Opinion: On confrontation and conversation

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I am disheartened; that is how this begins.

In multiple classrooms, in the pages of this paper and elsewhere as well, I have recently and repeatedly experienced situations of bitter disagreement between individuals intent on talking past one another.

It is dangerous and disastrous to enter into interaction anticipating disagreement, to approach relationships as if they are necessarily and inevitably relations of conflict. If one is certain that the other is ultimately one’s opposition, one will soon enough find an opponent.

I am not suggesting that we ought to live naively, our vision obscured with unreal ideals, but rather that we will get nowhere if we spend our short time and precious emotional energy fighting stalemates amongst ourselves.

Nor do I intend to deny the very real existence of incompatible ideologies. We do not, cannot, and should not share identical worldviews, life experiences, and identity positions. But we do share a space, we do share a world, and though we occupy that world differently, we cannot escape one another.

At no time in the process should our differences be denied, downplayed, or ignored. Rather, we must seek out spaces and ways to meet in collaboration as a community, precisely because such interaction is the only way for our differences and commonalities to be more fully understood.

If our only common ground is an earnest commitment to our existence and prosperity as a community, then let us meet there.

Denial of our shared pursuit and linked prospects is not an honest option. We will all remain stagnant and unfulfilled unless we learn to resist conceptualizing interactions as confrontations, and instead conceptualize them as potentially mutually affirming and mutually beneficial.

Erin Caskey is a member of the class of 2011. She can be reached at [email protected]

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