October 1, 2009


I am currently reading a book, The Thirteen American Arguments, written by Howard Fineman (2008). A primary premise of the book is that arguing is a critically important American tradition. Fineman asserts that "arguing is good--in fact, indispensable." He frames this as a paradox: "The process that makes us so fragile also makes us durable. . . . Our constant challenge is to harness the often passionate energy of arguments to the useful deals that can result, without tearing ourselves apart." This perspective challenges me greatly. I've felt greatly worried about the possibility that contentiousness has come to dominate our political processes and I have also worried that conflict and violence (physical and verbal) have become progressively more commonplace. Perhaps my hopes for more kindness and peace and compromise were misguided?

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