Disagreeing without being disagreeable

A little while back, a long-time friend, upset over an article I wrote about marijuana, threatened to expose some skeletons in my closet if I didn't back off on my belief that the drug should remain illegal.

"You better clean up your own house," he said.

Long-time readers of this site know of my past battles with alcoholism. I often write about my struggles with the beast. That, and the fact that I lost a loved one in an accident caused by a driver under the influence of grass, lead to my opposition to the legalization of marijuana and other drugs.

But my position is an opinion: Nothing more, nothing less. It is my belief based on my own personal experiences. People can -- and should -- agree or disagree. That's their right.

Yet my friend's reaction -- and threat -- surprised me but it wasn't the only strong one over the article. Some readers threatened boycotts. Other friends cut off communication. Another withdrew an invite to a social function, saying my presence there would make his other guests uncomfortable.

I'm no stranger to controversy. I've been stirring emotions with readers for more than 40 years. But lately, I've seen disagreement replaced by anger, debate supplanted by hate and discussion pushed aside by threats of retaliation or violence.

It's not just the atmosphere here in Floyd County. Bitter partisanship divides our governments, road rage is commonplace on our nation's roads and debates on TV turn into shoutfests.  Emotions run too high and tempers too hot. At Floyd County town council meetings, regular attendees talk about heated arguments between Mayor Rob Shelor and councilman Mike Patton and say their debates have come close to fist fights. A fight broke out recently at an event at Pine Tavern.

We've become a contentious society where diatribes become the dialog of debate. It's not enough to say you disagree with someone's position. You have to make it personal by calling them names or issuing threats.

I'm not sure where the answer lies, or if one even exists. Perhaps civility has no place in today's society. Perhaps an extended middle finger or a shouted expletive suffices as communication now.

Maybe we've lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.

A little while back, a long-time friend, upset over an article I wrote about marijuana, threatened to expose some skeletons in my closet if I didn’t back off on my belief that the drug should remain illegal.

"You better clean up your own house," he said.

Long-time readers of this site know of my past battles with alcoholism. I often write about my struggles with the beast. That, and the fact that I lost a loved one in an accident caused by a driver under the influence of grass, lead to my opposition to the legalization of marijuana and other drugs.

But my position is an opinion: Nothing more, nothing less. It is my belief based on my own personal experiences. People can — and should — agree or disagree. That’s their right.

Yet my friend’s reaction — and threat — surprised me but it wasn’t the only strong one over the article. Some readers threatened boycotts. Other friends cut off communication. Another withdrew an invite to a social function, saying my presence there would make his other guests uncomfortable.

I’m no stranger to controversy. I’ve been stirring emotions with readers for more than 40 years. But lately, I’ve seen disagreement replaced by anger, debate supplanted by hate and discussion pushed aside by threats of retaliation or violence.

It’s not just the atmosphere here in Floyd County. Bitter partisanship divides our governments, road rage is commonplace on our nation’s roads and debates on TV turn into shoutfests.  Emotions run too high and tempers too hot. At Floyd County town council meetings, regular attendees talk about heated arguments between Mayor Rob Shelor and councilman Mike Patton and say their debates have come close to fist fights. A fight broke out recently at an event at Pine Tavern.

We’ve become a contentious society where diatribes become the dialog of debate. It’s not enough to say you disagree with someone’s position. You have to make it personal by calling them names or issuing threats.

I’m not sure where the answer lies, or if one even exists. Perhaps civility has no place in today’s society. Perhaps an extended middle finger or a shouted expletive suffices as communication now.

Maybe we’ve lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

7 Responses

  1. I have found that people who have strong views on a subject tend to see the issue in black and white. You cannot have a meaningful discussion on abortion for instance, with a staunchly pro-choice or pro-life person. If you don’t agree with their opinion you are either trying to subjugate women or are a baby killer. I am a little surprised that someone you consider a friend would threaten to expose skeletons in your closet over an issue like marijuana laws. I’m also slightly surprised that there are skeletons left in your closet since you seem very open about your past.

  2. Why wouldn’t you expect people to see things in black & white?

    If you and I disagreed on the sum of 2 + 2 or, together, came to a fork in the road to a destination we shared. If I said the correct turn was left and you claimed it was right, in the absence of an agreed upon map, from what would “meaningful discussion” arise?

    Some things simply cannot be left to committee.

  3. 2 + 2 = 4, It is a fact. Right or left turn? The person who is right will be proven right soon enough. Opinions on social/political issues aren’t as simple and are shaped by life experiences which differ. Champion TV shouter Bill O’Reilly is a master of the “everything is black or white” take on issues and I believe this approach stifles conversation rather than encouraging it. If any view on issues other than your own is wrong (and increasingly these days, not just wrong, but evil as well) than why bother talking to anyone other than those who agree with you? One reason I like Doug’s site is the variety of views shared here. Far too many internet message boards are little more than echo chambers for groups that all believe the same thing.

Comments are closed.

On Key
Related Posts
Keeping time around the world

Keeping time around the world

In a period of my adult, professional, life, I spent many days (and nights) on planes flying around the world. For many of those years,