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Disagreement vs Dissent in America

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In the middle of the nineteenth century bloody battles broke out all over the United States, pitting brother against brother and father against son. The causes of this war were the issues of slavery and state’s rights; but most importantly, the catalyst for the Civil War was the tension in the air cause by the dissention of the South from the North. Dissention is a radically different concept than the idea of disagreement. Had the Northern and Southern states merely disagreed about slavery and states’ rights issues, the Civil War would only be a wisp of what could have been. Disagreement leads to arguments while dissent leads to quarrels, and the distinction Boorstin makes between the two is entirely accurate. Dissent can be caused by a multitude of factors. One may dissent from the majority because their pride has been hurt, because communication broke down, or because they simply refuse to listen to any other view but their own. Dissention is dangerous because it is primarily a factor of pride, something that lies very close to the heart of any individual. There are times, however, when dissention may be caused by something else. When rhetorical communication breaks down, dissention can and will occur. Misunderstandings are delicate situations, and must be resolved accordingly. For instance, the Dallas City Commissioner John Wiley Price recently dissented from a citizen, telling the citizen and others in the court room to “go to hell!” The citizen Price had the altercation with addressed Price as “Chief Mullah” in an attempt to be a smart aleck. However, the citizen pronounced “mullah” (the name for an Islamic cardinal) as “moolah,” a highly offensive racial slur. Price does not tolerate racial slurs, and thus the screaming... ... middle of paper ... ...ilities of Congress is that minorities and factions exist: dissent takes place, not disagreements. Verbal brawls take place rather than actual argumentation, and that is what kills democracy. That is why things never get done. In his address, Obama claims that a “robust democracy” demands contentious debate in which people fight for their beliefs. In some respects, he is correct. However, if he includes dissent in this robust democracy, he is gravely mistaken. Dissent ostracizes and condemns individuals because of what they believe in, which is clearly not something a robust democracy demands. “We are part of the American family,” the president said. In order to be a part of this family, we cannot exclude its members from their freedom to speak and express their ideas. Dissent hinders those capabilities, and thus truly can be considered the cancer of democracy.
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