The Internet has made the world smaller and yet generational and social divides are expanding. Mainstream news has turned into a fear fest. And politics as usual is unusually nasty and divisive. It’s rare to find people anymore who are willing to have an honest, intelligent debate over an issue. It’s not a fight, it’s a debate. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about the exercise of broadening your horizons and hearing what other people have to say. It’s about learning what other people’s perspectives bring to an issue.
I can be stubborn and opinionated, of that there is no doubt. But I like to think that I can debate with someone on an issue without it becoming a personal matter.
Whatever happened to civility in debating the points of an issue? Perhaps it’s the explosive growth of the Internet and social media, where we have a microphone available for us to shout at the world 24/7. Folks involved in social media talk about the importance of a conversation, and yet they often won’t have one online. They’ll post a comment on Twitter or Facebook, or even write a blog post, but then won’t accept a challenge to an open debate about what they said. That’s not being conversational, that’s screaming from your soapbox and then walking away without bothering to listen to what your audience might have to say about your comments.
One of my favorite people is Nathan Triplett. We have opposing political views, from both a fiscal and social sense, as far as I can tell. We are in different age groups. We don’t really have that much in common and we don’t hang out. Why does he deserve “favorite” status then? Because we have some great debates. We debate on Facebook. We debate on Twitter. And, hopefully, we’ll soon be debating on a political talk show that I’m a frequent guest commentator on. Nathan gets it. He has his opinions and believes in them strongly enough to stand up for them. But he also is willing to hear what you have to say. He will try to change your opinion, which is a fine goal for debating. But if he can’t, he just agrees to disagree with you. I hope he sees me in the same light, because I would gladly trade beers and barbs with him anytime.
In my community, there’s already a breakfast club, a happy hour club, a tweet-up group and many other organizations. But a lot of those gatherings revolve around small talk. They rarely get into personal opinions or rough-and-tumble debates where we may change someone’s mind or, perhaps, find our own enlightenment on an issue.
Maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe it’s time to start the Lansing Debate Club. Our motto can be, “Touche! Let’s go have a beer.”