Trying to Diagnose the Problem in America: People Aren’t Angry Enough

Overheard:
People aren’t angry enough. I want to see divorces and lifelong friendships ending due to political differences. I’m dead serious. I don’t care what your opinion is. Have an opinion. Know why you have that opinion. Stand your ground.
 
 
There is this feeling in America that two people must be in agreement to have a close connection.  This leads to four outcomes in relationships:
 
  1. Both people don’t discuss important issues over which they disagree.
  2. One person or the other must accept the opinions of the other.
  3. Both people soften their views so that they disagree only mildly.
  4. The relationship is severed since two people since a close connection is impossible.

In spirit I agree with the person quoted above.  People aren’t angry enough, which leads to results 1, 2 and 3.  These are not good options.  People should be passionate about things like gun control, socialized medicine, abortion, euthenasia, war, the president, taxes, ad infinitum.

Where I disagree with the speaker is that two passionate people who are of different opinions about these issues must necessarilly sever their relationship.  Why must disagreement necessarilly cause a divide?

In the past year I lost someone very close to me due to this divide and gained a very pecular friend. 

My sister and I are of very different political mindsets, and I felt us drifting apart because of it.  It started over a conversation over the second ammendment, and I saw the oppotunity to pursue the conversation as a means to bring us together through discourse.  I knew that we would never forge agreement between us, but I was convinced that our difference of opinion could forge an exciting connection between us.  She was convinced (like the speaker above) that because we would continue to disagree with each other there could only ever be a divide between us.  Because such statements, once believed, become self-fulifilling prophecies, she created a divide that I could not bridge.

My strange new friend is a friend of my dad’s who picked a fight with me (okay, I may have picked a fight with him) again over second ammendment rights (what is it about that ammendment).  It got heated…fast, but the facisnating thing that happened was that the more we argued, the closer we became.  Someone who I only saw every couple of years when my dad’s “old gang” got together at the house, became someone I would call a friend.  We still don’t agree on the second ammendment, but we’re both passionate and fascinated by gun control from opposite sides of the issue…and that passion and fascination is our bond.  Ironically, the person I was trying to push away became someone quite close.

I’ve been having a hard time expressing how exactly two people in a relationship can become closer without softening their opinions to make the other person comfortable when I came across the word Auseinandersetzung.  It’s usually translated by as an arguement, conflict, or dispute.  I came across the word listening to Anne Bogart, a theater director, talk about her work in Germany.  She said that the Germans work with too much Auseinandersetzung, but in contrast Americans don’t work with enough Auseinandersetzung…which comes back to the American idea that to work together we must not disagree too much. 

Although conflict or argument is the usual translation of Auseinandersetzung, the more common German meaning is dealing.  Although we may not be looking for a fight or argument, we’re always looking for a deal.  When we find ourselves against someone whose views we disagree with, perhaps we shouldn’t be looking to fight or argue with them…but to deal with them. 

This is about the same time that I came across the idea of the Exquisite Corpse which is a Surrealist game based on the children’s game “Head/Torso/Legs”. (A piece of paper is folded into thirds, one participant draws the head and then folds back the paper so the second participant can’t see it, the second participant draws the torso and then folds back the paper so the third participant can see neither the head hor the torso, and then the third participant draws the legs.)  The unfolding of the paper is unfolded and you now have an exquisite drawing birthed from the synergy of seperate artists collaboarting in fierce individualism.  What the surrealists were reacting to was artistic collaborations where each artist would need to soften their style in order to work with each other, but in the game of the Exquisite Corpse the drawing became more exquisite the more each artists worked fiercely without regard for what the other artists had in mind.  As I read on Surrealist theory, much was made of teh folds…almost a luaghable amount of attention was spent discussing the physical creases in the paper, but then I realized that’s where the artists meet.  Eventually the physical fold disappeared as it moved from drawing to painting, but the more fiercely the artists worked the more aparent the fold still was.  Even though the canvas was creased, the artists were working in fierce oppositional styles so that they would meet together. 

They weren’t working in opposition to drive each other away; they were working in opposition to see how they connected.

L’espirit de l’escalier :

People aren’t angry enough. I want to see divorces and lifelong friendships strengthened due to political differences. I’m dead serious. I don’t care what your opinion is. Have an opinion. Know why you have that opinion. Stand your ground, but stand next to lovers and friends who disagree with you.
It’s also interesting (since we are on the subject of games) to note that the more correct translation of Auseinandersetzung is dealing, which enters our own language and is used in card games.  Everyone in a card game gets a different deal, which is necessary for the game.  If everyone got the same deal, then playing together would be impossible.  Having different deals is not only what makes having relationships interesting; it actually makes it necessary.
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