One definition of "conversation" is "the discussion of great and small topics by people who practice mutual tolerance for opposing viewpoints". The key phrase is "mutual tolerance".
Recently, blogger Kathy Sierra had to cancel a speaking engagement due to death threats she had received at her website and other blogs. I haven't looked into just why her comments riled the hateful to such vile action, but for the purposes of my post, that is not especially important.
What is important, however, is to point out that our nation is facing a situation similar to that just experienced by two Texas fathers and their sons. They managed somehow to avoid death when their boat went over a dam. Our nation is drifting toward the edge of a precipice, and those of us who attempt to point this out to the rest get doused with abuse and calumny. I guess it's considered gauche to point out that the party needs to come to an end when the End is why there's a Garishly Opulent Party occurring.
To defend their "right" to drag us all over the edge with them, the Partiers resort to deception, manipulation of the truth, offering misleading red herrings of "logic" and negating reasoned effort through the presentation of demonstrable fact with bald assertions of "No, it isn't!" with no supporting evidence. Such a Peewee Herman arena will accomplish nothing tangible, but that is why the tactic of resorting to such verbiage is used. It enables those who wish to avoid exploring their own contribution to our current tense situation to lay the blame elsewhere ("It's all Bill Clinton's fault!")
Aristotle's Rhetoric proposed that in a democracy all citizens had a right and duty to participate in their own government, and each citizen must understand what can or cannot be done in public discourse and politics. When a society faces the kinds of troubles we in America now do, all points of view must be offered for consideration by the whole. No one point is any more valid than another until all of the aspects have been discussed pro and con and all participating in the discussion have reached an agreeable understanding on a solution.
But we Americans seem to have forgotten all of this, as Kathy Sierra's experience demonstrates. One of the best examples to prove my point is the Internet. Blogs such as this one attract too many of those who only seek to be difficult and obtrusive. As the Chicago Tribune posted, "The incorrigibly bad-humored, for example, find they can thrive on the Internet with no consequence and gather whole audiences of other bad-humored folks around them." Regular readers of our own comments know of several examples which prove the Trib's point.