Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Disagree to Agree

These are the times when I start to realize that my father and I have been living under the same roof for too long. Not 15 minutes ago, my father and I had one of our (for lack of a better term) spirited debates. Under normal circumstances, this would be great. I love debating with people and have debated, with myself, about starting a debate club. Hell, it's what I do 75% of the time with my friends anyway. The problem is that my father tends to get angry if someone doesn't agree with him all the way. And when he gets angry, he gets agitated, belligerent, and starts putting words in his opponents mouths, denying he's doing so the whole time.

Before I go any further, if you are reading this and assuming my father is a gruff individual, I'd ask you to remember that you are only hearing my account of what is going on, and that you try not to form opinions about someone based solely on the account of someone who is in disagreement with him. I do not pretend to know exactly what my father thinks, and if I give you that impression, please take it with a grain of salt. I ask you give him the same courtesy. Let's continue.

The argument, this time, was on the issue of gun control. Just for grounding purposes, these arguments in the past have been about religious tolerance, women's rights, and the pursuit of peace and prosperity. What I often find disturbing is that we agree on most issues. But it seems like when I disagree with my father on one or two points, he assumes I'm in favor of the opposite extreme. Here's an example. The argument centered around the control of assault rifles and weapons of mass death. My father's solution was to aggressively ban the possession, sale, and manufacturing of these weapons. My argument was to limit these weapons, possibly to use within gun clubs and other specific arenas where people could get their gun fix without harming people while increasing education and awareness to help ease back the oppressive gun culture we have in the country. I also argued that an aggressive ban would create a thriving black market and would have other adverse side effects that carried the possibly of making the problem worse.

However, although I feel like I stated my position clearly, provided clear analogs, examples, and philosophical guidelines, my father seemed convinced that I was, and I'm quote my father to the best of my memory:
Throwing up my hands and giving up on the problem. I wanted the wild west and had no sympathy for the victims of these tragedies that have blighted our country in recent months.
I'm fairly confident that I did not say that in any way. Perhaps part of the problem is my speech patterns. I like to play devil's advocate, often pointing out (but not agreeing with) the beliefs of the opposing side. So I'll often start my statements with something like:
It's true that the political climate in this country is one of gun crazies. People love guns and will do almost anything to defend them. But I feel this is a problem that can be solved and should be given the utmost attention by educators and people who have the power to change people's minds.
If you have noticed, some of the text is colored red. Where the red text starts is usually where I get cut off by my father, who will begin to say that my statement up until that point is one agreeing with the people I don't agree with. By the time I get around to completing my statement, my father has already seemed to latch on to the idea that I am disagreeing with him, even though I am agreeing with him for the most part.

But perhaps the worst part is that my father seems to have a hard time letting it go. When it has become clear that we cannot make any headway in reaching an amiable solution, I'm ready to declare the age old "Agree to disagree" and walk away before things get too heated. But not only is my father not willing to let me walk away, but when I finally do, he will sometimes track me down and reinstate the argument. To be frank, I'm beginning to get tired of this. But it's within my nature to try and hold friendly debates. Or at least debates more friendly than this. I need to get a job and move out before we start going for each other's throats.