News & Politics

The Lost Art of Disagreement

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It used to be that the two things you didn’t talk about in polite company were politics and religion. In this day and age, politics and religion have become uncomfortably linked to one another, almost making them a single topic. People’s faith has a tendency to inform their politics and vice versa, after all.

However, even back in the day, people still talked politics. They did it for centuries. Back then, though, things were different. People actually understood how to disagree.

In this day and age, I fear the art of disagreement is dead.

The name Lindsay Shepherd has become far more familiar to many of us than it should for a Canadian graduate student. Shepherd recorded a Kafkaesque counseling session with school administrators after someone complained about her mentioning Jordan Peterson, a noted critic of using made-up pronouns, among other things. The recording gave her a level of protection because people could actually hear the insane things she was told.

However, the fact that she disagreed with the powers that be is problematic. In one class, laptops were banned mid-term because the instructor feared Shepherd would record her. One professor worried she’d get busted saying something stupid? The prof is probably, right since it seems they will say something stupid.

But that’s not where it ends. Now Shepherd is worried that she’s about to lose her job.

This is just one Canadian school, right? How is this emblematic of a larger problem?

Let’s head to Missouri, where a high school student was apparently suspended for debating with a Muslim regarding Islamic extremism. Alex Lonsdale is a senior and part of the school’s decorated debate team. Apparently, he likes to debate, which is a good thing.

After his debate, he found himself summoned to the principal’s office where he was told he would be suspended.

The Muslim student, identified as Faraz Pervaiz, “claimed I said all Muslims are terrorists; all kill…,” Lonsdale told The College Fix, his voice trailing off as he spoke. “I don’t know how you could even get any of that from this.”

Pervaiz, as a member of the debate club, should have known how to disagree, but he didn’t. It looks like he lost the debate, took it personally, then ran to the administrators to whine about the whole thing.

It’s not like Pervaiz is unusual. In the last year, we’ve seen riot after riot, all because some people simply can’t deal with the fact that Donald Trump won in November 2016. They burn, loot, and pillage like they’re a Viking raiding party, all because their gal didn’t win.

Our nation—and most people—can’t handle disagreement these days. At the first hint of adversity, far too many people just hit the block button and move on, all because disagreement can no longer be tolerated.

I’m not saying you should let people bully you, berate you, or make you feel like less, mind you. That crosses the line in so many ways. That said, it also doesn’t mean that after you offer your opinion, and someone criticizes it, that we should automatically shut down conversation with a quick block. It’s not good to live inside an echo chamber, yet that’s what far too many people do these days.

We, as a society, have lost our way. The art of disagreement is a lost art. Will we get it back?