Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree
I just finished watching this TED talk, and I have a multitude of thoughts swimming around in my head.
I am person who will disagree if I feel something is wrong and/or troubling. I do this even with authority figures. Reactions to my disagreeing vary from authority figure to authority figure, but among the people who daresn't disagree is where I get the most resistance.
The first time I remember disagreeing with an authority figure was when I was 16. I was in Sunday School class and the teacher, who was a college student, posed a question to us. He asked if we had seen the article in the paper about what the policy the church had put out about HIV/AIDS patients. I hadn't, but was alarmed when he said that the policy was that these people would not be receiving home or visiting teachers and they were not welcome in church.
I envisioned people dying alone, without the fellowship, love, and nurturing that a church family can give. I thought of people unable to take the sacraments of the Lord. My blood boiled.
My response, though, has less to do with the story than the Sunday School teacher who posed such questions to teenagers and waited for and listened to the responses. It is a rare person indeed who encourages teenagers to think for themselves.
When I did give my response, which was quite different than many of my classmates, the teacher listened. When the class buzzed with debate, he sat back and was thoughtful. He didn't squelch conversation. He didn't insist on agreement with the leaders. He merely listened to the pros and cons.
Some people are very nervous when discord arises. They want to fix it as soon as possible. They want everyone to get along, even if that means cutting the conversation short. I have often disagreed with such people - I think conversation is extremely important.
I love discussing ideas. I love debating. What I do not love is ad hominem debating; never should a debate turn into tearing a person down or shaming them for their thoughts. It is one thing to disagree, but another to personally attack.
I hope that you watch the video. It is superb.