Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Calm after the Storm

So, last week was the election, the results of which are still percolating in my mind, and the minds of many of my friends. Not just the results for President, mind you...in my state there were several propositions that garnered support, dissent, and a firestorm of opinions. Probably the most notable of these was Proposition 8. Proposition 8 proposed that language be added to amend the California State Constitution to indicate that marriage is only recognized between a man and a woman. (This is in response to a court decision that ruled that a proposition enacted in 2000 was unconstitutional.) It passed (meaning the majority of people in CA voted to restrict marriage to traditional, heterosexual unions).

Let me indicate right now that this blog post is not going to discuss this proposition, or which side is right or wrong. There are many other places on the internet where that debate can, will, and does take place. What I am trying to do here is sort through what happened last week in another forum, and my thoughts about it. If you want a debate, go make the space for one.

An interesting thing happened when I posted a statement on my facebook page, regarding Prop 8. Many of my friends responded passionately, and a huge discussion ensued. I learned a lot. I hope my friends learned a lot. You see, my friends are a diverse political continuum from conservative to liberal; they are a tossed salad of faiths and religious (or not) walks. Each of them came at this issue with a slightly different perspective. It was both scary and an honor for me to "host" the conversation.

What I'm processing for myself are the following:

1. It was a bold step for me to invite a discussion that would surely become contentious.
I am not someone who invites conflict. I value harmony, sometimes to the point of disregarding my own feelings. Even as I write about this third-person discussion, I am tense in my shoulders. I feel my heart beating faster. This response is interesting to me. Where does this "fear" of debate come from? So knowing this about myself, I don't think I'm bragging to say that I'm proud that I opened up the can of worms, in spite of my fears. I'm proud to have mediated a conversation where there was so much disagreement. I feel like that was a big step for me in my growth. I think that this really brought home this quote: The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. -- M. Scott Peck

2. It was interesting to see people on either side of the issue eschew hatred, then display hatred.
At least, that is what I observed.

3. Is the act of discussion and debate truly valuable? Or do people just entrench themselves deeper in their opinions?
For myself, I didn't change my opinions, but the debate did change my understanding of the issues and why people voted the way they say they did. It was profound to watch my friends struggle to express their values.

What do you think? Does debate help?


David said...

What you encountered was what we call on Usenet a "flamewar". You can't take it personally, you just have to put on your flame-retardant pants. You also can't take it too seriously. Flamewars never achieve anything, they are primarily a form of entertainment. Personally, I would have been much more entertained if the "enemy" understood satire. Maybe I wasn't outrageous enough.

Anonymous said...

I think as long as by the end of the debate it can be agreed upon to just agree to disagree with no hard feelings, debate is good for the soul. Helps one to listen to others as well as really explain and make sense to yourself why you feel the way you feel. No harm done. We all have different opinions, it is one good thing that makes us who we are as well as interesting to others. Congrats on your accopmlished stepping out of your comfort zone. Sounds like a great accomplishment to you.