Dialogue is possible, but you have to want to exchange

Opinion

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Ken Trainor

If you're wondering whether genuine dialogue is possible on a deeply polarizing issue like abortion, I refer you to the One View to the left (actually, your left?#34;my right, as I look out at you from my little photo box). If you haven't already, please read Greg Black's fine, thought-provoking opinion first, then come back to this column.

Here's what dialogue looks like: You reach a position on a controversial issue based on reason. Emotion may play a part, but never a dominant part. As a wise man once said, you can't reason anyone out of position that he didn't reason him or herself into.

Reasoning yourself into a position typically means you don't then hate, despise, pity or condemn those who hold a different opinion. You don't call them liars either. When I listen to a person of reason, I respect the position they articulate, even if I don't agree with it?#34;even if I strongly disagree with it.

And when the other person doesn't condemn or despise me for daring to disagree, I feel safe enough to open the door to dialogue, which means exposing myself to the possibility that my position might change as a result of the exchange.

But conversion is not the purpose of dialogue. The primary purpose is being understood by someone else?#34;and learning something in the process.

I didn't become pro-choice based on emotion or because someone else told me to or because of lazy thinking. I've thought about abortion carefully and often since 1973. That's a long time. Because I've put a lot of thought into it, I expect a thoughtful person to at least accord me some basic respect and courtesy. And he or she has a right to expect the same from me.

I don't believe I have all the answers on the subject, and I know the other person doesn't either. In fact, I consider dialogue on the subject of abortion to be nothing less than an act of the highest patriotism?#34;loving one's country enough to want to help it move beyond the moral impasse we've been stuck in, which infects almost every other part of the political landscape.

If we can get past the abortion stalemate, this country might finally begin to move forward again.

In my previous abortion column (April 20), I said we're all guilty of perpetuating a "culture of death," which goes far beyond the narrow (though significant) issue of abortion. If you accept that we all have blood on our hands, we can start to see one another as potential allies instead of ideological enemies. Once that happens, the whole dynamic of the discussion changes.

Greg?#34;to my right (your left)?#34;presents the argument that the sheer number of abortions make it among the most compelling wrongs to address, if not the most compelling.

Presuming that number is correct, it's a compelling argument, one I believe pro-choice people need to wrestle with and address.

"Last year," he says, "abortion destroyed 1,300,000 human lives." As I wrote previously, having suffered through two miscarriages, I would modify that to "potential human lives," but it's still a large number. And he's correct as well that such destruction is government-approved (or at any rate legalized).

One of the valuable perspectives abortion opponents bring to this discussion?#34;which, as I noted, is not for the faint of heart?#34;is forcing those of us who are pro-choice to look at and acknowledge the truly uncomfortable and unpleasant side of abortion. That's not only healthy, it keeps us honest.

Of course, we also need to accord pro-lifers the same discomfort.

Which is precisely what I'll attempt to do in my full response to Greg next week. In the meantime, I can't express just how much I appreciate his letter. It restores my faith in my fellow citizens.

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