Agree to Disagree

A friend on Facebook has been posting about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow closely-held companies to choose not to cover birth control and abortion for their employees.  She believes that these items are an inextricable part of a woman’s reproductive rights.

Whatever your position, and this is not a post aimed at debating the rightness or wrongness of abortion, the thing that’s hacking me off about her posts is her assumption that women who vote Republican are stupid or somehow uneducated.  (And I’m having this conversation with her, so none of this is secret or behind her back or passive aggressive.)

I lean left on social issues and right on fiscal issues.  What this means in this context is that I believe that women should have access to birth control and abortions, but that the government and I shouldn’t have to pay for it.  I do not trust the government to do the right thing, and so I’m in favor of there being less of it.

Here’s the thing — I still love and respect my friend.  We can disagree, and it doesn’t detract from her value as a human being or the purity of her soul or the goodness of her friendship.  It ruins my day, though, when people say the equivalent of, “Gosh, you read a lot, and you seem so smart and well-educated — I can’t believe you ever vote Republican,” or “I can’t believe you ever vote Democrat,” or “I can’t believe you shop at a non-organic grocery store,” or “I can’t believe you eat meat,” or “I can’t believe you wear leather shoes,” or whatever the hell it is that surprises people about what might be different about me.

Rational discourse left our building years ago, and this attitude that we have that our opinions are the right one with no room for disagreement or conversation or an attempt to understand why people may have values different from ours is killing us.  That’s not me exaggerating for effect.  It’s KILLING us.  You can see the ripples in the employee makeup of Silicon Valley, you can see the ripples on what counts as news, you can see the ripples throughout the world’s economies, and you can see the ripples in nearly every war that’s taking place (I qualify that because I confess I can’t give you a catalog of what underlies every war that’s taking place in the world right now).

When we say we agree to disagree these days, we say it at the end of a conversation during which we’ve just discovered that someone doesn’t think like we do or value the things we value.  And instead of exploring why this might be, we close off the discussion and our minds and put the other person in a box labeled “undesirable.”

It’s taking everything I have not to hide my friend’s feed while all the “I agree with you — white men are stupid” comments pile up. And because I’m having this visceral reaction, it’s particularly important for me to read what they’re writing and to HEAR it, meaning to understand it and not to discount it.  If I only hear people who agree with me, who value the same things I do, I’m not learning, and I’ve discovered that for me, learning is crucial to me becoming a better person.

I understand if you’re in a different place.  Agree to disagree.

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3 Responses to Agree to Disagree

  1. Paul says:

    you are so wrong. that’s it. i will never speak to you again. eh . . . or not. 🙂

  2. Mary says:

    Thanks much for this message, needed in the most way today.I shared it on a FB post.

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