My dad used to say that I'd argue that black was white. I'd answer hotly, "I would not!" Actually, I love a good debate. Some of the best have been inside my own head.
Anne Lamott said it perfectly. "My mind spends much of its time arguing with people who aren't there. I walk along defending myself to people, or exchanging repartee with them, or rationalizing my behavior, or seducing them with gossip, or pretending I'm on their TV talk show or whatever. I speed or run an aging yellow light and don't come to a full stop, and one nanosecond later I'm explaining to imaginary cops exactly why I had to do what I did, or insisting that I did not in fact do it."
The folks in my head hear incredible justifications of why I do what I do, and think what I think. It's all because of Mr. Greaves; he taught debate at Olympus Jr. High. I landed in his class by accident when I signed up for Speech in 8th grade, in preparation for my acting career. Rather than preparing us for the stage, he was preparing us for life. The regular assignment was to argue for an idea for three minutes, and then switch places to argue against the same issue. Researching both sides of a subject opened my mind to both points of view.
In the Deseret News, Sept 10, 2009, Lois M. Collins wrote about her experience:
"My debate class was not just a place where I could stand up and argue my point of view in a forum where people had to listen . . . the lasting value was actually in the fact that it forced me to listen to those who saw things differently, or even adamantly opposed my view. That was the key to writing an effective argument.
"Although my job as a debater was to defend my assigned position on a topic, there were a lot of times when I thought, 'He's right about that,' or 'I never thought of that,' or 'I did not know that.'
It was a learning process that showed me how to do research and helped me refine both my own beliefs and my arguments in support of those beliefs. It gave me a lifelong love of well-reasoned discussion.
"So many of us are out of our comfort zone if we are even just forced to listen to those who hold different ideas about subjects like politics or religion. And it's not enough to just refuse to listen. It's pretty common to dismiss entirely or show open disrespect for those with an opposing viewpoint.
"My dad had very strong beliefs, among them the importance of listening to others and being part of a civilized dialogue. 'All viewpoints should be aired,' he said. The only thing he would not tolerate was rudeness. He demanded we be respectful as we disagreed.
"He taught me that being willing to listen only to those who think the same way I do eliminates all chance of growth. No surprises. No new thoughts or discoveries or opportunities to learn."
Debate led me to an addiction to politics. I follow political talk shows, blogs, newspaper op-ed pages—I love the entire process. I admire the audacity of politicians even when I think they're idiots. It's thrilling to witness their commitment to a cause. While I rant and rave at the press, I review and read anything they give me. And, after I've listened to many sides of the same issue, I draw my own conclusions.
Experience colors our politics. Some of you will remember that I'm obsessed with health care—we need it.
After meeting with the billing department, we received an "uninsured discount" of $11,000, which sounded generous until we remembered that we still had at least $34,000 that we're responsible for. On our way home from the hospital we stopped at the pharmacy. Ninety days worth of new meds cost $856! I'm not kidding. The pharmacist said, "Whoa. That's more than my house payment."
And, of course, there are all the ongoing pre-existing conditions. The heart problems are new. I could go on and on and on . . .
I've been surprised at the response we get when we voice our hopes for health care reform. People are openly rude about it. I've had friends look at me as if I supported terrorism! Some have been disbelieving, not of the situation, but of me. "Surely, if you just called somebody, there would be a logical way out of your predicament," they suggest. That's why people like us are calling the president. Everybody else hung up on us. (Frequently, it was the receptionist at the doctor's office.)
Today when I asked my ophthalmologist for a sample of the eye drops he says I can't stop using ($130 for 30 days) he gave me a tiny bottle and suggested I contact the drug company for "help." He might not realize that the paperwork each company requires (bank statements, tax returns, etc.) will indicate that we make too much (anything over $30,000) to qualify. And who wants to go through the equivalent of a refinance every time they need a prescription? (Here I am, going on and on again.)
Changes in health care won't help us. Medicare will have kicked in by the time anything actually happens, if it happens at all. But our experience is not unique or even uncommon. Millions of families are worried sick, wondering how they would weather a hailstorm of doctor bills. It's a scary way to live. I know.
Your anxieties are probably different than mine. Maybe you drove the ambulance, and you're worried that we can't pay you in time for your new baby.
Or maybe you're concerned that your premiums will go up if people with lots of diseases join your insurance group.
Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.
~What is a politically-charged issue you feel strongly about? Forget the rhetoric you've heard. Using your own words and experience, tell why this is important to you.
~Have you had a discussion/argument with a loved one recently? Write about it from the other person's point of view.
~Remember a class that had a significant impact on your personal philosophy of life. Think about the teacher, and send kindly thoughts.
*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.