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Debate is Dead

Two men arguing politics outside Iranian Presi...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week I posted a link to this article about the breakout novel Fifty Shades of Grey. My intent was simply to comment on how astounded I was that the series was selling so well. Erotica (even the soft kind) has been around for a long time and romantic suspense is a staple in genre fiction so why did this series suddenly capture the attention of women across America? I’m always intrigued with these kind of books (The Shack is another one).

The comments quickly lit a fire and got out of hand with the final result being one person resorting to name calling and verbal bullying. It was fifth grade all over again. I had to delete the post because the conversation was going nowhere fast and one person in particular was on a rant. I was sad it had to come to that.

But it got me thinking: Have we lost the ability to debate?

As I see it, there’s a profound difference between arguing and debating. In an argument both sides seek to prove their point and quite possibly persuade the other person to see things their way. A debate is an exchange of ideas where both parties seek to state their position AND understand the position of the other person.

Arguing is the verbal equivalent of a bar brawl; debating is a chess match.

I like to debate. I like to exchange ideas and spar with positions and opinions and facts, but it’s a rare thing to be able to do it civilly and walk away agreeing to disagree but with a better understanding of why someone else believes what he or she believes.

But I find it difficult to debate in our current cultural environment. Discussions quickly spiral into shouting matches, facts go out the window, listening is . . . huh? Emotions rule the day. Try engaging your co-worker on any topic that has to do with politics or religion and you’ll see what I mean.

And why is that? Well, that’s the question I keep asking myself. I’m not certain I have the right answer but it sure seems like as a society we harbor a lot of anger, resentment, frustration, and pride. All roadblocks to a stimulating debate.

And the solution? There isn’t an easy one. This isn’t something that can be fixed with education or government funds. It’s not going to go away by legislation or hopeful thinking. It’s much bigger than that, so big in fact that it resides in the heart of mankind. And there’s only one person who can change that. I’ll give you one guess who . . .

Question: Do you find it difficult to debate without the discussion turning into an argument?

(If you liked this post, I invite you to visit my other blog, Tomorrow we’ll be discussing the benefits of being an alien).

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