Learning to Debate

Nikolas, my caterpillar eye-browed, olive skinned friend poured me another steaming cup of liquid. That frothy, velveteen, nectar of the gods that the Greek swear is different from Turkish coffee. He looked me square in the eye with that unblinking, mesmerizing stare which only the Greek can muster and said: “The trouble with you Americans is that you just don’t know how to argue. You think that anyone expressing an opinion which differs from yours must be an enemy.” I couldn’t move my lips. I had no retort that would have been worthy of the effort spent. He was right. We set up these divisions: black and white, Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative. Somehow these names that we’ve given to our petty differences create walls that we believe cannot be overcome. We seem to forget that underneath all the smoke and mirrors conjured by our politicians and religious leaders, we are all carting around the very same DNA.

Now Greeks, they know how to argue. So do the Italians, the French and the Spaniards. I’ve witnessed many, many debates in pubs and bars throughout Europe erupt into anger, fisticuffs and filth. I’ve seen men bloody each other’s noses and swear death by duel. I have also seen these same men, the very next day, hugging, kissing cheeks and buying each other drinks as if no argument had ever taken place. That rarely happens in my country. I wish that it would. Just a few short hours ago I opted out of a Facebook political discussion group because I just couldn’t stand the negativity, ignorance, and stupidity that I was witnessing there. I grew tired of watching as grown men were becoming bitter enemies. I couldn’t stand watching that wall being built.

Yes, I know I’m romanticizing. The various wars that constantly plague the European continent will attest that they do indeed have these walls over there as well. But isn’t it sweet to dream? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn how to argue? Maybe tomorrow we could pat each other on the back, buy each other a cup of that frothy Greek coffee and laugh about that debate we had last night?

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