Sunday, June 30, 2013

Agreeing to disagree.....or not.....


  There is a phrase used a lot nowadays whenever two or more people can’t come to the same conclusion on a given subject, even after an exhaustive discussion of the matter. When it becomes apparent that their opinions aren’t going to line up, they “agree to disagree”, and get on with their lives. I don’t remember ever using that particular phrase when I was a kid back at Millville Grade School, but I do remember that even students with diametrically opposed views on school work, recess activities, personal hygiene and conduct in general, such as my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and that snooty Bernice Hawkins, were able to pretty much peacefully coexist, even though they hardly ever agreed on anything.

  I think the secret to that mostly peaceful coexistence was that Stinky didn’t have the authority to force Bernice to take part in the recess crawdad hunts that he liked to organize, and that Bernice didn’t have the authority to force Stinky sit and listen to yet another of her favorite poems she liked to recite on the front steps of the old school seemingly every single day. Regardless of how much they disagreed, they each managed to go with their respective lives.

  I also remember that it wasn’t quite as easy to agree to disagree with one of the teachers or with Principal Baker. Disagreeing with either or all of them would most likely result in missing out on both the crawdad hunt and the poetry reading as you spent your recess at a desk in the coat room writing “I will not disagree with Miss Bartrum anymore” one hundred times. And if you disagreed on some subjects, you could even end up on the receiving end of that big wooden paddle that Principle Baker hung conspicuously on the wall for all of the students to see and fear. I don’t think it kept any of us, least of all Stinky, from disagreeing with them, but it did convince us to keep our disagreements to ourselves for the most part.

  I imagine we’ve all agreed to disagree more than once in our lives, sometimes with a spouse, or a neighbor, or a boss. Agreeing to disagree might mean that you value the relationship enough to overlook the difference of opinion, or it might mean that you are going to part ways with the disagreeable party and find a more agreeable arrangement elsewhere. My wife Susan and I have been agreeing to disagree for 37 years, and my parents for 65 years. I have a friend that has been agreeing to disagree for over 40 years, but so far he has agreed to disagree with 4 different wives.

  It seems that as a country we are having a hard time agreeing to disagree with each other anymore. It’s not that we have more varied opinions than we used to have. It’s just that whenever we have a difference of opinion, we want to use the government to force others with opposing opinions to fall in line with our wishes.

  We don’t look to pass laws that allow something to happen, as much as we look to pass laws that force something to happen.

  There are a great many people who want the government to define their marriage, manage their health care, their retirement, their charitable giving, and their lives in general. I hold no animosity towards those folks. But there are also a great many people who don’t agree the government should manage their lives to that extent, and I don’t think there’s a reason in the world that we couldn’t agree to allow the people who want a lot of government programs to support and fund those programs, while allowing people who don’t want that much government to get on with their lives.

  I hope you can agree with that. Or at least agree to disagree.


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