“The Yankees are best!”
“The Red Sox will win the pennant this year!”
“Will not!” . . . “Will too!”
Living in Connecticut while my son was growing up, this was a common argument that is, I am sure, repeated constantly throughout the country, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
Disagreement is an excellent way to explore ideas, prejudices, opinions and arrive at decisions to serve brussel sprouts. [“I hate them” or green beans “I love them”] Disagreements are a vital part of every life as we learn about ourselves and the multiple paths we can take through the tangled underbrush of childhood. A good, though disappointed, Yankee fan can still congratulate his Red Sox friend when they do win the pennant.
Disagreement is a healthy sign of thinking. Of exploring a position or knowledge. Disagreement leads to curiosity, which, I believe, is the most important sign of a growing mind. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do the leaves turn brown in the fall?” “Why do I have to eat the brussel sprouts?” Curious minds need constant answers and constant encouragement. This is how we learn.
As we age the disagreements multiply and become more complex. Religion and politics enter life’s arena. (Do you remember the old adage: “never discuss religion or politics at the table”?) Conflicts remain as we seek individual answers to age-old questions. Today’s extraordinary access to news media, social media and strongly stated opinions by political leaders can overwhelm our critical abilities.
There was a time when our political leaders were able to disagree in a constructive manner that led to great advancements in our country. Rural electricity was not a program that met with universal approval. Disagreement and debate were rife, but the final agreement changed America. Preservation of wilderness areas, the national highway program, the effort to get a man on the moon, even our entry to WWII were topics of great disagreement yet looked on today by most people as good decisions arrived at through honest debate and negotiation.
What is happening today? We seem to be in a transition from good, healthy disagreement to hating each other for positions on everything from the environment to terrorism. This is wrong! Hate is a terrible, destructive, negative emotion that leads to the most terrible results: the Civil War; the Holocaust; the internment of the Japanese during WWII; even environmental efforts to protect our natural resources seems to elicit hatred from those who do not understand the importance of maintaining healthy air and water.
Throughout our history nothing positive has ever emerged from hatred. It is a disease spread by those who hate. Wars and bombing cannot stop hate; they actually encourage it. Reason, knowledge of the issues, education; reasonable men and women reasoning together are the only techniques that can eliminate, or at least moderate hate.
Can we do that? Has our civilization matured to the point where this is possible? We have split the atom, invented weapons that can destroy the world, developed a global interdependency and an access to global communication for the first time in the recorded history of the world . . .
Can we now reason together? Or . . .