Respect Other Views

Written by Dr. David Mrad, Director of Clinical Training

Of all the tenets of our civility initiative, the one that is most important to me is Respect Other Views.In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that defendants who were "mentally retarded” were not subject to capital punishment. When I was reading their decision, with which I firmly agreed, I also read the dissenting opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia. Although I disagreed with his opinion, to my horror I found myself agreeing with his reasoning and many of the points he was making. What could this mean? Winston Churchill famously once said, "If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart.If you are not a conservative by 40, you have no brain.” I was past 40, even past 50, at the time, so I was concerned that I had gone over to the "dark side.” Later, in a 60 Minutes segment, I discovered that Justice Scalia’s best friend on the Court was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, possibly the most liberal member of the Court. Apparently, they have developed the capacity to respect and even like each other while still disagreeing forcefully about some of the great issues of our times.

I fear that as a society we are losing that ability, to whatever degree we ever had it. So often in the media and, unfortunately even within our community, I see us not only disagreeing with another person’s ideas but vilifying them for holding those ideas. Essentially, we say, "You’re ideas are not just wrong, but you are an awful person, deserving of loathing and rejection, for holding them.” I say we, because I am sometimes just as guilty of that leap of logic as anyone. Life would be so much simpler if everyone could be easily divided into two categories, the good people (who share my ideas) and the bad people (who disagree with me). I think the key to being able to consider the ideas of others respectfully is to respect those others themselves. We are all very complex, multi-faceted beings, with many attitudes, ideas, and opinions. I am sometimes amazed to realize that even with those whose ideas I most dislike; I probably have more in common than the few, though important, items on which we disagree.If I can remind myself of that commonality and maintain my respect for them as fellow fallible human beings, then maybe I can consider their ideas in a fairer and more open minded manner and work toward some middle ground.