The Leadoff: Times are changing


Somehow, someway, I found myself bellying up to an empty Elk’s Lodge bar last Tuesday night from around 7 p.m. till about 8:30 p.m. If you’ve ever been in an Elk’s Lodge you can picture it. Two lonely, spider web-draped, televisions hung in the corners with one set to Fox News while the other was covering some midweek MACtion.

There were five different versions of the Budweiser beer mirrors (you know the ones) that hung from the weathered wood walls that looked as if they contained countless whispers of old war stories.

As I was sitting there waiting for the conclusion of an event, the bartender and I began a conversation. His name was AC, which I must say is one of the coolest names I’ve heard in awhile. We aren't making AC’s anymore and I think they should make a comeback, I certainly like the name AC more than something generic like Bob or Jared.

Anyways back to my point, we started a conversation. Now, because this topic is so touchy right now I am going to leave the content of our conversation out, but the result is the same.

He asked me how I felt about something that is currently going on in sports and what my opinion on it was. I already knew his position, I don't want to say I judged him but there were several things in the bar that more or less indicated as such. He asked me how I felt and began to play devil's advocate on each of his points. I am contrarian in nature, so engaging in banter with someone that I disagree with is something I do often.

AC stood by his points and I kept providing new questions just trying to stimulate a healthy discussion, and that is what happened. That is the whole story. I didn't change my position, he didn't change his, and what is most beautiful to me is that neither of us raised our voices. There were no furrowed brows, no hard feelings, just two men having a conversation about things they disagree on.

I don't know if he learned anything from me, but I certainly learned something from him. I saw the passion in his eyes when he spoke, I heard the subtle drops in tone and it just helped me realize that you can’t know what someone is going through unless you actually know them.

What I mean by that is that I disagreed and still do with what he was saying, but hearing his reasons and his sincerity made me feel something. I was less interested in converting him to my side and more interested in learning about the man.

With the rise of the internet came the rise of internet trolls and nasty arguments online that always end in some sort of character assassination. I feel like that has started to permeate into face-to-face interactions and it’s not good. It’s OK to have a discussion without someone on something you don't agree on. It’s OK to walk away from the conversation with a smile on your face rather than boiling anger because someone couldn't see your points.

I realized as I walked away from AC that I hadn't had a healthy discussion with someone who has a different viewpoint that me in quite some time, perhaps college. I miss it, that's really how you learn. There is too much confirmation bias going on today. People on the left watch CNN and those on the right watch Fox News and both are only interested in calling each other out rather than learning from one another.

I challenge you to have a discussion with someone that has a different viewpoint this week but don't get angry, don't raise your voice. Speaking louder doesn't make what you are saying any more correct. It could be on something as simple as, “Hey do you put peanut butter on both pieces of bread or just one?” (both sides is the only acceptable answer) or something as complex as what is your stance on healthcare. Just get out of your comfort zone for a little.

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