Love & Radio recently aired a two part podcast on a skill many of us probably need to revisit: how to argue.
Over the past few weeks I have joined some local government meetings, where feelings ran high. Localism, protectionism, fear were all there. Some racism, too. We will be doing a very, very small part in helping with the refugee effort.
A man spoke up against the motion, concerned. I didn’t agree with him, at all. Someone on ‘my side’ jumped on it, interrupting him Rikki Lake style with a “Talk to the hand” jesture.
How does this help? I believe in the cause and stand up for the rights of the needy. But shouting others down, negating and stopping people mid-sentence hasn’t got us very far. Racism, homophobia, mysogyny and transphobia have no place in civil society. But hearts and minds aren’t won with rudeness and triumphalism.
One of my neighbours is a Brexiteer. He says “I wasn’t born a European” and I shake my head. That is regressive and backwards looking. However, he cares for others in the neighbourhood, driving elderly residents, walking dogs when people are at work. It is not a simple shouting people down exersize. I am not about to convert this man on this issue. But, as part of my post Trump Brexit personal manifesto, I will speak up for this family again, and again, and again (I even called a radio phone in. Heady days).
Of course where I’m going with is that I think we need to learn to listen again. Not to accept racism, sexism or localism. But to learn our facts, our stats and take the goddam time to work through an argument diligently, and try to find some common ground to move forwards from. (And then win, that’s the best part).