Over the last couple of weeks I've been working through what I've found to be a must-read book by Danielle Allen, called Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. Allen’s key argument is that modern democracies have been founded on a notion of unity as the imaginary touchstone for the existence of the will of the people.
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For the past three weeks, ever since the release of my book, All Who Go Do Not Return, I have been getting this question at least once a day: “Where is your anger?”
In every performance evaluation I have ever received, I have been told by a well-meaning supervisor: “If you are stressed out, you need to practice saying no.” And every time, this makes me crazy. As a young female professional in a “Lean In” world, saying no seems antithetical to the dream of having it all, or at least having what will make me happy. Saying no also means I will miss out on some opportunities and that people may be disappointed or angry with me. In short, saying no feels impossible. I know I’m not alone in this.
These past few weeks I have been conscious of practicing the Art of Saying No a lot. Let me be clear: it is definitely practice, because I’m nowhere near perfect. Nevertheless, it is also an art, and as such requires attention to detail and style as well as substance.
Ask Big Questions has been selected to receive the inaugural Outstanding Program award by the Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion & Meaning at the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).
Ask Big Questions, an initiative of Hillel International, brings diverse college students together for conversations that help people better understand themselves and others. These conversations create community and inspire action.
For me, disagreement is a fundamental demonstration of love. That we care enough about the person and ideas we are passionate about to engage them. The defining issue is our ethic of how we choose to disagree.
Understandably, activists for any type of cause get mired in actions that often make people angry on one end of a spectrum or another. Remember: To live in community is to live in conflict.
We cannot be in community with others unless we are also willing to engage deeply enough to have conflict and disagreement.
How do we disagree? Depending on the day I’ve had, the weather outside, and the people I’m surrounded by, I have conflicting opinions.
When I’m in a primal state, like at the gym, I believe we disagree like wild animals- our nervous system tells us to fight, flight, or freeze.
After a poetry reading, I feel just the opposite. “We have consciousness!” I argue. “We disagree like philosophers! Like rational beings!”