One of the main lessons I gleaned from higher education is the statement, “Context is key.” This was applied to my theology and Bible classes, certainly, but it spread out from there. History, language, philosophy, even civics and the sciences all led back to that statement. Really, unless you’re dealing with pure math it’s kind of an important point to grasp.
What I’ve noticed the last few years isn’t simply the loss of context, but how it’s been deliberately twisted in order to rile up ideological purists. If you happen to be an angry conservative or warrior progressive taking statements made by “the enemy,” and warping them to show them in the worst possible light, is considered OK as long as “the good guys” are the ones doing it 1. When people inevitably complain they were taken out of context it’s typically seen as an admission of guilt through obfuscation, rather than a call to embrace nuance 2.
What we are seeing unfold is political propaganda in all it’s twisted glory. People on the ideological extremes understand dehumanizing the “other” is the best way to turn opponents into objects, and with the speed of the Internet disinformation can blaze through people’s consciousness without any pause which allows us to reflect. The cycle repeats with ever-faster iterations, and we see the results in the various explosions of anger frequently on display in the news. Eventually, people begin to utter, “I don’t need to understand their context!” And when it happens violence is rarely far off.
Context is key. But in our world it’s become the sacrifice we make at the altar of our own feelings of superiority.