Posted by: MC | August 27, 2012

The Hope in Opposition

NOTE:  An opposition in public discourse occurs when opinions on a given matter appear sharply polarized.  E.g., global warming is a problem: there’s no global warming.  From one view, opposition makes for intractability.  From another it makes for opportunity.  Listening and speaking across difference – the willingness and skill for that – makes the difference.

A few trending Oppositions
in admitted editorial rendering (i.e., I like all of us am biased by my experience):

  • Akin, with his necessarily naive anatomy, makes claims about women’s bodies relative to rape and his definition thereof.  Many American women speak out for their voting power to squelch such objectifying thinking among public policy makers.
  • Romney jovially asserts that obviously both he and Ryan were born in the USA.  Others in the media observe that many Americans of many hues and appearances having little in common w/ the Rs, were also obviously born American.
  • To some futurists with manifest destiny ambitions, the ice on Mars means we gotta colonize. That colonization thing hasn’t gone so well for lots of people and the environment up to now.
  • In the wake of Aurora, Chicago and the streets beneath the Empire State Building we remember that guns kill people.  Gun rights activists say again that only criminals use guns unlawfully and continue defending guns as rightfully owned for protecting individuals from each other and from the government.  Oh, and for hunting.
  • Rich people continue to persuade many that to keep an economy strong they must be kept rich.  Unemployed people (like lots of college graduates) and laborers make their case that it’s the workers who keep an economy strong when they are employed and participating in that economy.
  • Some people think it matters whether Kanye West and Kim Kardashian dress alike.  Others of us don’t.
  • The row of people texting on the bus this morning have no sense of community connection.  We’re in more contact with each other locally and globally than ever.  [Then there’s this question:  can technology ever eliminate the impulse to be in relationship — arising, some would argue, from its inescapable necessity?]

This is the way it goes and goes.  The hope in our oppositions arises from the possibility of conversations.  We take our opinions and, being social beings, we talk with each other.  Of course, we tend to talk most with people who are likely to come down on the side we take.  Still, if we don’t get clear on our positions, we can’t begin to check into the overlap in fundamental interests surrounding points of disagreement.  Opposition is uncomfortable when engaged across the people who don’t agree.  Though we don’t admit it, it’s also unsettling when we never engage outside our way of thinking.  That’s because knowing there’s opposition, but not speaking with the opponent makes for fear-on-steroids.

This weekend I read the first few chapters of a visionary’s tale of Earth’s redemption.  His argument so far – we everyday folk really are way more inclined toward helping each other.  If we can survive the annihilating competition among the rich and powerful; and if we can survive our own love affairs with fear and isolation, our natural inclination to be helpful and helped could save the day.

This, of course, reminded me of what I heard and learned from the road trips, interviews, and community conversations for 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change. 

The oppositions, instead of only being reason to avoid each other, can keep us in dialogue.  Opposition provides opportunities, at least for people who aren’t running for office – and really even for them – to listen and by listening to respond from hope and help rather than fear.  It’s seeming more and more the job of everyday folk to show our leaders how this works.

[Posted on Monday morning with powerful
wishes for safety and good fortune as the
people and communities in Hurricane Isaac’s
path take care of themselves and each other.]


  1. While aversion may be part of our human condition, the cultivation of, and our addiction to, fear have (I fear) reached unnatural and life-threatening proportion. Love-of-life threatening, and love-of ourselves-and-others threatening. We have allowed the unlearning of our innate wiring for empathy/mirroring for/of others.

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