This is a guest post that I think is worthy of the worlds eyes.

“Debate is Dead”

Dear Editor,

Debate, as we know it, is dead! People can’t seem to find common ground anymore. Different lines of thinking have become almost like rival football teams, tailgating and all. “If you like the [insert favorite team here] then there must be something wrong with your head; you must be ill; you should be shot”. Jumping on the bandwagon has become as easy as sharing a “meme” on social media that merely demonstrates frustration and barely reflects an intuitive legible argument.

You may be asking, “Well Mr. Pino, how do we fix this?” It all starts with us.

We need to stop thinking that there are just two sides to every argument. Everyone does not fall into cookie-cutter templates of thought. The word “debate” and “argument” are not the same in the English language for a reason. Debate can be a wonderful game of acknowledgment, compromise, and education if we let it be that. When we fall into the common debate fallacies of name calling and the straw man, we all lose.

Do you remember the movie Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze? There’s a scene in that movie where he’s conveying the finer points of being a bouncer to his gnarly group of misfits. He tells them that when someone gets unruly, be kind. When that person screams and disrespects you, be kind, and so on. So next time you have a discussion make sure to be kind. It may take one person to get argumentative. But it takes two people to turn a conversation into an argument (although there have been some known to argue with themselves).

Furthermore, a good debate is not about getting a good sound bite or winning. It may seem that debating is all about talking, especially with modern televised political debates. However, it’s even more about listening, and I mean really listen. Don’t hum your favorite Led Zeppelin tune and wait in agony for the other person to finish. Listen with the intent to understand the other persons’ point of view, form a counter argument, and express that in a suitable fashion. When we get into screaming matches and shouting then we are not gaining anything. It makes for great ratings for daytime television and juicy paychecks for talking heads, but not good for learning and progressing forward.

Debate should be about finding the best way forward through compromise and cooperation. It most definitely should not be about your way or the highway. Both major parties in this country have become so entangled in the latter. This should not mean that we too need to “pick a team”. We must be able to learn new information, accept it, and form new opinions. I am here to tell you that it’s okay to change your mind. It is okay to disagree with people in your circle, party, cohort, etc. There’s a wealth of knowledge to be gained with healthy debate and compromise.

This may be the new normal, but perhaps we can come out of this phase. Perhaps, people will come to their senses and start getting along. We all believe in different roads that lead to the promise land. But, we’re all trying to make it to the same destination: a better America and a better place to leave to our children.

Advertisements