We need to start the conversation about a whole bunch of things - from Teen Pregnancy to Immigration to Race Relations. The more controversial the subject, the greater the need to start the conversation. President Obama wants to start the conversation about a number of touchy issues. These topics are so highly charged, so incredibly sensitive, they can't possibly be discussed or, God forbid, debated. But maybe we can have a conversation about them. Or rather, we can start the conversation (the implication being that we'll never actually get through the conversation without all hell breaking loose).
Where did "starting the conversation" start? I don't know for sure, but it has a vaguely "Oprah" feel to it. I can just hear Dr. Phil telling the battered wife of a chronic alcoholic, "You need to start the conversation with him about how his toxic behavior is jeopardizing your relationship." A conversation is so much nicer than say, a screaming domestic brawl. It feels so civilized.
Of course, since we live in an interactive world, it's not enough to merely start the conversation. We also need to join the conversation. No longer can you sit on the sidelines, alone with your thoughts. The conversation is on and you damned well better participate. Which is why every CNN host from Larry King to Anderson Cooper urges viewers to "join the conversation" on their blogs, where "the conversation continues!" You can bet some marketing person felt it was necessary to elevate mere "blogging" to "taking part in a national conversation". "Joining the conversation" sounds so much loftier than saying, "Hey, we really don't give a rat's ass what you think, but you, too, can mouth off about this topic at Anderson Cooper 360!"
Healthy debate is a good thing. So let's keep talking about the tough topics.
But starting the conversation is all talked out. It's time to shut up about it.