Learn to disagree

Published 10:44 am Saturday, March 5, 2011

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To disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable.
Barry Goldwater
I didn’t know much about Barry Goldwater until I bought the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast collection a couple of years ago.

I had seen the highlights on television, knew many of the people that were roasted and I thought it was interesting and would be funny. I was correct.

One of the most pleasant surprises, however, was the appearance of Senator Barry Goldwater and Vice President Humber Humphrey on the programs. They were both funny, which is unusual in today’s political climate.

In doing some research about Goldwater, I found the quote listed above and it is one of the quotes I most treasure. It describes how I think we should be when we’re discussing politics.

I’m a fairly conservative Democrat, as I’ve said in this space many times. I have voted Democrat in most every presidential election, a good number of Senate campaigns and in most of my state and local voting.

Having said that, there are many times when a Democratic candidate is simply too liberal for me and I have to vote for a more moderate Republican candidate. That’s because I’m more interested in a candidate of my ideology than I am one of my party.

Because that’s true, I have had political discussions in which I disagree with Democrat, Republican and Libertarian friends. We have vastly different ways of viewing things.

With most of my friends, I can discuss anything because we don’t take our discussions personally. We simply have a disagreement of opinion.

I will add that I’m not a person that’s easily persuaded. When I have an opinion, there is usually a good reason for it and I’m not often persuaded to change my opinion.

I don’t know very many southerners who are against the death penalty, but I’m a person that is. I have heard the arguments and I have debated with people who are probably smarter than I am. My opinion holds.

What I’m not going to do, however, is picket at the site of executions. I’m not going to rail against the people who believe it is a viable alternative. They have a right to their opinion and, in this case, the law is on their side.

I have several friends who are strong advocates of the death penalty and we have had numerous discussions about the issue and both its pros and cons. They have points that I think are valid and I make some they believe are as well.

The point of this long, rambling diatribe is that we have become people who don’t want to debate – we want to fight. We don’t want to be opponents – we want to be enemies.

That isn’t the way we should be. I wrote a column a few months ago in which I reminded us we are one nation and not two parties. The problem is that isn’t even enough.

If we don’t learn that we are one nation – Americans no matter what label we choose to wear – that has to live, work and, when necessary, fight together, we are going to all regret what our Republic has become.

We don’t have to agree, but we also don’t have to be disagreeable.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or by telephone at 332-7211.