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  • Richard Kerger

What Happened to Reasoned Discourse?

Because I am a trial lawyer, I am regularly engaged in arguments, sometimes fierce arguments, with opposing counsel. I am equally involved in arguments with Judges about the need for certain rulings made in my clients favor. And yes, even the arguments with Judges can become heated.

But at the end of the day we can have friendly conversations without rancor or bitterness. We recognize that the lawyers and Judges have differing roles. The lawyer representing my opponent is going to be doing things that I do not like. That is his job. I will be doing the same. Equally the Judge has to make rulings on the issues presented and it is often not clear what the outcome should be. But the Judge has to make a decision and does. She may decide it in a way I consider utterly wrong but she will most often have done her best to analyze the issues and just concluded differently than I did. So be it.

But these days, and most particularly in politics, the arguments are so shrill and the tempers so heated that the only conclusion drawn by the participants is that the other side is pure evil. There is no attempt to step back and look at the issues in a way that would allow each side to at least understand the other’s thinking.

It is not that they are going to suddenly come to an agreement. The process will not be like Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. But all of us live in the same city, or state, or country. If we get too disruptive, we will tip over the boat in which we are all riding, and that will be a tragic outcome for everyone.

I am by no means suggesting people have to give up their beliefs or convictions. But I think they do have to make room for the beliefs and convictions of their opponents and respect them as being at least as valid as their own.

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