RE: origin of beliefs

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Aug 09 2001 - 21:55:39 MDT

I have one big advantage in these discussions, at least in terms of tolerance, that goes
back to a day when I was twelve years old. I moved to a new junior high school, and one
day at lunch witnessed this certain kid arguing with four other kids at the same time...,
and wiping them out! Next to him, they sounded like children.

It was 1960, and this boy was for Kennedy, "the lesser of two evils", as he explained. I
started to debate with him, and almost immediately he lost interest in what the other kids
were saying, and they wandered away. He was the complete agnostic liberal, and I, the
complete Christian conservative. But what I am most proud of was that we each almost
*instantaneously* perceived that the other was neither stupid, nor ignorant, nor evil.
Our arguments went on for five years, almost until the very last year of high school.

>From the very first sentences, our debates never descended to name-calling or real anger.
There was exasperation, "how could you *possibly* believe that?", and even sarcasm. But
the tone was always civil. One thing that emerged after a few months was that we were
each being prepped nightly by our fathers, who were committed ideologues. But we were
quite proud of the fact that because our fathers each was extremely excitable, emotional,
and intolerant, we were able to rationally discuss the issues in ways that we knew that
they would were incapable of.

We became each other's model of what a pretty-far-left liberal or a pretty-far-right
conservative should be like. In later years, I'd notice some inconsistency in what some
leftists were doing or saying, such as those who demanded amnesty after committing a
civil-rights type law violation, and say to myself, "What? Not even Davis would say

Far from seeing each other as mean-spirited or stupid, instead---because of the obvious
symmetries of our positions---there arose the amazing platonic vision of the political
spectrum. We knew of famous people to the left of him and to the right of me. There was
obviously a deep difference in values or visions, but we never lost faith that we could
eventually get somewhere in our discussions. Sometimes we did.

I'm glad our debates finally ended. I'd probably still be a Christian if they hadn't.

Lee Corbin

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