Here’s a not entirely hypothetical situation I’d like to discuss.
Suppose a friend came over to your house unannounced. You invite them in and they begin to tell you their views on what is wrong with everything from your politics to how to you raise your children. They quote celebrities and politicians to back up their position. You listen politely for a while. Then when they are finished you attempt to point out a few misquotations and other errors in the facts they presented to you. They then get insulted and react as if you are personally attacking them. They make one last speech and storm out of your house telling you that they never want to hear from you again.
The above example is an amalgam of several different events that have actually happened to me in the last couple months. It sounds absurd doesn’t it? But they really happened, several times. If this had happened to you how would you feel? Suppose this was a beloved family member, who you had great respect for, you just disagreed on politics? In my situation each time I just sat there stunned. Where did that come from? Why did they bring this to me?
Now I have concealed one small detail until now. These encounters didn’t happen in person. They happened via email. Yet other than that the details are correct. Why does the fact that their message came via an email excuse them the civility they might have granted me in person? Is it really so all or nothing with some people? What has happened to this world that we are so readily willing to cut all ties with people because we don’t march in lock step with them? Is their value as a person so contingent upon me accepting the premises of the email that they mass forwarded to everybody in their address book?
I share this because I am truly saddened. There are people that I have known for decades who have abandoned having any relationship with me because we disagree. What happened to having a civil disagreement? In many of my cases I didn’t even get around to stating my opinion. I was just correcting the facts they presented. It doesn’t bother me that we disagree on some points. But why can’t we discuss the issue civilly?
In stark contrast to these examples I do have a few close friends with whom I frequently disagree. I enjoy discussing things with them. I know that neither one of us is likely to have a complete change of opinion but the conversation is stimulating. And I believe that we are willing to accept when our opinions are based on flawed data and reconsider. I want to thank these friends for accepting me as one who is still looking for answers. I enjoy the search. I hope I never get so many answers that I no longer need the search. And I hope that no matter how much we may disagree you will still walk away knowing that I still value you as a person.
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