By the time you’re reading this, our little friends in Congress will have either settled their political hash and come up with a budget and gotten the government back to work or we’ll all be huddled around a trash can fire in a desolated parking lot, fighting for road kill in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian society.
I hate it when that happens. And I hate it when the American public starts drawing itself into camps, drawing a line down the middle of the country and squaring off. I mean, I get it: these are important issues. People care a great deal about what happens here. They are, you might say, passionate about it.
So now, a word about passion.
“Man is only great when he acts from passion.” Benjamin Disraeli said it, and it’s fitting that we quote the former British Prime Minister because he was so passionate that he resorted to duels to sort out political disputes.
From the looks of things, everyone is trying to be Disraeli-great lately, because it’s getting all angry outside when anyone talks about the shutdown, the default, the budget, and whatever. What’s not so great is that they’re not debating the actual merits of any one proposal; no, they’re flinging manure at each other. It’s not that his thoughts on the budget are misinformed; no, he’s a racist because he wants to cut benefits. It’s not that her desire to expand health care is shortsighted; no, she’s a lazy commie.
We’re all doing it, not just those bone headed legislators dancing us ever closer to the brink of The Pit of Financial Ruin. We’re the ones screaming on Facebook that The Other Side is lazy, stupid, or selfish, or racist, or greedy. We’re the Internet’s own Commentariat, turning every website comments page, even the ones for comic strips, into a roadhouse brawl that threatens to spill out onto the street.
This is not great.
What would be great?
I’m glad you asked! If you are indeed so passionate about a topic that you fervently believe everyone should believe the same way as you, try being something called “persuasive” for a change.
So if I don’t agree with your opinion on say, the debt ceiling, you might try acknowledging my intellect (I have, after all, managed to survive thus far even if I’m dim-witted enough to hold a differing opinion) and appeal to that intellect with facts. If I still dare to voice a different outlook even after hearing your impassioned presentation, you might question the strength of your presentation before you questioned my sanity, intelligence, and parentage, or labeled me as “uncaring” or “unprincipled.”
“Persuasive” arguing means that at no time in this example would you slap a label on me or sling mud, because doing so pretty much guarantees that I will never want to agree with something you believe in. Leading with something offensive tells me that you’re not interested in changing my mind; you’re interested in calling names. That issue you’re so passionate about? It’s clearly just an excuse to be obnoxious, and then we all wind up huddled around a trash can fire, fighting over road kill coyote.
Then we’ll have to turn back to the gun-toting Disraeli, who left us with this: “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct?”
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.