Yes, you read it correctly. Conflict is not only welcomed in my life, it is actually needed. Aside from the fact that I teach a course on conflict resolution and so I spend more time on this topic then most humans do, I actually like conflict. Crazy right? Not really.
I start my course by saying that if you are adverse to conflict you must also not want diversity in your life. People who appreciate diversity understand that conflict is a natural outgrowth of diversity. Say what? Simple, anytime you have diversity you create an opportunity for conflict. For example, say you are going out to dinner with friends and are given a choice: Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese food. We live in a society in which this choice is available to us. In fact we want this choice. Imagine having no choice in cuisine when going out to dinner. Don't laugh, not too long ago going out for Italian food was considered exotic.
The moment you give others the ability to make a choice you create an opportunity for conflict. So suddenly going out for a nice dinner with friends turns into... I don't like Thai, Chinese food gives me heartburn or I hate ethnic food. All this discourse simply because you gave a group of people choices in a food group. Well, the same holds true for any other situation.
From roommate disagreements in college regarding overnight visitors to international disputes like the Palestinian right to statehood, conflict is a part of living a diverse life. So for those of you who are conflict adverse, you must lead very boring lives. Never voicing your objections but also never allowing yourself to have a voice. Your silence is what allows assholes, bullies and cowards to dominate our space. How sad, going through life allowing others to make decisions for you simply because you do not want to disagree.
For me, the opportunity to learn comes from the disagreement. I don't want to be surrounded by people who think like me. For every Joe there should be a Mika and for every Carville a Matlin. And if you have no idea who these people are I can only hope you did not vote!
What happened to the concept of "Let's agree to disagree and remain friends"? I grew up in a world in which Miss Piggy and Kermit fought and made-up. Oscar the Grouch was an important part of the neighborhood. He gave Big Bird a purpose. Otherwise why have the oversize saccharine yellow puppet? Oh wait, he may be on his way out anyway.
Imagine a world in which Japan and the U.S. were not allies or Germany and England were never able to come together after World War II. Learning how to disagree, understanding each others perceptions of situations is an important part of living in society.
Why is it that we are able to understand the concept of a Modern Family in which two men can adopt a baby girl but imagining a sitcom where two left wing political activist parents winding up with a conservative son is unthinkable. Guess what, folks? That sitcom did exist 20 years ago. It was called Family Ties. Michael J. Fox played the son (Alex Keaton) and his parents loved him despite the fact that he was a raging Republican with posters of Ronald Reagan in his room. The differing views on politics within this family made for a very successful and funny show.
So I leave you this Election Day with parting words from the Keaton household and remind you that conflicting ideas are not only healthy but necessary.
"Alex: Jennifer, I'm in college to learn about money, not people. Jennifer: Alex, there's more to life than just getting rich. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. Alex: Jennifer, people who have money don't need people." -- Family Ties
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