Why I like to argue

(and it’s not just because I’m disagreeable)

I’m very vocal in my affection for Rachel Maddow.  I love how impassioned she’s been in covering the BP oil spill, I love how she’s social-justice minded, and I love how she doesn’t sink down to the lowest-denominator when covering the gong-show antics of Republicans these days (though there’s no shortage of material available).

One of the ways that Rachel is different from Keith Olbermann is how she doesn’t just take the easy cheap-shot when covering some of the wackier news of conservatives.  She takes a bigger picture approach, and it’s one that leaves the viewer (me!) in a place where I feel challenged and educated, not just entertained for a cheap laugh (a la “worst person in the world” clips, etc).

Last week offered one of those moments for me.  Maddow was covering the Sharron Angle interviews in Nevada — a little background: if you’re looking for wingnut Republican, Angle pretty much fits the bill in her platform stances.  But rather than just stringing together a bunch of clips that would just illustrate how silly this candidate is, Rachel took another approach, and made a commentary of why it’s important to open up conversations with people who you don’t necessarily agree with.  Here’s some of what Rachel said:

But when Sharron Angle‘s political career ended last night on local television in Nevada, it was a perfect case study in what happens if you don‘t ever talk to people with whom you disagree.  Because here is the thing – when your positions are never questioned, you‘re never forced to develop strong logic to back them up.  When your arguments are never challenged, you don‘t ever have to improve them.  You don‘t ever have to cast out arguments of yours that don‘t make sense or learn how to deal with evidence that appears to contradict your conclusions.

That‘s why I regret that we don‘t have more conservatives on this show.  Because I do have a point of view, of course, but I like talking with people with whom I disagree, both because it is fun and selfishly because it makes my arguments better. [my emphasis] link

Here’s the clip from the show:

While Rachel was talking in the context of politics, I can take what she’s said and apply it to other areas of discussion/debate that I love to take part in — including conversations on religion.

I once had a friend who never understood the merits of a good argument.  One night another good friend and I were duke-ing it out over the cinematic worth of The Hurt Locker (she hated it, I liked it), and for some in the room with us, they were quite upset to see how impassioned each of us were in our position.  But we weren’t “fighting;” we were seriously discussing our positions — and afterward, we learned more about each other in the process (not to mention the fact I got to gloat over all the Academy Awards the film eventually won).

It’s for these reasons that I enjoy opening myself up to all the untouchable subjects of conversation (read: politics and religion) — namely, because I like to be challenged just as much as I like to challenge.  It’s just a shame that many people today would rather surround themselves with ideological clones, rather than opening themselves up for debate.

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