The Point of Debate is to Understand, Not Triumph

Getting Real with David T. Bruce

My mom used to tell my brother and me to “fight nice,” when he and I were in the midst of one of our adolescent squabbles. This translated to mean that she was tired of hearing us bicker and that she didn’t care what we did as long as we didn’t kill one another. While I have not noticed myself using the same words to communicate to my children that their bickering has become monotonous, I do become frustrated at (while still appreciating) their regular bids for control and attention. Remarkably, we regularly demonstrate that the need to be in control (and in the right) is something that we never outgrow.

RockemOur country admittedly is divided down ideological and theological lines. As a nation, we are currently at odds about who can marry, how we should care for the poor and the elderly, and what our founding fathers had in mind when they drafted the Bill of Rights. The side a person chooses largely depends on socio-economic status and whether that person considers himself or herself to be a Democrat or a Republican. There is virtually no middle ground. Many of us have become frustrated and angry. A hard line has been drawn in the sand, and generally speaking, no one on either side will listen to the argument of the other. Such is the stalemate that exists on Capitol Hill and across the United States.

A good friend of mine and I are on opposite sides of the gun control debate. He fears the methodical erosion of our rights; I fear a culture out of control in terms of how our rights are defined and how those rights have a negative impact on the welfare of innocent citizens. Yet despite our frustrations, we present our arguments in such a way that allows us to appreciate our each of us feels.

As children, we fail to understand the feelings of others, because we are growing and striving to understand and communicate our own feelings. As adults, it is paramount that we acknowledge how those around us feel about our actions. Then, perhaps, we can begin to find a common ground. My friend and I still disagree about gun control. He believes that regulation against one gun will open the door to regulation on all guns. From my point of view, no gun regulation at all is akin to having no speed limits. Our opinions differ, yet how we feel is very similar.

My friend and I both want to be heard and we want to do what we believe is best for our country. We also respect one another and love one another enough to listen and try to understand the opposing point of view. Perhaps in this way, we can find a balance that satisfies our fears and needs. In this way, we can also model for our children what it truly means to fight nice. Children need to see what it means to debate an issue without necessarily letting politics and ego (often one and the same) cloud our judgment and our vision.

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