We Will Not Always Agree

– Zach Ricks

It’s one of the first things I told our little group when we first started meeting in North Austin last year. And only now, looking back, do I realize how true that was.

Members of the 9-12 project don’t necessarily agree with each other on policies. We don’t necessarily agree on implementation. We don’t agree on which issues we should be focusing on, where we should be directing our efforts, which candidates we prefer, etc.

And that’s all right. In fact, I prefer honest, principled disagreement to rah-rah boosterism. And it’s a lot better than silent disagreement.

There was a fairly breathtaking display of that a few weeks ago, when I was included in an e-mail discussion on nullification. In the e-mail chain, there was a lot of praise of the idea that States can require the Federal Government to demonstrate the Constitutionality of a law or regulation prior to the State enforcing said law. In fact, one person made the statement that they were disappointed in our current Governor’s bringing suit against the Federal Government, arguing that a court battle wasn’t necessary in this case.

Now, I have to admit, I went to law school, so my perspective on this issue was perhaps a little different from that of my fellow “9-12’ers”, so I proceeded to make my thoughts on the issue known. What followed was a lively discussion on the merits of the issue, of the value (or lack thereof) of a legal education, and of the relationship between the Federal Government and the States.

I’m glad it happened, first and foremost, because it gave me a chance to crystallize my own thoughts on the matter. It also gave me an opportunity to see things from other people’s perspectives. Everyone benefits from thoughtful, respectful, vigorous conversation on an issue.

If we disagree on policy, and talk about it, maybe something you say will help me see things in a different light.

If we disagree on a candidate, and talk about it, maybe something you know about that candidate can help me understand things they’ve said, positions they’ve taken, or votes they’ve made. Maybe you know where someone’s pivot point was, and you can help me feel more comfortable about that person as an elected official.

Or maybe I can do some of the same for you. I’m a big believer in the marketplace of ideas. I’m not always going to be right. But I am going to participate in the exchange, and so should you. Maybe through the course of discussion, we’ll both realize we were a little off initially, and come to a third alternative that we wouldn’t have gotten to on our own. The disagreement in that case helps both of us. It doesn’t have to destroy the relationship.

So long as we agree on some basic foundational things, we can work together and make a difference in our local communities. Making that difference locally will make a difference in the state, and then in the country at large. Seven out of nine. You don’t believe in God? That’s okay. Do you think that the government can’t and shouldn’t try to force you to be charitable? That you and your spouse should have the final word in how your kids are raised? That America, on the whole, is a good place and has done good in the world? That the law should apply to everyone equally? Then let’s join hands and work to make the country better for our kids.

You believe that you have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but that there should be some kind of guarantee of equal results? I’m not going to raise that big a fuss, if we can agree that you should try to be a more honest person today than you were yesterday, and that it’s not un-American to disagree with authority. Can we agree that the government works for the People, and not the other way around? Then let’s get together (yeah yeah yeah).

We can and will disagree in places, and that isn’t the end of the world. After all, we’re all only human, and we’re all fallible. The real trick is to find the places where we do agree, and where we don’t – we disagree honestly and respectfully.

But we start with seven out of nine. Can we at least agree on seven out of nine?

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