Paris Goodnight: How many things can we agree on?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 26, 2023

When I worked in Charlotte for a brief spell, I had another former newspaper buddy who liked to talk about his time in the business before he jumped ship to another more lucrative opportunity. And even though we might agree on just about everything, he tried his best to convince me to change my mind on the few topics that we didn’t.

We might discuss music one day and find that even though we were in accord on 94 or 95 of the best 100 acts out there, well those five or six that weren’t on my list should be added.

I maintained that all the ones we did agree on should give us ample opportunity to sing their praises instead of focusing on our differences. He tried endlessly to convince me of the merits of the ones I chose not to appreciate. I won’t name them, of course, because they might be your favorites and I certainly wouldn’t want you frowning at me over something as simple as what tunes I choose to put on my play list.

But my question remained, “If we agree on almost everything, why do you try to sway me over on the things we don’t?”

My former co-worker never took that bait and continued his futile efforts.

I believed, and still do, that we can agree to disagree on those types of things and carry on without letting such differences hold us back.

I also wouldn’t tell him but occasionally when something like politics came up, I let him get started and then took the other side of whatever argument he was making just to see how he’d handle it. It was easy enough from there to get the blood vessel in his forehead to poke out as his blood pressure went up and I egged him on from the other side of the conversation, whatever he was trying to convince me of at that moment.

He couldn’t seem to fathom that anyone could disagree with him on whatever issue he brought up, and like I say, it was probably something I could have gone along with anyway but just decided to play a little devil’s advocate to keep the conversation lively.

I’m sure we had some real disagreements over who was right and who was wrong, or as he liked to phrase such discussion topics as who was most on the right and who was more likely to fall off the middle ground to the more left leaning political philosophies.

It was not always hard to get him going on that kind of chatter, and that’s why I wonder sometimes if the things you can read out in the great online playing field or on social media sites is not really somebody just trying to stir the pot more than taking serious looks at the pressing issues of importance.

Some rabble-rousers online could be doing their best to cause strife when most people probably really do agree on the key things at the foundation of our nation or community. That one person kicking the hornet’s nest could just be looking for trouble instead of trying to make this a better place. That’s another key difference online, where disinformation can spread like wildfire since you never really know who is fanning the flames there.

At least if it’s a live person, particularly someone you’re familiar with, the conversation includes some background knowledge of where the person you’re dealing with is coming from, instead of being part of that blank slate out in the Twittersphere or beyond.

Could it be Russians spreading more disinformation our way, or kids trying to get a laugh out of some of their friends? Maybe.

Just like many people who write letters to the editor here or call up to the Post to voice an opinion, we don’t know much about them except maybe what they’ve written in the past. But that doesn’t give much information on how they were raised or what their life experiences have been. Some of them take stances that are easy to see the line in the sand they won’t cross, but I imagine if you were just talking to them or sharing a meal somewhere, the tone and topics would likely be a lot more civil. Would that get us to a better place in the end? Possibly.

But the guy I worked with never took any of my ribbing the wrong way. He just accused me of being on the wrong side of the fence as he walked back to his office to get back to work, like we should have been in the first place.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.