In this introductory episode, host Inez Stepman lays out the need for debate on controversial subjects in a democracy and sets the stage for future discussions.
Hello. Welcome to High Noon. I’ll be your host Inez Stepman, and this podcast is a product of the Independent Women’s Forum. Before we bring on our first guests and have our first conversations, I’d like to take a minute to lay out what we’re trying to do here with this podcast and why I hope you’ll join us for our weekly programming. We live in interesting times, but there’s a reason that phrase is often referred to as a curse. It often seems like we have little in common anymore and we don’t proceed from the same priors or principles. Worse, so many of us are feeling the pressure to disengage with important concepts or opinions. According to surveys, more than 60% of us self sensor. As the great American orator and abolitionists Frederick Douglas declared on the Eve of the Civil War, liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.
How bizarre that 150 years later we’re restricting that right for ourselves. We face a landscape where everything is deemed political but the acceptable range of political opinions keeps shifting and shrinking. Real engagement on topics that we as human beings have struggled with for millennia seems almost impossible in this environment. Topics like what does it mean to be a good man or a good woman? Are those even different questions? How has our political system adapted to accelerating technological advancement? How do we create and maintain real relationships in an age of what seems like increasing alienation?
Are the institutions that once provided our discourse with gatekeepers going extinct? If they are, how do we build new ones that do a better job than the ones that we seem to be leaving behind? What does equality mean and how do we progress towards a more perfect union? Unfortunately, it’s almost as though we’re developing two selves, one that has some humility towards these questions that have perplexed us and thinks we might refine our thinking through constructive discussion and learning from people who think differently than we do.
And then another self that merely seeks to display the right answer to keep us out of trouble. These split personalities spell serious trouble, not just for us, but for our democracy. Honesty is a prerequisite of democratic participation is going to be anything more than a shadow game. Shutting down debate doesn’t produce unity, it just discourages integrity. The founders enshrined free speech and the first amendment because they believed it was a natural right that preceded government. But it also has communal value to our democracy as a whole as well. We have to be able to discuss controversial things with each other as we make decisions as we the people. Without that ability, we run the risk of turning into an Ersatz Democracy with millions of voices pressured out of the public square and millions of opinions simply unheard. If the workings of democracy are an argument writ large, here at High Noon, we’re trying our best to keep argument from going extinct.
I am and will remain open about my conservative convictions. But on this podcast, we’ll be talking to people from a wide range of political perspectives and we’re going to try to it in a way that’s honest, fair, and gets to the heart of our disagreements without losing sight of our common future. I want to engage with the smartest, boldest and most interesting thinkers, whether we come away from that discussion with more agreement than we thought we had or not. I hope these discussions we host every week will challenge you entertain you, maybe even enrage you. But above all, I hope they make all of us courageous and equipped to have them in our own lives.
Every episode we’ll kick off with answering a question or comment from a listener. The point is to create a community in which we tackle some of our hardest challenges with both integrity and passion that nevertheless falls short of permanent division. We’re always told that every election is the most important election of our lifetimes. I don’t know about elections, but it does feel somehow like we’re on the cusp of a potentially dangerous time in our country’s young history. If you care about the conversations that make a free society possible, then our interesting times seem to be approaching high noon. I hope you’ll join us here every week as we talk about controversial subjects with interesting people.