The Argument Culture

A favorite is Deborah Tannen’s book, The Argument Culture. In it, she points to similarities that can be drawn between war and public discourse. She observes that in order for a public discourse to have sizzle, (my word, not hers) there must be conflict.

This morning, I found an example of the sort of thing she describes. Dan Schur, in his guest blog on the NY Time’s site, made the following statement:

Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments would seem to have forced Senator Obama to choose sides — to either stand with Reverend Wright and others who support his condemnations of the United States, or with those who think they should be rejected out of hand.

I commented there and elaborate here.

I disagree that Reverend Wright’s statements required Obama to “choose sides.” Choosing sides is helpful in creating dramatic tension for Schur’s article but of limited value in bringing people together. The Reverend’s actions were divisive. But so is Schur’s suggestion that Obama, and by implication the rest of us, should all choose sides.

We have just seen that Eliot Sptizer, held up by the public as a rock of integrity was, in fact, human. So too, it appears, is the Reverend Wright. I am not without sin. I will not be the first to cast stones at either of these two men.

For those of you who may have missed Obama’s speech, he both rejected Wright’s remarks and stood with him as a decent human who cared for people of all races.

Collaboration and healing take place only when differences are acknowledged honestly and openly. Collaboration and healing take place only when individuals are brave enough to stand the middle ground and see the virtue — and the sin — in those individuals, like Schur and Wright, who have chosen their respective sides.

Contrary to Schur’s thinking, I think Reverend Wright’s actions were a call to Obama to hold the middle ground. I think he did so directly and with honesty. All the more brave for a man on the stump.

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One Response to “The Argument Culture”

  1. obama or osama are the same sweet taikers. like wright says obama is a politician and will do what politicians do to get ELECTED . OBAMA is chameleon so beware of this double face demon.

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