Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Embrace the debate

Another debate tonight, which I'm looking forward to watching. But in another forum, a friend asked me about the concept of debating itself. He was concerned that there's so much emotionalism and propaganda swirling around, especially in video form, that the issues are being lost. What's the role of legitimate disagreement, and how can we express it?

To me, there is a place for persuasion. For speaking our minds and thereby trying to bring someone toward our point of view. For listening and sincerely trying to see both sides. For letting our voice be heard through direct commentary, not just through the vote itself. It's one of the reasons I blog.

And people need to be allowed to talk, even if they don't express things the way we would. Maybe their rhetoric is not as civilized as we'd like, or as polished, or as erudite. Does that mean they shouldn't speak? I don't think so. I want to be in a society where everyone can speak up and have the chance to be heard. Only in this way can we really know what we're made of.

Here's part of a message I sent back to my friend:

Every time we express an opinion, we're attempting to influence. I'm grateful that you've expressed your thoughts to me on the issues in our discussion, because it is influencing me to think differently about [some issues]. Your words had an impact, because they made me think.

So we influence by tapping into what Mary Baker Eddy said was the "most active human faculty"— reason. To me, what means the most about what you've said is the distinction between influencing with reason and fact as opposed to trying to influence with emotion, which can too easily slip into manipulation.

I have to admit that this election is so important to me that I may have been tempted down the emotional path. I think the Saturday Night Live acts are funny and relatively bipartisan [so I've shared them]. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert [whom I watch] are also unabashedly wanting the [current administration] out, although I'm sure they'll do their share of administration bashing [no matter who comes next].

The thing is, humans talk. We learn from each other. We dialog. And that dialog needs to continue, even if it's sometimes messy or tasteless or misguided. Even those things reveal something about collective thought.

I think elections are a great example of collective thought in play, focused on one [event] with many issues. Our human experience is the manifestation of our collective thought, and elections bring so much of it to the surface. It's disturbing and exhilarating at the same time. Because we're all mostly complacent all the rest of the time doesn't mean these disagreements haven't been simmering under the surface. Elections make us bring it all out in the open, and we get a bead on what the aggregate population really thinks.

So I'm comfortable with scrappy dialog in general because it reveals so much about mortal thought. Then, we can see better, as you say, how to specifically direct our prayers rather than living in a dreamland of a false impression of harmony that isn't genuine. There is a lot about this moral existence that needs to be fixed, and it takes all of us to do it. So, we need to talk. We need to influence each other, hopefully for good, as much as we can. We need to bring out the best in each other.

Thoughts? Keep talking!

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or submit a question.
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At 10/07/2008 11:10:00 PM, Blogger Kate said...

I too love this scrappy dialogue...knowing that there is an over-arching divine governance...like a momma dog putting a heavy paw on her sharp-toothed little pups when then get out of hand!!

love you K xoxoxo

At 10/14/2008 07:20:00 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Okay...this was great...but not enough...more, baby, more!!!

At 10/15/2008 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Laura Matthews said...

all right already! see today. :)



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