Disagree without being disagreeable
Outside my office window of our home in Indianapolis are parked huge cranes and trucks manned by men in helmets armed with chainsaws. My neighbor is taking down a gigantic old oak tree. It makes me cringe. I love the big old trees that line our street. When we take an evening walk, the most awesome feature is these distinctive big trees.
It probably happens in all older neighborhoods. Trees were planted as small saplings when the homes were completed almost 100 years ago. Now, they pose some risk as branches die out and fall and sidewalks are raised or cracked.
This is not the first of these magnificent specimens to meet the fate of the mulching truck in our historic district.
I am most sensitive to the changes in our environment and am working on a new television program that addresses positive activities impacting our natural resources in Indiana. I doubt that the removal of ancient trees will be one of the events featured, but we mustn’t rush to judgment on such developments.
When I cringe at the sound of the chainsaw, I am acting out of pure sensitivity to nature’s beauty and a little understanding to what trees do to improve our environment by their ability to add nitrogen to the air and protect buildings from both heat and cold. But, it is not a clear black-and-white issue. People come at the dilemma to remove or not to remove trees from different angles and out of different experiences. I am sure the homeowners are also worried about the chance of the tree falling on their house or the liability of it falling on a car or their neighbors.
So go most of the issues facing the world today. Health care and insurance are a prime example. I support Sen. John McCain when he says he voted against the latest plan because it was written by a small group in a short time. Others would say perhaps that is the only way we will ever be able to resolve the issue. They claim following the regular route for writing and passing a piece of legislation involves so much time and differing opinions that nothing would ever get done.
Questions of taxation, immigration, climate change and the environment, international trade agreements and arms control, race relations and security are all complex issues that we must discuss, make decisions and act upon. These are all complex and open to various interpretations. Real research and study, discussion and consensus will be time consuming and difficult. It will certainly test us as individuals and as a nation. It is so much easier to just watch our favorite news broadcaster who sees things as we do, form our opinions and go about our business, but that short-term fix will have its day of reckoning. It did in my own life.
I lost my temper with my new husband yesterday. It wasn’t any one thing that pushed me over the edge. It was the accumulation of frustrating happenings. I didn’t use vile words, but I am sure my facial expressions and tone of voice were pretty harsh. I was worn out and burst out at the person nearest to me. What did it get me? A deeper hole.
There is a safety valve for our emotions and actions. It is called open and friendly discussion. Don’t put up until you blow up is my theory, and I should have practiced it myself.
The outbursts we have observed in public discourse lately have been just as counterproductive as my outburst to Don yesterday. Name calling, damning language, demeaning judgments have not helped us solve or defuse real problems in our world. Words do matter, and there is a reason for being politically correct. Cruel statements and accusations bring out the worst in those with whom we disagree. If we hope to resolve a problem with someone with a differing view, best not to treat them as enemies from the get-go.
Former President Obama recently spoke to a group titled The Goalkeepers. He noted that they resisted pessimism and negativism and stood up and pushed for what they believed in. He concluded that, in reaching their goals, they had made things better and that better was good.
If we get our own emotions or bias out of a discussion, we can usually find our motives and that of others are pretty similar and honorable. We all want good health care at affordable prices, we all want to live peacefully, we all want safe homes and good schools, we all want meaningful lives and good jobs. As the saying goes, ‘The devil is in the details.’ Can we disagree without being disagreeable?
Let’s not loose track of our goals. People, fellow citizens of this country are in peril as a result of horrific storms and we bicker over who insulted whom. Watching the news is making me glum. My kids were texting each other about current events with a mix of funny pictures, comments and a lot of dark humor. One of them broke the silly talk with a suggestion that a good way to counter the discouraging news of the day was to go out and help someone who needed it. This is good medicine for all of us, and I am going to take a big dose.