By Richard Bleil
My friend asked me to write a post about this a few weeks ago. Since then, a number of states have put forth anti-abortion bills and there seem to be a great number of heated arguments on the horizon, so maybe it’s time.
Let me start out by saying that while it is not my intention to write a “position piece”, laying out my perspective and arguing why you need to agree with me, but, those who have been reading my work should know me well enough by now to realize that I am an avid proponent of women’s rights, and as such, you will probably note a pro-choice slant to this blog. But the intention here is to discuss hostile versus open communication, and to discuss the civility of debate, especially between those who may be of differing opinions.
This nation was built on differences of opinion, debate, and compromise. I remember sitting in my civics class in school listening to tales of how the founding fathers were arguing about everything that made our nation. And, no, they didn’t agree, but they stated their cases, they compromised, and found the middle ground that people could agree on.
There are really two kinds of people in discussion and debate. There are the logical debaters, and the passionate. Logic debaters ground their arguments on facts, statistics, and tend to be more open to considering counter points. Passionate debaters rely on arguments made to make anybody who disagrees with them feel bad.
The funny thing is that the logical debaters can turn these arguments around, but the passion arguers simply won’t allow it. A friend of mine posted a pro-choice article on her social media account, and was attacked by another of her friends for it. Like a fool, I decided to get involved, and pointed out the statistics that showed that abortions actually decrease when they are legal, and when sex education is taught rather than an abstinence-only approach. His counter point, very passionate based, was along the lines of “but a child is being murdered.” I asked why, then, it wasn’t murder when an abortion is refused to save the life of the mother.
Needless to say, he didn’t respond.
Here is my first bit of advice. Know when to walk away from a debate. There are really a couple of reasons to have an open discussion; learning about the alternate opinion, question your own position (which is a sign of strength, not weakness), and search for a middle ground. Yes, sometimes you can change the other’s opinion, but that’s rare. The best reason not to debate is when there is no debate. If the argument is purely passionate, there can be no middle ground, and certainly no desire to understand. Just walk away.
The art of compromise is rather more of an art than a science. Don’t ask me what that means; I’m trying to fill space. But it’s very much based on finding a “win-win” situation.
Again, this won’t work with passionate debaters. To find a win-win, both parties have to respect their counter partner, and understand that it is indeed possible for somebody to disagree and have, nonetheless, a valid opinion. I dated a woman who once told me that “for someone as smart as you, I can’t believe you are so stupid as to not be Christian.” She…didn’t respect me.
Win-win situations are typically the ideal situation. The reality is that extremes are rarely the best solution to anything. I recall hearing about B.F. Skinner and Freud. Both of these well-known and brilliant psychiatrists have been largely demonstrated to be wrong, but if this is the case, why do we remember them? The reason is simple; they are extremists on opposite ends of the spectrum. They delineated certain important principles in psychiatry, but those of us who are functioning human beings have psychological makeups that are, frankly, somewhere in-between these two extremes.
The constitution is filled with compromise, where our founding fathers met in the middle to find the win-win compromises that makes this nation what it is. Yes, even in the abortion debate it is possible if people are willing to see it. Let’s stop debating about abortion, and begin discussing abortion as a means of birth control. Let’s look at the statistics that say that abortion is minimized when it is legal and sex education is not abstinence only. Let’s look at the responsibilities of men, and pass laws requiring support for children.
Maybe if we start passing laws about men who father children, the debate on abortion will change.
And, by the way, let’s fund Planned Parenthood, recognizing their role in helping with birth control that is not covered by insurance, and sex education that reduces the need for abortions.
Sorry about that, I drifted off on my opinion. Well, I warned you that I might, but it really is fair. Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion, but it does mean empowering women to make their own choices and recognizing that it really is none of my business.
Ultimately, if we cannot have civil discussions, we are doomed to further the chasm that is already dividing our society. Greek story teller Aesop said, “Together we stand, divided we fall.” The divisions in our society today are troubling, and I fear we are ready for a fall if we don’t learn to have civil discussions, and seek that win-win middle ground.