I’ve long disliked calls for “national conversations” (hereafter, NC) because they are usually vague, duplicitous and extremely partisan.
Suggesting a NC about a topic is a cliche, and used mainly by intellectually lazy progressives, fearful that the wrong people are having local conversations.
Topics deemed worthy of NCs in the USA these days run the gamut, and recently include race, abortion, mental health, guns, high-speed rail, wildfires, reparations, drinking during the pandemic, obesity and football.
When someone demands a NC, they don’t want an actual argument; they’re conveying that an issue is far too serious for regular people to ignore.
Ironically, as calls for NCs become more worthless, they occur at a more rapid pace. A 2015 study showed the term “national conversation” was used three times as often as in 2000, 2005 and 2010 combined.
Most NCs are one-sided and frequently emanate from the social media gutters of Instagram, Twitter or TikTok. And with a White House increasingly owned by the online hard left, we unfortunately will continue to hear the silly suggestion.
Please realize that calls for a NC is not intended to provoke an actual one. It is a call for you, the Philistine, to sit with the master and soak in his or her wisdom. The elites want you to hear what they deem the correct answer, even as they're usually the least informed and most intolerant. (Are the current judicial reform talks in Israel the same?)
Tellingly, calls for everyone to be talking about a singular topic often are a clever diversionary tactic to keep people from talking about a similar, but less comfortable topic.
When the left-wing Vox website called for “normalizing conversations about mental health” after Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman checked into the hospital for depression earlier this year, it ignored the more important reality that Democrats and his cruel wife forced an infirm man into office, despite knowing he would suffer.
NCs also are regularly pushed by the most sheltered and disingenuous among us.
The odious debate technique of Kamala Harris during her failed presidential campaign was responding to questions by demanding America needs to have a “conversation” about the topic. When a town hall attendee asked Harris if murderers and terrorists should be allowed to vote from prison, she predictably replied, “I think we should have that conversation.”
Centralizing discourse is ultimately futile. People in different parts of a country rightly will discuss issues important to them in a way they deem appropriate. We should keep having personal conversations about local issues.
In fact, what we need are millions of local conversations with friends, family and community. Regular citizens are more likely to be convinced by arguments from people they know than by sanctimonious New York Times reporters telling them what to think.
Seeking NCs is tempting at a time when local news can take on nationwide or global importance.
Many American liberals think their children will face gun violence at school, and conservatives believe their kids will witness drag queens at the local library. So, to save America, do we need a “national conversation” about it? No, we do not.
Berkeley and Tel Aviv residents may want Dylan Mulvaney types on every block, but people in Salt Lake City and Efrat may not.
If my workplace, for example, has no problems with race relations, why overwhelm us with diversity and sensitivity training?
Have your conversation with a rabbi or priest. Write a letter to the editor. Email a topic to your friends. But ignore the central planning technocrats and talk instead about whatever you want, with whomever you want, and whenever you want.
Ari J. Kaufman is a correspondent for several U.S. newspapers and magazines from Minnesota and Ohio to Tennessee and Virginia. He taught public school and served as a historian before beginning his journalism career. He is the author of three books, a frequent guest on radio programs, and contributes to Israel National News and The Lid.