This is not about how to stage a debate. It is a guide for listening to one.
Step one: Listen. American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and another to hear.”
Step two: Think. Hearing without thinking makes one a leaf blown by the wind.
Step three: Do not believe only what you agree with. “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it,” warns author Flannery O’Connor.
Step four: Do not root for your favorite debater. That deafens you to everything else. That is dangerous – UNLESS you already know everything there is to know. In that case, stop reading now and skip the debate.
Step five: Open your mind to the people you don’t like and don’t agree with. A difference of opinion is not an IQ test that people fail by disagreeing with you – and your favorite debater.
Step six: Learn more than you knew when the debate started. If you end up with nothing new in your mind you will find yourself no wiser.
This week your Jamestown Gazette invites you to attend – on TV, radio, or Internet – the “Three Candidates’ Debates” on October 8 and October 15. They are guaranteed to give our “User Guide For Debates” a good workout. They will do the same for your mind.
Here is the key. Political candidates who disagree with each other have worked hard and deliberated long over their positions. They are neither lazy nor are they stupid people.
As a result, it is unlikely that any candidate will be entirely wrong.
So, remember that whoever wins must serve the voters who agree with them AND voters who disagree with them. The voters on the losing side deserve fair representation.
A debate, therefor, helps voters understand all points of view. You can understand someone without agreeing. That’s how to find a middle ground that does not abandon people with a different point of view.
A debate well run and carefully listened to is the antidote to the hyper-polarization of our current political climate. The few—but vocal—minority who insist on having every decision come down on their side have no useful function in a well-ordered democracy.
A political debate and a democratic election are not sporting events. The terms “winner and loser” have different meanings than in a competitive sporting event.
In politics done right, winners and losers are all citizens on the same team, not opponents where “Winner takes all.” In a well-run democracy, “Winner serves all.”
One warning has to be added to this User Guide.
Opinions expressed with name-calling and insults, sarcasm and ridicule, are a sign that the debater is unprepared and insecure. The User Guide for Debates defines those as a debate malfunction. The wise listener will disqualify all opinions delivered in such terms.
The late Barbara Jordan, a Texas lawyer, educator, politician and Civil Rights leader said, “It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision.
So, please join the Jamestown Gazette, tune in, and participate in the upcoming debates by being the skilled, careful listener without whom no one can really tell the truth.
And, of course, enjoy the read.