As Americans we all have the right to practice the faith that we choose to believe in. We have so many diverse cultures in this country that for us not to argue. judge or discard someone else's belief is almost impossible.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Cynthia
In reply to this post by Sha Trent
Catholics are Christians but not all Christians are Catholics. They can be Protestants for example. One big difference between Protestants and Catholics is the use of statues. Some Protestants regard the use of those as idols while Catholics use widely. Another difference is that Catholics can confess to God or to a priest, while Protestants can only confess to God.

Well, I hope I could clarify a little bit. This are just some examples I learned through life experience. I have some relatives and friends who are Protestants, but all of us are Christians.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Cynthia
In reply to this post by Courtney
..And I believe that is what makes life exciting. One day you are on one step, the next day you have to jump to another one. I think that would be very boring to be living on the same way, with no expectations of change!!
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Nina
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Jefferson's view on today's democratic discourse has been consistent with the issue of religion and how we debate about the topic today. I definitely agree with many remarks from the class; in today's society the topic of religion should definitely be discussed, although in a matter where everyone's thoughts and beliefs can be heard and understood (to a certain degree). We will never all come to an agreement with many issues today especially the one on religion, for it is probably one of the most sensitive subjects to talk about. I myself was brought up in a Russian Pentecostalism religious background, while growing up I believed that everything being preached at my church was the truth and only truth and that there could be no other way. Once I was able to realize the difference between religions I was able to decide what and how I would worship. Till this day I still can't talk to some of my family members who are  part of that church and religion due to our different beliefs, and not because I don't want to but because the subject is so hard for them to hear and understand that there are multiple religions and belief systems and no single one is the 'best' or 'right' way. If the issue religion was discussed more among all sorts of people from all different backgrounds I believe people would  understand why people act or do things in certain ways without judging them. An opened mind is the main key in this matter without one there really isn't much that can be said or done. We definitely don't need to agree with everyone and everything but to listen and share each others views could bring closeness.  
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

tcason24
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I believe Jefferon's view on today's democratic discourse has been consistent. As everyone has been stating, religion plays a huge role on how this democratic nation should be ran. Democratic, meaning the majority rules and not everyone will be satisfied with a resulting decision. It could depend on how one-self was raised OR what they have implied upon their own extent. For example, I was raised in a Baptist religion, but my own life experiences and learnings, this could steer me to believe otherwise. I also feel debates really do not alter one another's beliefs. From my culture, I was taught this world was created by God and not by science. We could debate this all day long, but at the end of the day, I will still believe the same because of my faith in religion. Debates only appeal to the audience and this is how majority wins, not typically soving a problem. I have read a few post with people saying if you surround yourself with people who have the same ideas and agree with you, compromising will not be solved. I actually disagree with that because if you're surrounded by agreeing ideas, tasks will be completed. They would just be done differently on how other communities think they should be done. eventually, a decision must be made whether you agree or disagree (going back to majority rules).
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Antonio Lewis
In reply to this post by Cynthia
I agree with Cynthia that life would be boring if we all lead similar lives.  For instance if we all had to practice one religion.  It was meant for us to all be different so we may be tolerant of one another, and learn from each other.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Keith Vertrees
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
One of the things that makes the literature that has had an enduring effect on our society such a joy to read is the seriousness of the discourse provided within, the elegance of the writing, and the ideals that are so relatable even today.

The strong critiques on society that the romantics such as Thoreau made set an expectation that an open discussion and debate would continue as America continues to grow and evolve. This discussion would be a fundamental part of the continued liberty we enjoy.

Jefferson had very strong opinions on this topic, and often expressed them through his views on education. In 1786 Jefferson wrote to George Wythe "I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness...Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils [tyranny, oppression, etc.] and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance."

Jefferson believed that an educated public would engage in vigorous discourse, which would secure the enduring freedoms that they're forefathers fought to achieve.

I don't believe we are achieving this. Modern discourse consists of straw man arguments and personal attacks fed by a questionable agenda. Most of us allow the major news networks to set up our arguments for us, and then we parrot those arguments. With the strength of political parties, the pervasiveness of the news networks, and the ease at which false arguments are perpetuated have caused us to close ourselves off from meaningful discussion and simply engage in party line shouting matches.

I find it very frustrating when people wont engage in any type of critical thinking about their own beliefs. People have turned into apologists for their political affiliations, and seem to stop thinking for themselves.
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Kristi Kesler
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I think today’s methods of dealing with debate and differing opinions is similar to how Jefferson summed it up but I believe that today people more closely watch what they say.  I think a vast majority of the population would rather discuss highly debated topics with others that have similar opinions because they simply feel that they can openly speak their mind without fear of rejection or argument.  The population as a whole seems to typically follow with the current trends and ways of life.  American has become a vast mixing bowl of differing ethnics, religions, and even daily habits.  We’ve learned to adapt to others ways no matter how different.  We are also taught from a young age not to deliberately cause confrontation and also to accept others regardless of how different they are.  To me it seems ironic enough that here within the states we learn to adapt and deal with others that have opposing opinions or beliefs but when you look at the “war” overseas that is currently going on…America as a whole didn’t hesitate to jump into other countries and try to press our democratic ways onto other nations.  We feel is it our job to show others the democratic way (no matter the cost…money and human lives)…when yet we Americans are taught “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”…Ironic!  On a separate idea, look at todays presidency, many of the Ameican people have come together to form these tea partys to explain their ideas and the anti-Obama feelings.  They are trying to bring enough people together to have a “change” in the government and the presidency.  Here is a fine example of how people with different thoughts and feelings have come together and are not afraid to show the public their thoughts!  Lastly a huge part of debates is allowing the speaker to be able to share their opinions opening…otherwise they will feel their words are falling onto deaf ears and that could be yet another reason maybe people avoid the debates and controversy!
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Re: Week Eleven: The State of Democratic Discourse in Today’s America

Rich Sena
In reply to this post by Cynthia
 What needs to shange is the left and right, the lobbys, and the nipitismic boys club that our government has become. The founding fathers were family men, and lead their lives outside of politics. They looked at political service as a civil duty that was to be taken seriously, wherin decisions would be made for the overall good of the people rather than advancing their own or their constituents agendas.