Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Civil Discourse

I have a few friends that aren't reluctant to discuss politics. It does help that our discussions are online so facial expressions and yelling don't get in the way. We do get annoyed at each other; being on different sides with different beliefs insures that. Still, we discuss. We post links. We attempt to remain civil. We aren't always successful.

Isn't that the rub of it all? We can't always be civil when having a discussion over the traditionally "touchy" subjects: religion, politics, abortion, and what is offensive. If you care enough to have a discussion or debate over the subject, you find it difficult to remain in control of your passions.

It's possible that in the Facebook group I am not liked by some, but we've known each other since we were 14 (and in some cases longer). We make allowances for the sarcasm and occasional barbs thrown. When I verge on losing my civility in those arguments, I leave the discussion. Once anyone spirals into insults and mud-slinging the argument is pointless; it matters not who won. Both sides are out of patience and listening skills.

There's another group, though. At least one person does not like me at all. That person probably doesn't ever want to see my name as a commenter. Strangely, I don't care, which is not like me at all. I usually try to conciliate, to show others that I do understand their position. It is only that I don't agree with them or see a flaw in their thinking. Oddly enough, all of this began over a discussion of labeling material which most consider not safe for work. To use a crude phase, panties got wadded. Looks like things aren't ironed out in this particular neck of the woods or city or small town or . . . Anyway, nothing has smoothed over.

We can even bring this to a bigger picture: national politics. Angry shouts alienate when heard on the nightly news or on a YouTube video. Both sides stand guilty of being angry at times. Perhaps, I should use the term "passionate".

So, in the next 11 days, if in conversation with someone regarding politics, keep your civility. That person has feelings and beliefs which were woven into their fabric over years, inch by inch, backstitched by their experiences. Undoing some of these takes time and patience and a steady voice. Don't just ignore them or give them a "Thank you for expressing your opinion." Say something more engaging. Ask why he or she feels that way. Find out more. You could find the one thread to pull. You could change a mind.


jmb said...

I find it much easier to be civil and conciliating online than in person where an impulsive statement in the heat of the moment often gets me into trouble. But online interactions lack the body language components which soften or alter many things we say.

So despite my great care and agonizing over my words I'm afraid I too have made some "enemies" out there. I'd really like to meet them in person to try to iron out the differences.

My bottom line is did I do or say anything wrong or hurtful, was it in fact my fault. Should I apologize? No, so I live with it.

Good luck with the minefield of the election. We don't even get to vote and there is endless discussion here about it.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Superb post. There's also the factor that if people feel listened to, they tend to listen better themselves. I have close friendships on both sides of this election. I probably share fewer values, in some respects, with the friends who are voting for the other guy, but be that as it may, there are also interesting things that we share.

One of the best discussions I've had this election is with someone I respect tremendously and someone who respects me in the same way and we just plain see politics differently. And we had a long discussion about why. And she and I both learned a lot.

dragon knitter said...

we are a house divided. hubbie has already voted (for mccain), and i refuse to v ote for him. not sure whom else i will vote for, b ut not him. but we can be civil about it (we f ight about real stuff, lol). the funny part? he's out numbered. both boys don't like mccain either (lovely grammar there, eh?) but they're not old enough to vote