Politely Inviting More Caring Disagreement

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Some things that I see and hear both embarrass me and make me feel quite sad. For example, I understand how eager many people are to return to work or a normal routine in the time of pandemic. I am fully aware that some are desperately wondering what they are going to do if this nightmare lasts much longer. They have lost their jobs or perhaps are hourly wage earners who have been unable to work for weeks. It has to be a terrible situation in which to find oneself. Nonetheless when I see a group of protesters in Michigan carrying guns and waving Confederate flags in an attempt to get the governor there to lift the restrictions on their lives I can’t help but wonder what guns and flags have to do with making a valid argument. In fact, such things only tend to make most of us turn away in disgust.

I believe without reservation that everyone has a right to an opinion and even to protest certain decisions. That being said I find it totally inappropriate to bring guns and flags that should be relegated to old history to a protest. The arguments for a particular point of view should be articulated with supporting facts, not insults. Why turn an important discussion into a school yard brawl?

We have a very young woman in our area who was recently elected to the position of Harris County Judge. I was a bit shocked at this development because I was a big fan of the incumbent, Ed Emmett. I believe that he always did a great job, most especially during the dark days of hurricane Harvey. It seemed a bit unfair to unseat him after he had been such a strong presence in a number of disastrous situations. Nonetheless, the election was fair and the voters had spoken. The new Harris County Judge is Lina Hidalgo is a somewhat inexperienced woman in her twenties who initially worried me, but I have changed my tune.

I don’t agree with everything that Judge Hidalgo does or says. In fact I rarely agree with everything that any politician does or says, but in this time of Covid-19 I have changed my opinion of her. I have been greatly impressed by her dedication and compassion. She has worked tirelessly in a stress filled environment and somehow manages to calmly come back day after day to support the people of the Houston area. Her pronouncements are always beautifully worded and based on the most recent information available to her. In spite of her good intentions I hear people bashing her facility with the English language, which is actually quite wonderful, and they question every decision that she makes.

It would not bother me at all if those with differing ideas were to voice their concerns rationally and respectfully but instead they hurl insults that sometimes devolve into racist and ageist stereotyping. I see no place for ugliness in a time when we are all reeling from the events that surround us. Our goal should only be to work together to do whatever it takes to eliminate this scourge from the face of the earth. Making our arguments political or offensive only averts our focus from finding our way out of this situation. Arguing as though we are children is of no substantive help. 

It has become popular of late to be brash and to behave like a bully to win a debate. For some reason there are many who see such boorish behavior as strength. I see it as a smokescreen to hide a lack of factual information and an inability to pose a persuasive point of view. People who are void of logic and carefully researched data usually don’t have to use meaningless rhetorical devices nor do they have to put down people based on xenophobia.

The most intelligent, knowledgeable and truthful people that I know have told me that Covid -19 poses more questions than answers right now. Nobody is certain about anything related to this virus. It will only be after a careful analysis and a certain amount of time that we will have a better idea of what will actually work best to combat this pandemic. In the meantime there are a number of cautionary practices that may help to stem the tide of contagion. We will have to wait and see what happens in the future. Meanwhile those who are guiding us  are using the best guesses as to what will work. We have to be patient with them as well as each other as we navigate our way to the other side, and there will eventually be another side.

This is America, land of the free, but if we are wise we will avoid abusive language when we strongly disagree. We will not imply threats with guns or flags of civil unrest. We will be certain that our comments reflect a loving concern for all. Nobody is immune from the horrible changes and pain that Covid-19 has wrought on the world. Each of us worries about the future. Let’s at least try to do so with a bit of love, politely inviting more caring disagreement.