Disagreements and their progeny, the much-cherished arguments, have been a part of human history since there has been a human history. Given human nature, the first disagreements and the subsequent arguments they bred, most likely involved that history — though at the time history was also likely less than 24 hours long. But regardless of when the first argument took place, people do in fact enjoy them.

Whether slow, long discourses on philosophy or spirited discussions involving current and past events, they have proven to be quite popular.

Baseball notwithstanding, disagreements (and arguments) are the national pastime. One can almost envision an announcer giving a play-by-play, in fact, complete with a roaring crowd and the inevitable hecklers.

“He’s got the crowd fired up, folks! He’s stepping up to bat and pointing at the center-field fence, just daring the pitcher serve up his best, white-knuckled argument. This guy stretches verbs and bends metaphors with the best of them! But the pitcher looks ready for him — he nods to the signal from the coach, and there’s the windup … Ooh, it’s a fast-sliding counterpoint, low and on the inside. Strike one! No, wait, the umpire calls it a ball! And the crowd erupts in disbelief! They’re on their feet and look at all those angry faces on the Jumbo-Tron! This game’s gonna be a hot one!”

At this point in an actual baseball game, other umpires and video play-by-play would be consulted. After that, someone would yell “play ball,” and the game would continue. But what if it didn’t? What if the umpires eventually agreed, but it still wasn’t satisfactory? Maybe some people thought the play by play wasn’t clear either, so there was no other acceptable clarification. And then, what if the crowds in the bleachers refused to accept the strike-versus-ball ruling? What would happen then?

Well, of course, the pitcher’s teammates are going to rush the field in support. Then the batter’s teammates will follow suit until the infield is filled with opposing jerseys. Then the crowd gets involved, tossing whatever is handy out onto the field and jumping the fence to rush to the support of their team. Everyone is crowding in, yelling at the top of their lungs, amidst the lost hats, torn jerseys and the inevitable black eyes — or worse. Field security rushes in to break up the good old-fashioned “donnybrook,” hopefully while there is still a “field” under all those angry feet. Ambulances arrive, and the game is delayed or canceled, with even the guy selling peanuts left scratching his head and wondering how this all happened.

Disagreements, of course, are relatively manageable things with each side offering opposing views and then considering the reply to those views. But their children, well, they are known for getting out of control. Arguments never stop to listen to the opposing views or consider the possibility of error in their own views. Their responses typically grow in volume, in fact, to drown out opposing views before they are ever heard. The conclusion is foregone, of course, which makes discussion nothing more a minor concession to form. And respect for content beyond their own is irrelevant.

This country, the “field,” was founded upon the concept that each voice is equal to every other voice, and that each voice deserves to be heard. It was also founded upon a sense of principals, and “rules” that could be amended as necessary based upon the combined consensus of those voices. Sometimes some voices grow louder than others, and this is to be expected. But no single voice or group of voices should be allowed to grow so strident that it drowns out the other voices. And though different “teams” may take the field at different times, each of those teams should be playing the same game.

Subverting the rules of the game functionally ends the game. Those left might be playing something similar, but it is a different game. Still, we can disagree and work together to change the rules as necessary while still maintaining the integrity of it. Anything else is a failure, because if one single team can take over the field then it is no longer a game — and it is no longer a democracy either. All that would be left at that point would be a single self-indulgent group that will, by its own precedent, turn on itself until all that is left of the field is churned earth.

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