For the sake of argument

Posted: Sunday, May 09, 2010

I went on a trip with my four sisters last fall. We had a really good time and we are still speaking after 10 days in close proximity.

Our ages span 22 years, so we have never in our lives spent 10 days all together. We see each other pretty regularly, but seldom all at once, so we made a plan after our parents were gone and our reasons for gathering no longer apparent, to do a trip together every once in awhile. We have tried to get the brothers involved but the latest reaction was "You've got to be kidding!" so we went on our merry way without the benefit of male sibling input. That's OK, though, because making decisions by committee is not one of their strong suits.

And, because of the age range, the five of us are in various stages of our lives so it was an interesting observation to see how we each adapted to various situations. My oldest son, who is older than two of these aunts, remarked that it must be about like herding cats to get everyone going in one direction, but we did fine. We older ones sorta stood back and let the youngsters take the lead unless we had strong feelings about the outcome.

The most interesting accomplishment was getting five of us happily through our morning showers. This is where lifestyle made a difference. The youngest is a night person, so she'd sleep through the first round, which was usually Lucy (not her name, but we call her Lucy because she reminds us of the Peanuts character -- a lot). She is up and moving before she's awake most days so everyone stays out of her way. That gave the rest of us time for a second cup of coffee.

And two of us slept in a different room so we could use our shower at our leisure because we're compatible. Whoever is up first gets the shower. The other gets a few minutes extra sleep.

We knew the other three were still figuring out who's first (or last) anyway. All in all, by the time the youngster was ready to shower we were all out of the rooms heading for breakfast so she could prepare in her own time which is somewhere between "pretty soon" and "in a minute." Worked for all of us. And she eventually showed up -- hair combed, makeup perfect, earrings dangling, shoes on.

She makes the rest of us look good by association. Baby Sis takes the extra minute to be glamorous and we "other four" gather some of the glory.

Isn't that the way with a lot of things in life? We take them at face value without examining the situation. We read a good book and by extension, every book that author ever wrote is "good." And of course the opposite is also true: We see or hear something we don't agree with and automatically, everything from that source is forever negative.

This is especially true of social and political issues. And that is really too bad. These days, we gather only with people who think the same as we do. No one branches out to see if any new ideas exist or if there is common ground in an argument. Where has the ability to discuss and politely argue a point gone?

Some issues can be settled only by consensus, but how can one be reached if no one is willing to listen to the other side? It seems to be no longer possible to have a civil disagreement. Instead of discussing your differences and agreeing to disagree, your opponent is likely to call you a name, impugn your intelligence and that of your parents and post some diatribe unrelated to the original argument on the Internet, where it remains forever. Long after the original disagreement is forgotten, someone is apt to say "I just saw on the Internet where you dyed your hair purple and danced on a table when you were 18."

In the old days, one's good name was precious, and assuming you didn't keep a misstep going by further unwise actions, a few bumps and scratches were eventually polished out. Not so today. Transgressions live forever.

It doesn't really make much difference if you tout Dr. Seuss as the greatest writer ever because your mom read you "The Cat In the Hat" when you were 4. People might look at you funny and suggest you try Carl Hiaasen some time, but no damage has been done to your reputation or to Dr. Seuss' for that matter.

And I'm sure Little Sister doesn't mind our riding on her glamorous coattails because after all, she learned all she knows from us. She's watched us experience big hair, mini skirts, thigh high boots and flavored vodka and she still came out OK.

I wish it was that easy with social and political adversaries. We might accomplish something positive if it was as easy as herding cats.

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.

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