Saturday, January 22, 2011

wise debate

Are there people who talk politics who drive you crazy? People who sound like they live in a totally different universe? These days there seem to be more and more of them and it makes political dialogue difficult. As someone once said you have the right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. If we can't agree on some basic realities there is no communication. Like trying to discuss math with someone who insists that 2+2=5.

But if we are to have sane political debate with those of differing views, how do we proceed wisely? First, have a firm grasp on yourself- what and why you believe and that you have a right to your opinion. Second, accept that others have that same right. Third, remember that you don't know it all and you can learn from others (no god complex or bullying). Fourth, be aware that sometimes you will have to "agree to disagree" agreeably, or avoid certain topics when you come to a standstill. You can still be friends and know that you will avoid areas where you can't agree.

And, lastly, be alert for signs of a closed mind. Some are convinced that they are always right. Some don't want to take the time to think or research, they tend to think in terms of talking points. Some want power and like to make points , regardless of what is true. And some are just not thinking clearly and no amount of debate will help.

Excessive or automatic name calling is a red flag for me. Everybody at one time or another will get frustrated and call someone a jerk, moron,etc...but when it becomes a frequent part of conversation it is evidence of a dismissive attitude toward those of differing opinions and is destructive of debate. Know and recognize the difference between someone who is ignorant - does not know - and someone who is ignoring - does not want to know.

But remember that as you have learned over the years from others, and have times of changing your mind, realize that can happen for others and you could be the agent of change for them. Everybody is prone to thinking in simplistic terms sometimes, or reacting in knee-jerk fashion. But hopefully we will take a second look or be open to correction.

For example, I once had a discussion with a friend about criminal trials. He was more on the conservative side and couldn't understand why the prosecution couldn't mention a defendant's prior record in the trial. I pointed out to him that this would prejudice the jury and sway them to conviction and not judge him according to the merits of the specific case. I said that if the defendant was convicted in this trial then in the sentencing phase the prosecution was free to bring up the prior record to effect the sentencing, but not before the verdict was delivered. He listened and said it made sense "I hadn't thought of that before" he said. I was glad.

There are those out there who don't listen, won't listen, and you waste your breath trying to talk to. You even waste your energy reacting to them even if they aren't near (TV, radio, online). There is a time to react, speak out, when to keep silent would be to seem to give assent to their views. But there is also a time to employ what I call the "Valley Girl response " ...to say "whatever" to their comments, dismiss them as the irrational comments of those who do not want to discus or debate , just rile up and create controversy.Don't let yourself be drawn in or you will waste valuable time and energy...life is too short for that.

In the words of "The Gambler" - "you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold "em, know when to walk away, and know when to run".

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