Can we disagree without being disagreeable?

Men Arguing, painting by Louis-Leopold-Boilly
Men Arguing, painting by Louis-Leopold-Boilly

A dozen people—maybe more—have laid claim to the admonition we’ve all heard many times. For all I know, it may have first been stated by Emily Post, Amy Vanderbilt, Miss Manners or Little Miss Muffett. Anyway, it is well-worn: “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

That’s a possibility, of course, but there’s a much greater probability that the opposite—disagreement WITH being disagreeable—seems to be a way of life. Firestorms of disagreement rage in our country. Combatants have fangs bared, teeth gritted, knuckles clenched and weapons at the ready.

That was the AMERICAN WAY last year—and quite a few years before that. Little change is anticipated in this brand new one.


   Much of the rancor erupts from individuals and groups who, quite simply, have changed their minds, switching drastically from one extreme to the other.

Take some medical doctors, for example. Their current disagreement—with each other, it should be noted–centers on the optimum blood pressure level for older adults. They’re lobbing research missiles at each other, leaving befuddled patients in limbo. And some poor souls don’t have that much time left for the physicians to decide.

Their wrangling doesn’t seem to affect my blood pressure—one way or the other. Some of my friends, though, feel abandoned, left out in the cold, their blood boiling.


   Have we ever—as a society—been so combative? We don’t know whether to buy whole foods or the fragmented kind, organic or otherwise, natural or processed, fad-laden or fat-free, scented or unscented.

Now, they’re at war about whether we should use bacterial soap or anti-bacterial. Families have been split over such dilemmas.

Some of us, whimpering and ready to put this issue aside, aren’t even sure of the best method for drying our hands. Paper? Cloth? Or maybe with new electronic hot-air hand dryers—the ones with tornadic velocity that re-arrange the vein patterns on our hands.


   Issues abound in all of life’s walks, including politics, religion, business, education and industry.

A generation ago, we could declare our stances to be conservative, moderate or liberal. Not so clear-cut anymore.

A running joke claims parents of a college-bound youngster carefully scrutinized several institutions’ rules, classifying them as being conservative, moderate or liberal. They found one where firearms on campus are strictly forbidden and another where guns are legal, but not encouraged. A third institution, REQUIRES students to own guns.


   We’re also in crossed-sword configurations with the governmental invention at play on several fronts. Many say long-held personal freedoms are at risk.

New revelations suggest that the coming and going of just about everyone are included in government surveillance, including our use of phones, emails and the Internet.

Someone said that with our exploding population and multiple phones in every household, the National Security Agency may soon need to increase its budget. I mean, NSA folks can barely handle all the calls they’re listening in on now.


   On the sports front, fans line up in great numbers defending—and opposing—Dallas Cowboy Quarterback Tony Romo.

Fans in his camp point out that soon after the crushing loss to Green Bay, he showed up hours later at Children’s Medical Center, ostensibly to bring cheer.

His critics don’t buy this, however. They claim he was there to check in.


   In collegiate circles, fans are buzzing about the football coaching search at the University of Texas—the nation’s top revenue producer.

They’re talking about a possible contract for $10 million per year.

That figure is about 400 (yes, four hundred) times greater than legendary Coach Grant Teaff’s pay at Baylor when he began his storied career there in 1975. Of course, he never had an agent.  Neither did Texas A&M’s R C Slocum, another class act.


   The powerball lottery had its biggest pay-off to close out the year, with two winners claiming the $636 million prize. The announced odds of winning were one in 259 million.

Such numbers boggle. Imagine this: Allow a soft drink can, 2.25” in diameter, to represent one ticket. Then, imagine standing up all 259 million–all of them touching. The line would stretch some 9,200 miles—the number needed to completely border the continental United States.

OK. Which can are you gonna pick?


   Don Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/email to[email protected]. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: Twitter: @donnewbury.


Please click the book cover image to read more about When The Porch Light’s On, a collection of stories, anecdotes, and recollections from the humorous and inspirational mind of Don Newbury.


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