By Jeff Borders
I beginning to think either I’m getting old, or that I’ve been living under a rock, but apparently I missed the obituary for the age-old adage, “We need to disagree without being disagreeable.”
In today’s world, the political, social, and religious chasms that divide us seem more like Grand Canyons, than mere misunderstandings of another’s point of view. Words like “Trigger warning” or “Safe Spaces” – millennial-esque type words, that as a millennial I thoroughly despise – do little more than show how truly unable we have become to hear a differing opinion. The scene of disagreeable disagreement is played out on a grandiose scale in our daily interactions on social media, in the mainstream media, and in our own interpersonal relationships.
For instance, the recent decision by the FCC to roll back Obama-era regulations of Title II of the Communications Act and Net Neutrality, has put many of friends and family on opposite sides of the issue. Recently, I had an online discussion about the topic with a friend of mine who has deep roots in the tech community. His view was diametrically opposed to mine, as I saw the repealing of regulation back to the Pre 2015, Clinton-era light-touch regulations a good thing, and I felt that it should be the FTC and not the FCC that regulates business operation on the internet.
Generally, my friend and I fall on the same side of the political, religious, and social spectrum. On this occasion, we didn’t. Our discussion was thought provoking and full of what we perceived to be the fact and nuances of a complex situation. One would think that in the debate of such a “Hot Topic” issue, tempers could become easily inflamed and misunderstandings would most definitely occur. But in this case it didn’t. We had a rational conversation, in which we both could see the other’s point of view. And while we didn’t agree on what should be done, we are both still friends. Or at least at the time of this writing he still claims me as a friend.
This led me to ponder, how did we get here as a society? Are we really more polarized than years, decades, or centuries ago? Or have we just lost the ability to listen? Have we lost the ability to have a rational, well-thought-out debate, without descending into the chaos of personal attacks or the need to hide in a safe space because someone’s words, opinions, or lifestyle makes us feel uncomfortable?
When we stop for a moment and realize that although we may vehemently disagree on a topic with someone, that doesn’t mean we need to engage in behavior that, frankly, we wouldn’t accept from our children. I’m left hoping we can resurrect that old saying, “We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.” In the end, while disagreeing may occur, really listening to another’s thoughts on any given topic is the only way that we will find the areas in which we agree.
So what do you say? Can’t we all just disagree?
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