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Friday, November 18, 2005
Can't we just agree to disagree?
My good friend, Barry has a lengthy, well-written post about protestors in Knoxville coming out for the groundbreaking of the new Howard Baker Center for Public Policy at UT. Vice-president Dick Cheney came to give a speech, honoring Baker during which the protestors heckled Cheney. The Knoxville News-Sentinnel called it, "disrespectful to both men."

Barry goes on to make some very interesting and well-reasoned points about protestors in general. I recommend the article to you. Go over and give it a read...I'll be here when you get back.


In thinking about what Barry wrote, a few thoughts struck me.

In thinking about the situation of the different sides of the political aisle, I found myself thinking about rivallries in sports. Interestingly enough, this is rivallry weekend with Auburn playing Alabama and Michigan playing Ohio State. In both cases--sport and politics--you have parties on both sides who are passionately in support of their team or their cause.

Now, as most of you know, I'm a huge UT fan. I pretty much see the world through orange tinted glasses and I want all things to go the Vols' way. (Hence why this year has been a huge disappointment to me football wise...) As a Vols fan, I have certain teams that I enjoy disliking and I always enjoy it when UT beats them--namely, Florida, Georgia and Alabama (sorry, LB). My wanting to defeat these schools in sports goes beyond just football....I want to win in basketball, baseball, soccer, track and field, pick-up sticks, whatever it takes.

I root against these teams. However, I do understand that they have their fans who are just as passionate about their team as I am about the Vols and want to see their team beat us as much as I'd like to see us beat them. But I'm not so rabid a fan that I can't get along with people who pull for other teams. So we disagree on who should win the big game one weekend a year. The other 51 weeks a year, we can get along. And I can even lay aside my bitter dislike of certain teams come bowl time just because as an SEC fan, I want to see my conference represent itself well on the national stage. (Well, except for Spurrier, but that's because I love watching him throw the visor and be frustrated)

But I know some fans out there who can't see beyond that. Most of them call into sports call-in shows. Many of them must have the numbers on speed dial and some of them will jump from one station to the next around the state are region expressing their viewpoint to anyone who will listen. (I've heard it happen locally during the station will get a caller, talk to him and go to commericals so I flip over to another station to hear the same caller making the same point on a different station).

It seems to me that we've forgotten how to agree to disagree. To accept and consider the fact that the other side of the aisle or stadium has a viewpoint and that they are just as entitled to have their viewpoint as you are to have yours. So often I hear rhetoric fly back and forth in blogs and on call-in shows where people have forgotten the other person is a human being as well. Instead of considering that maybe the other person might have sat down, considered a variety of factors and considering that a person's world view might be shaped by his or her experiences, we are quick to decry them as the enemy and to treat them as an enemy.

Or to forget how to be civil. I certainly know that not everyone will agree with everything I say or do. But you know, I respect that. And I ask the same respect in return.

Freedom of speech is one of the great freedoms of our country. But to paraphrase Spider-Man comic books, "With great freedom comes great responsiblity." Yes, we are all entitled to our right to express what we feel, but we are also blessed with brains to maybe discern the best time and place to do it. I certainly don't fault the protestors for coming out and making their feelings known about Chaney or the war in Iraq. What I do take issue with is how you say it and when it's said. I feel that heckling him during the speech on a megaphone shows a great deal of disrepect and shows an overall selfish attitude. Consider how you'd feel if it were Bill Clinton up there talking about Al Gore and I'd come out and done the same thing? Would you be upset or irritated with me? Probably so--and rightly so. Showing common courtesy, decency and respect should be a given, but in this day and age, it seems as if it's the exception rather than the rule. As I said back when the protestors showed up in Smyrna at a soldier's funeral--I have no problem with them being for or against the war and wanting to show their support to either side. What I did take umbrage with was how the time and place they chose to do it. Same thing here in Knoxville. I think you can protest and make your feelings known all you want before the speech and after it. But during a speech that honors a person's work and who he is and has nothing to do with the issue being protested, please show some respect.

It seems so often that we forget the golden rule of treating others how we'd like to be treated. I think part of it is that it's them or us attitude that is pervading things these days. So often I seem to hear that we can decide this way or that way but we can't come down in the middle. I support some of the things Geroge W. Bush has done since he took office, others I am not so fond of. But yet, there are some who'd say I'm a traitor becuase I don't unequiovacally support Bush in every little thing he does, from the way he takes his coffee to his decision on foreign policy. Interestingly enough, I read blogs of people who I disagree with about certain things and then I will meet them in person and we can get along. We agree to disagree and don't let it affect us being civil and possibly even friends.

I will even go so far as to say that I don't always agree with everything my best friend Barry says in his blog or in person. And I know he and I will never see eye to eye on Doctor Who. But that does not stop up from being friends--have been for almost 15 years now. We agree to disagree and we work from there. We can debate things in an intelligent manner without getting up in arms and sounding like my two-year old nephew Davis, who gets in a mood to say "No" or "Yes" to any question you ask him, regardless of what it is.

But yet, Barry and I still get along and have 15 years of friendship to show for it.

As Barry pointed out in a response to my comments on his blog, it's different to disagree on a football team than a political stage. No one's life is as directly impacted by sports as it by politics (well, that guy in Bama who asked for a new car after Bama was lost to Auburn and his dad shot him is the exception). But in both cases, I think we've lost some of our abilty to agree to disagree. And I think we need to take a moment, step back from the debate and put ourselves in the shoes of the person on the other side of the aisle. And to treat people on that ohter side like we'd want to be treated. We can all get just takes works by all sides to do it.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/18/2005 08:40:00 AM | |
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