Why we don’t see eye to eye

12 Oct

Both sides, liberals and conservatives, acknowledge a frightening trend in American culture and politics.  We have become a nation sharply divided into 2 camps.  Middle ground seems like a relic from an innocent and bygone era.  I wonder……Is that what Americans in the late 1850s might have felt?  Did the polarization and hatred ‘between brothers’ pain them too?  Did the two separate issues of slavery and states’ rights, painted in such a way as to offer no room for compromise, bother them?

I think I know why these painful times arise.  And the tool of logic and clear thinking can help us understand the reason behind these divisions as well as point us to a way to engage in some civil discourse.

Since I mentioned the Civil War, let’s start there.  The North and the South could not agree on any compromises that might have helped walk tensions back, thus averting war, because they were arguing two separate issues.

In broad terms, the central arguments of both sides coalesced around different issues:

  • The South championed their right as sovereign states to do what they constitutionally voted as best for each state.
  • The North supported the view of the worth and dignity of all men, black and white. They saw slavery as a moral blot on the nation which needed to be eradicated.

So when you have one side shouting Argument A and the other side shouting Argument B, nothing is heard nor can be settled.

In  a debate, both sides must agree to take up JUST ONE issue at a time.  They must settle and decide on ONE resolution to argue.  To wit:

  • Slavery is a moral evil and should be abolished by the federal government

OR….

  • Each American state has the sovereign right to govern itself, making the economic and political decisions deemed preferable by its citizens

One side advances reasons FOR the resolution and tries to convince an audience.

The other side builds its case AGAINST the resolution and equally tries to convince an audience.

What the two sides MUST not do is argue more than one issue at a time!

Consider other seemingly irreconcilable issues:

  1. Abortion – again two issues.  A woman’s right to decide about her body versus the unborn child’s right to life.
  2. How to evaluate Trump – the two paths seem to be policies versus character.  Those who support Trump build their case on their belief that he will champion policies that are best for our country.  Those who say they won’t vote for Trump argue based on his character flaws.

Logical friends, we get NOWHERE when we argue two SEPARATE issues AT THE SAME TIME!

So, the next time you find yourself in a discussion that seems to polarize you and your friend, call a time out.  Point out what you both are doing.  Ask your friend if she would like to continue discussing what clearly are important issues, but let her choose one position to take up.  Then guide both of you into articulating the question or resolution to each one’s satisfaction.   Narrow down and parse out what the two of you think you can calmly and rationally discuss.

And let the debate begin. No, you might not have time for the issue you would have liked to have first broached, but at least you are less likely to destroy your relationship and think each is impassable and hard-hearted! And you might learn something about each other that could strengthen your friendship.  And that is a good reason for any debate.

 

 

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