Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What makes us strong

Some of you may have noticed that we are in the middle of a presidential campaign. No, really, we are. I know it's been quiet and respectful and most people don't have an opinion, but trust me.

I've been watching Laini Taylor's blog and how the issues of the election, and of the country in general, are being vigorously debated there and elsewhere. It can be frustrating, and I mean bang-your-head-into-the-wall frustrating to hear the other side argued as vigorously as our own. How could they possibly think that? Etc.

I think argument is good. Disagreement is good. Democracy doesn't just protect our right to disagree, it needs it. Think of all the bad-guy totalitarian regimes through history: do you think they had anywhere near the level of rhetoric we have today?

Yes, it's embarrassing. Yes, it's childish. Yes, in some cases, it's rude and even wrong to shout racial epithets or to get caught up in confusing patriotism with racism because you're in a stadium of people shouting USA! USA! USA!

But still: muscular disagreement makes for muscular democracy. Conflict is good. Contrasts are interesting. Disagreement drives good countries.

Democracy, Churchill said, is the worst form of government. Except for all the others. But the fact that it's not perfect shouldn't make us abandon it, and it shouldn't prevent us from arguing about it. It needs that debate, we all do.

Disagreement also drives good stories. Contrasts are interesting; difficulty makes for good reading. Friction makes heat, and nobody wants a cold story where the hero strides through bad guys without any effort whatsoever.

No, we want muscular writing. Muscular stories. And I have to believe the same thing goes for our country.

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