“First me, then maybe you – but not for a long, long time!” When my friend said that, in the middle of our heated discussion, I laughed so hard, all the fire of the moment vanished. Her tirade was winding down and as I opened my mouth for a cogent, lucid rebuttal, she held up her hand and autocratically uttered that ridiculous statement. I don’t know whether it was original or not, but the sheer audacity of it struck me as very amusing. While her argument was weak, her bravery was admirable. What’s that amusing threat about losing the hand you’re waving in my face? “Keep it up and you’ll draw back a nub!”
At some point, don’t we all feel there are some subjects for which it is worth going to the mat? Listen in on conversations during any pre-k or kindergarten recess (Do they still have those?). Debating skills have not been honed yet, so many “discussions” are ended with a frustrated “Is not! Is too!” Sometimes this is punctuated with a stuck out tongue. The victor is the one who doesn’t cry or run to the teacher. Older children, all the way through high school, learn there is strength in numbers and develop their own cliques and political parties, with friends who think, act and dress like them. Backed by their cronies, they can take on all verbal opposition.
Adults are troubled, for the most part, about weightier matters. Beer, paper towel, garbage bag and soap powder commercials notwithstanding, grown -up concerns center around world changing issues, such as politics, religion, social and environmental problems. To see just how many topics there are which are considered worthy of debate, you can go to the DCPL website, click on Reference Databases and then Student Resources. Under Opposing Viewpoints, there is a mind-boggling number of themes with two sides. If you are passionate about something and want to take on all comers at your next Tupperware or Superbowl party, but have no confidence in your persuasive rhetoric, there are also books that will help you. How to Debate by Robert Danbar, Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Persuasion by Steve Booth-Butterfield and Persuasive Speaking by Dixie Waldo will get you started. Also, just to get in the spirit of it, you can check out that wonderful movie, The Great Debaters, which was inspired by a true story and stars the remarkable Denzel Washington.
When we think about the ill will sometimes generated by the passionate discussion of our personal bugaboos, we may realize some things in life are not worth any discussion at all, and certainly not worth our strident zeal. There are a few really important issues we may want to address but the merits of, say, Krispy Kremes vs. Dunkin’ Donuts is certainly not one of them. “Is too?” “Is not!!”