Can we talk across the culture-war divide? That’s the question journalist Trey Kay is asking in his new podcast series, Us & Them. Is it worth talking to someone with whom we have fundamental disagreements?
In his first episode, Trey Kay describes his culture-war-defying friendship with conservative activist Alice Moore. Kay first got to know Alice Moore when he was working on an earlier documentary about the 1974-75 textbook controversy in Kanawha County, West Virginia.
As the sophisticated and good-looking regular readers of I Love You but You’re Going to Hell (SAGLRROILYBYGTH) are well aware, this Kanawha County story also plays a prominent role in my recent book about educational conservatism. Alice Moore played a leading role as a conservative leader in that tumultuous school boycott.
In his first podcast, Kay describes his continuing friendship with her. The two of them inhabit different culture-war realms; Kay is a self-identified “blue-state liberal,” while Moore is a “red-state conservative.” More than that, Ms. Moore believes in a conservative evangelical Protestantism that liberals often find intellectually outrageous.
Can the two of them be friends?
At the very least, it would take careful diplomacy on both sides. As Kay asked himself, “I have core beliefs. What if I truly felt that they were under attack?”
Check out the whole episode when you’ve got a few spare minutes. Kay and Moore manage to do the things friends do: Get a meal together, talk about politics and religion. Yet neither of them budges an inch on his or her core beliefs.
Are such conversations worth having? As Kay includes in this episode, his editor wasn’t sure. She told Kay, “I don’t know how you can stand to have this conversation.” It seemed to Kay’s editor that he was listening to Moore, but Moore wasn’t listening back.
Yet Kay remained convinced there was some value to such outreach programs. He asked historian Jonathan Zimmerman’s opinion. Zimmerman insisted that Americans need to speak with each other; we need a common language to discuss “American problems . . . shared by all of us.” The most dangerous culture-war idea going around, Zimmerman said, is that those who disagree with us are either morally warped or ignorant.
Trey Kay hopes his new series will help figure out “what might happen if we take the time to listen to each other.” Can it work?