Monday, September 28, 2009

I love a good healthy debate, and wish with all my heart that my high school had, had a debating team. I’m sure that I would have flourished there. So I didn’t learn about this skill until my undergrad studies while making my third and final arduous trip through college.
Then I found that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Debating. Not making seemingly endless treks in and out of college.

I especially enjoyed debating politics and religion. I enjoyed politics, something that my father and I had in common. And although I was convinced my government class would be without a doubt the dullest class ever, it turned out to be one of my favorite classes. Simply because deep down I enjoy a good debate.

I used to enjoy a good fight too. Especially boxing matches, but I don’t do that any more. Seeing two grown men brutalize each other for money has officially lost its appeal. Seeing adults brutalize each other, either verbally or physically now makes me sick to my stomach. I can't bear to watch. I have to walk away.

And debating, too, has lost its charm. Whether it be in the public square, online in town meetings or just sitting at the dinner table discussing why we like or dislike a certain candidate, whether health care should go to all people and not just to the lucky few or whether or not our country is heading in the right direction economically. I'm not interested in hearing it.

I’ve stopped voicing my opinion and certainly stopped debating. I simply walk away shaking my head. People think I’m a coward. I’m not. Trust me, it’s the most courageous thing I could do.

So I walk away, with my hands in my pockets and my teeth clenched on my tongue, reciting sutric questions in my mind in order to dispell the anger, praying also nobody smacks me upside my head while my back's turned.

I think I grew weary of talking politics during the Bush administration, but as of late I’ve become utterly disgusted with the whole discourse. I’ve grown especially weary of the nasty way (theoretically) civilized and intelligent discussion has given way to rabble rousers and angry mob mentality.

Debating, when done respectfully and in a civilized manner, benefits everyone. It benefits the speakers, whom both learn something in the discussion, whether it be new concepts or different ways of understanding the topic discussed. It creates dialogue and can solve difficulties, it can even garner respect for your opponent. But we don’t do that any more. We shout each other down, become angry and inflexible. We disrespect our leaders, going so far as to show contempt for the office of President. We treat others with disrespect, and act, not as decent, adult, civilized people do, but instead go after our opponents like the angry villagers in the old Frankenstein films, with torches and pitchforks.

Some say this is due to competition and states quite plainly that competing against others is bad and leads to dissention and harsh speech. But competition is not in and of itself a bad thing. Through healthy positive competition, either with ourselves or with others, we can become more innovative, more creative and certainly more productive. Through positive competition, we garner both admiration for our opponent but gain inspiration from them as well.
But there is a difference between healthy competition, or sportsmanship, as we called way back in the dark ages of my youth, and bullying.

What we’re seeing in the public forum these days isn’t healthy competition. Nor is it good sportsmanship, be it on the public stage, in town hall forums, or on the tennis court. What we’re seeing is bullying, a grand attempt from some people, not to respectfully engage in wholesome civilized, educated discourse, but instead attack your opponent and grind him or her into dust while you’re at it.

Perhaps in some ways this gives the bullying person a sense of power and importance. But those sensations are just illusions, and like a dehydrated person running after a mirage of a great lake, just as detrimental.

So I've given up what people like to call discourse; it's nothing of the sort. It's angry nonsensical speech that I prefer not to engage in. Nor do I care to read the insanely written emails that choke my inbox. I delete them and let them go.

There are far more important things to do than trying to force your opinions down someone's neck. Like keeping your emotional litter box clean.

Instead, I’d rather practice the Dharma. Run. Practice some more.

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