Saturday, May 15, 2010

comment conversations

I'm not a big fan of shouting matches. I don't mind healthy debate, where points of view are being discussed, or even argued. I don't even really mind if those debates become heated, and the debaters are emotionally invested in what they're saying and in what they believe.

Healthy debate allows a person to express their opinion, disagreeing with another person, and still have coffee together afterward.

Shouting matches, though, seem to be people disagreeing with one another for the sake of disagreeing. Maybe there's more to it than that. Maybe people are disagreeing with one another because of a (perceived) political stance, assuming that because of a difference of opinion on one thing (say, gun control) that there must also be a disagreement on something else (say, immigration). And shouting matches seem to degrade to name calling coupled with unfounded accusations and assumptions about the person's character.

Sometimes, I'm sure, this kind of thing happens in person ~ when the individuals disagreeing with one another are face-to-face. More often, though, it seems to happen in places where people don't have to interact with people who hold different viewpoints. The way I see it, these include: the online world (especially in the 'comments' section of popular blog sites), in front of television cameras (Glenn Beck/Rachel Maddow, as well as political rallies (think Tea Party)), and congress.

The way I see it, the trouble is that we no longer live in community. We can choose to interact with only those people who exactly share our view, dismissing all those whose positions are different from our own. There's no critical evaluation from, or accountability to, someone who might have a different opinion or perspective.

I know it's a greeting-card sentimentality, but I think the world would be a better place if we forced ourselves to eat with people with whom we disagree. The point would not be that eventually one person would change their opinion, 'see the light', and come around to the other side. The point would not be that the two parties would negotiate their positions and 'meet in the middle'. The point would have nothing to do with opinions or positions on any topic.

The point of eating together would be that we begin to recognize that the other person is ... a person. If you've just spent the previous evening sharing stories about what grade school was like, it's harder to shout profanities at them the next day. If you know your families will be getting together later that evening so the kids can jump on the trampoline before the barbecue is done, your conversation earlier in the day will be much less vitriolic.

This is not to say that all disagreements ought to be done away with, or glossed over deference to niceness or harmony. On the contrary, I think disagreements are healthy. But what we need is more disagreements in which we assume that the person with whom you disagree is intrinsically valuable before, during, and after your disagreement.

I know it's tough, but I believe this is even possible in the comments section of blogs. I think in generations past they called it civility.

Scattered and disjointed post, but nonetheless my


No comments:

Post a Comment