I’m writing this on my cell phone. That magical device that I spend too much of my day on. That device that contains answers to more questions than I’ll ever have time to contemplate. It connects me with my parents and my rabbi, my clients and my junior prom date. With this phone, I communicate with the world and the world communicates with me.
Though we spend all day communicating on these things, I’m increasingly troubled that the art of respectful disagreement seems to be disappearing.
As an attorney, I am always seeking consensus, but often spend more time navigating disagreement. It’s hard. Disagreement is hard. But it is the cornerstone of healthy communication.
Disagreement is central to a healthy marriage. It built the best parts of our country. And it has always been the tool that we’ve used to fix the broken parts. Disagreement is also central to our Jewish tradition. As Jews, we so value disagreement that the process itself — and not just the result — comprises a significant portion of our written text.
I recently heard a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that’s felt especially timely: “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of believing I am persecuted when I am contradicted.“ This resolution was written by Emerson some 185 years ago, but it’s as if he lived among us — through the culture wars, the “Big Sort,” and the Capitol insurrection.
As I prepare for the high holidays this year, I am reflecting on the times that I have confused contradiction with persecution. And I am attempting to reflect, with grace, on the times those I love have conflated the two in conversation with me.
I am working up the courage to disagree healthily over the next year, without taking personal offense. And I am looking forward to lovingly disagreeing with many of you in the year to come.