Sunday’s Wisdom #118: The Virtue of Disagreements

“There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy debate, Felicity.”

“It’s not healthy if it’s not going to accomplish anything, and it’s not… going to accomplish anything.”

“Actually, I disagree. Not about the part of it not accomplishing anything, but this idea that it’s not healthy. We used to talk about things as a society, ya know? We’d debate and we’d argue and we would still respect each other after.”

“Yeah… somewhere along the line that just became… rude.”

“Rude, yeah. It became impolitic to talk politics. Can’t help but wondering that maybe that’s why our country is the way it is today.”

– Curtis and Felicity, Arrow
Season 5, Episode 15, “Spectre of the Gun”

It’s no great secret that my country is very divided right now. I can hardly go online without finding at least two sides trying to verbally tear each other apart, often even doing the same to people who almost completely agree with them. It’s breaks my heart to see, especially knowing it wasn’t always this bad. So what happened?

Well, a number of things, actually. At least part of it, though, is how we stopped respecting each other as people despite our disagreements. Everything became personal, either something offensive or something we had to defend. We stopped listening to each other. We started thinking in terms of “us” and “them.” We started to forget that everyone, both “us” and “them,” are all human. We started dehumanizing each other.

Now we can’t talk about things in person, with our coworkers. We can barely do so online for fear of offending someone and getting harmful backlash, be it earned or unearned. So many discussions devolve into furious name calling and blithe dismissals of each other as being somehow “beyond saving,” as if saving were really up to us.

I have, however, found a few connections with people who disagree, but who encourage civil discussion, with both sides listening. Sure, we haven’t accomplished much in the way of agreement, but just having that open dialogue, just talking, is a huge step forward.

If we’re going to accomplish anything, ever, then we are going to have to endure a lot of time and talk where we accomplish nothing except talking. But so long as we are talking, we are not fighting, and so long as we are not fighting, we are not really hurting each other.

It might seem like a most inconvenient and unproductive approach to a grueling mess that frustrates everyone, but it’s the best we’ve got.

And, really, there’s something truly inspiring about two people who can disagree about everything but still respect each other as people.

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