Maybe it’s inevitable that today’s hyper-partisanship and lightening-fast news cycles have left the open-minded Jacobs frustrated with America’s low tolerance for disagreement—a political order characterized by “willful incomprehension [and] toxic suspicion”
In a pluralistic society, people struggle to deal with difference. One of the ways in which we typically deal with difference is by drawing really clear lines of belonging and not-belonging.
Green: Do you think people are obligated to engage with an opposing viewpoint if enough people hold that view?
Jacobs: I do think that’s true. When a position is really widely held, it’s not really a safe option to deem it out of bounds.
I want to be generous, and I want to be civil, and I want to be kind. I want to listen to people who are very different from me. I want to keep doing that, even if I don’t make things better. I also want to be aware of the ways in which a plea for civility can be a way of consolidating power. It’s pretty easy to be me in America. … I want to remember that and not chastise people for being uncivil when they have what Martin Luther King Jr. called “legitimate and unavoidable impatience.” I do want to promote civility, but I want to promote it more by example than by lecturing people on how they can be more civil.