America isn't having a great dialogue about almost any issue, except, sometimes, in private.

That being said, if you're thinking about an issue, I think it's reasonable, when possible, to attempt to have a good conversation about it. More and more I see people getting distracted by how bad the conversation is, instead of trying to make it better (hosts of The Reason Roundtable have essentially made this into an inside joke). Sometimes it's just a signal of defeat – I often need to think things through in conversation, and so without that, I sometimes shrug and say, I haven't thought about this in any meaningful sense yet.

Sometimes, it's that the public dialogue's dysfunction is a tabloid-esque attention attractor, and we are being asked, through sheer willpower, to avoid it as a topic, which will only work some of the time.

Sometimes, like this post (and several others here), the conversation is supposed to be about the conversation. The public conversation stinks, and like all shared endeavors, we should strive to improve it. I choose the topics here, and it's pretty rare for me to even approximately subtweet public events. That means it's a pretty fresh start to a conversation, or at least that's what I'm trying. All avenues towards optimizing the commons are worth exploring, at least in principle, because it's all volunteer work.

But a lot of the time, people make a simple point one way, and out of fear that someone's developing a superweapon, try to get to safer ground by just saying the conversation stinks. I don't want to dismiss this as a mistake – surely, with strangers, it's essentially necessary. But if we can have a good conversation, it seems laden with irony to choose to instead complain about how nobody is having a good conversation.

Of course, some of the time, people just mean, 'why hasn't everyone else come up with the ingenious solution I have which is perfect except for the obvious problems', or, 'these people disagree with me despite me having perfectly normal motives'. It's plausible people don't like actually running through why the status quo is justified, or why we ought to do an okay but unsatisfying thing. Those conversations can be uncomfortable, and so few people put the effort into them, but, of course: the status quo is frequently adaptive to the world around it, and not everyone can be satisfied – sometimes you need to think through a problem and decide it's the best thing to do, without a consensus.

I'm just going to recommend doing a once-back on reclaiming a conversation. If it starts talking about a substantial issue, try to bring it back to that at least once. Listen, when that happens, to how things get off track again. People get pretty upset about a lot of stuff these days – that's understandable, in these times – and things that are easy to emote about demand human attention. The goal isn't to abandon our attempts to make a better community – it's to use opportunities for higher-quality conversation, even if it can be a bit of a challenge.