My gut reaction was to assume that we, as Americans have gotten lazy and stubborn, assuming that we are now a population of bull-headed and unthinking people, but the answer comes much simpler than that. How do you respect an opposing viewpoint that you can never see in a reasonable light? Think of all the times you've seen a bunch of "snowflakes" protesting something that has been sold as reasonable within the article, or when you've seen "Alt-right racists" attacking the rights of people? The other side is being made into an enemy for having the wrong opinion, and we're already losing our grasp on Dissoi Logoi.
This decline in respect for other viewpoints is going to spell the end of people even considering themselves Americans over being Liberals or Conservatives. This is a terrifying prospect. Taken to the extreme, this division could cause lasting and incredible damage to the nation and its people. According the the Pew Research Center, the Left and Right have been drifting apart for the last 20 years, and it doesn't take an expert in politics to know that the last year has pushed things towards a tipping point.
So what's a young college student with a newfound knowledge of Rhetoric to do? The way I see it, there are a few paths back to a more cohesive nation. Real, respectful debate has to make a return, because right now, I believe that people are afraid to have their ideas challenged. There is no shame in being wrong, only in refusing to be.
If people are going to remain separated online by forces they can't do all that much to control, then I believe a return of the Agora in some capacity would do wonders for everyone. It is far easier to refuse a person many miles away behind a screen, but the effective challenging of ideas is a terrifying casualty of this age of the internet. Until things change and an effective flow of information and debate is not out of reach online, seek out someone with a different view and debate them respectfully. I've only ever come away thinking more of people who can defend their ideas, and any undefended idea has not been earned.
Lecture: 3/28 and 3/30