The lost Art of Debate

John Dickerson of CBS News offered a commentary this morning [Sept. 7th] on the The Lost Art of Debate in public discourse and human communication.  Instead of discussing different ideas and opposing view points, the civility seems to have given way to insults, angry invectives, condemnation of others.  Instead of expressing different ideas, there is condemnation of the other person.  Instead of a “bad idea” we now talk about stupid people.  Instead of disapproving of a plan, there is  disgust of a person.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing regarding the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court displayed, in my opinion, the worst possible side of politics.  Procedure gave way to total chaos.  Interruptions were the norm.  Partisan politics was the tone of speech.  Political posturing was more important than judicial understanding.   There was little dialogue — mostly monologue. Dozens of protestors were removed from the hearing room.

I would not have wanted a high school civic class to have witnessed these hearings as “the way of government.”

In the Gospel [Mark 7:31-37] Jesus healed the man who could not hear who also had a speech impediment.  It is amusing that the man’s hearing was restored first — and then it followed that his speech impediment was removed.  We need clear hearing before we speak.  We need to let the other person finish speaking before we begin to speak.  We ought to practice summarizing what the other person has said — before we launch into a speech.

Few of us are unaffected by the changing rhetorical-style that is sweeping the world.  Watching just a few minutes of this stuff on television rankles the spirit and raises the blood pressure.

Beginning in our own homes, within our own families, at our own places of work, at our own Church, we ought to consider — if we have given into what most of think is unacceptable.

Believe that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable

Talk without yelling

Listen until the other person has stopped speaking — no interrupting

Talk about ideas and solutions to a problem – not about the other person’s character or intelligence

Don’t participate in “gang warfare” or group intolerance

Live by the basic, old-fashioned rule of – treating others the way we want to be treated

The one who talks the loudest and the longest is not the winner

Ask:  is it more important to be right — or to create a solution – are we at stalemate until one side is left standing and the other is wiped out?

At the end of the day, can we say that we were gentlemen/ladies who engaged in quality discussion? Would others say, s/he did well and did himself/herself well.

At the end of the day/week, ask:  how many real conversations did I have today/this week?

Do not participate in conversations where there is shouting or when two or more people are talking at the same time.

  I have no illusion that I will change the way business is done in Washington, DC or that I will make our leaders show respect to one another — but I can do something about my circle of life.  I can show patience and not “freak out” over things that really do not matter.  I can cool things down when I sense they are heating up.

Something … somebody has to change.

HJM

 

 

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