Friday, October 5, 2012

The Debate

Along with millions of other people, I watched the debate between President Obama and Governor Romney the other evening.  And it was as disheartening as I always find these things.  I have realized that I don't like debate.  I don't find the process to be a good vehicle for  enlightenment.  I didn't come away with any clearer ideas of what each candidate was offering.  I felt great mistrust throughout.   Even though the tone was basically civil, political debates feel like a dog fight.  People put a lot of stock in debates as a way to sway people to their position.  I just don't get it.

I have never studied debate.  I have friends who have loved it, have taught it, know many of the finer points for judging winner and loser.   It wasn't until recently when I was reading Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, that it dawned on me why debate makes me so uncomfortable.   She brings up suggestions for how we should talk to one another; she explains Socratic dialogue; and I realized that what I'd really love to see is candidates exercising their positions using these methods.  "You entered into a Socratic dialogue in order to change; the object of this exercise was to create a new, more authentic self."  If there were a place for that in our system, wouldn't that be something?

The vitriol that follows debates is even more dismaying.  At least the candidates maintain some civility.  That's more than you can say about many of the comments that follow over the social media.  I see people saying the most outrageous things about members of the opposite party.  My husband and I rarely agree on who we are voting for.  Sometimes I've been almost in tears as he sticks to his position, and I think it's so wrong.  And yet, I know him to be a kind, compassionate man.  I know that he would like to see many improvements in our society.  We just have very different ways of looking at the solutions.  I cringe at the thought that people are so ready to denigrate others so readily.

I'll be glad when November 6th comes and goes.  And I hope my candidates win!

Fannie Lou Hamer

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