Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winning the Argument

If you have not already, I strongly recommend watching this "debate" between Science Educator Bill Nye and Vice Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Marsha Blackburn:

This isn't a post about Climate Change, but something else came to me while I watched this segment - both sides were focused on winning an argument.  Over the long term, we're talking about the end of life on this planet as we know it.  Over the short term, we're talking about a very bad time for those of us still here.  And I'm not suggesting that there is not an "argument" to be had for those who still have their doubts.  I am just concerned about a conversation of such gravity being held for the sake of "winning".

This thought was put in context with a hearty round of door-knocking last weekend.  I had the good fortune of walking the Font Hill neighborhood just above Centennial Park.  This is viewed (even among neighbors) as a conservative neighborhood, but if you go door-to-door, things are not so clear-cut.

I recall speaking with one couple who began our discussion with their deep concerns about immigration and those who are living in breach of this country's immigration laws.  I did not necessarily agree with everything they had to say, but I didn't try to win the argument.  I listened.  And, after about ten minutes, we agreed that we needed an immigration system that made sense, was equitable, and feasible.  The considerations that brought us to that conclusion were different, but we both agreed with the final consensus.

Then, from the other member of the seemingly-conservative couple, I heard a secondary concern: the environment.  This voter had dedicated a significant amount of his time to researching his concerns about climate change, renewable energy, and fracking.  He was deeply concerned about Cove Point.  On this issue, we found more in common and I enjoyed speaking with someone who shared my concerns; the same enjoyment we all get from discussing issues with like-minded people.  But I'll say this - if I had been concerned about winning an argument when I walked through the door, I would have been out of that door within two minutes.  Instead, I was there for around 20.

Do I expect talking heads to solve the problems of the world on live TV?  No.  Would I find it more interesting?  Yes.  If you had a choice between seeing two intellectuals bark it out for two hours and leave just as entrenched or the same two people find a consensus, however limited, that could then be marketed to policy makers, which would you choose?

I don't see the other side of the debate as bad people.  I see them as people with different ideas.  At one point in time, I had different ideas.  We all have.  The root of the word conversation is "to turn over" or "with turning".  As I've said to myself many a time while in the midst of an argument, the only person who decides the winning one is a judge.  The rest of us are without final outcomes.  Oddly enough, our inclination is to enter them all the same.

You don't need a judge for consensus.

That's all for today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!