Nation of Beancounters

The importance of being reasonable

Posted in Uncategorized by Navin Kumar on February 8, 2014

Jonathan Rauch:

In 2004, when I was making the talk-show rounds for my new book on gay marriage, I found myself on a Seattle radio station, debating a prominent gay-marriage opponent. After she made her case and I made mine, a caller rang in to complain to the host. “Your guest,” he said, meaning me, “is the most dangerous man in America.” Why? “Because,” said the caller, “he sounds so reasonable.”

In hindsight, this may be the greatest compliment I have ever been paid. It is certainly among the most sincere. Despite the caller’s best efforts to shut out what I was saying, the debate he was hearing—and the contrast between me and my adversary—was working on him. I doubt he changed his mind that day, but I could tell he was thinking, almost against his will. Hannah Arendt once wrote, “Truth carries within itself an element of coercion.” The caller felt that he was in some sense being forced to see merit in what I was saying.

Your opponents will always think that your ideas are irrational; based on emotion rather than logic. Your job is to prove them wrong, by being as clam and rational as possible. Thus are minds, and later hearts, won.

The essay is about why gay activists shouldn’t boycott homophobic celebrities. Rauch ascribes recent victories in the US to minds being changed.

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