In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Agree to Disagree.”
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
This quote from Abraham Lincoln may not seem related to the topic of today’s Daily Post writing prompt, but it summarizes nicely how I approach those whose opinions differences differ from mine. I celebrate that we live in a country that allows us to express our different opinions openly. I hope this open-mindedness would have been part of the core of me no matter where I had lived, but I do know that living in Iran and then Romania in the 1970’s had a profound impact on how strongly I feel about our country’s freedoms.
In Iran, news was limited and controlled. I mentioned to my students one day that I was impressed by how much international news was covered in the newspapers and on TV. They pointed out to me that the only news they were sure to get was international news because almost nothing of what was happening in the country made it into the paper. They also pointed out it was obligatory for the newspapers to include a photo of the Shah, his wife, or his children on the front page each day. I had noticed the daily photos. I hadn’t noticed the absence of local news. I hadn’t noticed the pattern.
In Romania, my students told me a story of being at a rally where President Ceaucescu spoke, one where attendance was obligatory. All students were bussed from the dormitories to the central plaza. While the President spoke, there were loud bursts of applause and celebratory shouting at opportune times. But as the students looked around, they didn’t see anyone in the crowd clapping or shouting. They had to be there, but they didn’t have to be happy about it. Eventually one of them noticed a loudspeaker mounted on a pole at the side of the plaza.
It doesn’t matter that I think some of my friends are wrong and some of them think I am wrong. It matters that we can express those thoughts openly. For that I rejoice.