“The hallmark of civil debate is when you can acknowledge that which is good in the position of the person you disagree with.” –Sidney Callahan
A couple years back, NPR’s On Being with Kristen Tippet did an extended project called Civil Conversations. This project was a series of radio programs, and online tools to help facilitate conversation about tough topics in both families and communities, and provided ideas and tools for healing our disrupted civil spaces.
It is rare these days that political divides and contested ideologies are actually discussed with open minds and sensibility. I believe this is what conversation should be like in everyday realm, but it seems these debates are discussed with no more tact than shock jocking. I found one program in the project, Listening Beyond Life and Choice, especially influential on my approach the the issue. The piece features Frances Kissling, activist, ethicist, former Catholic nun and former head of Catholics for Choice. It did not focus on the actual issues so much as how to talk about the issues and more productive ways to discuss deep-rooted civil disagreements.
“I don’t understand how you can work on an issue for 35 years as complicated as this and never change your mind.” –Frances Kissling
“Dialogue requires an enormous amount of discipline. You have to put up with things you don’t like.” –Frances Kissling
For the full conversation: http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2011/ccp-kissling/
I have always found myself very intrigued with the debate on abortion in both the legal and ethical realms. My own thoughts and opinions aside, it is quite amazing to see the dedication, passion and fury people both invest in and polarize this debate with. When coming back from taking pictures at the winery I discovered the Pro-Life Planned Parenthood protestors were back out. I had not seen them since winter began and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture them.
Despite that I don’t necessarily agree with these individuals tactics or stance I found it incredibly easy to maintain a neutral presense. Although, the man in the first photo asked me a question when I was finishing up photographing him that had such genuine inquiry and good intent it took me aback:
“Do you think we are helping at all?”
While I believe that to be a matter of opinion, I also think it is the strive to bring about greater utility that must be respected on both sides of any debate. Acknowledging that which is good in an opponent or adversary is the vital if one ever hopes to obtain a greater understanding of the other.