Refusing terms of concession: When it is not possible to “agree to disagree” because one view is not valid
We recently found ourselves in a now-familiar location: hopelessly stuck in an unnavigable impasse on our respective paths, unable to find a way forward.
And, as in so many times before, when the friction became too great and the exchange too heated and the tension too uncomfortable, you dropped an all-too-familiar final salvo designed to stop conversation and temporarily defuse the situation:
“We’re just going to have to agree to disagree.”
I disagree. I refuse these terms.
Such a concession assumes that we both have equally valid opinions, that we’re each mutually declaring those opinions not so divergent that they cannot be abided; that our relationship is of greater value than the differences—but that isn’t exactly true for me.
We don’t just disagree here — you’re wrong.
I believe you’re deeply, profoundly, and egregiously wrong; the kind of wrong about the kinds of things that I can no longer excuse or make peace with or overlook — because that would be a denial of who I am and what matters to me, the values I have spent a lifetime forming.
This is not a disagreement.
We are not simply declaring mismatched preferences regarding something inconsequential. We are not talking about who has the best offensive line in the NFL, or whether Van Halen was better with Dave or Sammy, or about what craft beer pairs best with a cheesesteak, or about the sonic differences of CDs and vinyl. On such matters – though I will provide spirited debate, I can tolerate dissension.
We’re not even talking about clear misalignments on very important things: how to best address climate change or what will fix our healthcare system or how to reduce our national debt or what it will take to bring racial equity. Those subjects, while critically important, still have room for constructive debate and differing solutions. They are mendable fractures.
But this, this runs far deeper and into the marrow of who we each are.
At this point, with the past four years as a resume, your alignment with this president means that we are fundamentally disconnected on what is morally acceptable — and I have simply seen too much to explain that away or rationalize your intentions or give you the benefit of the doubt any longer.
I know what your reaffirmation of him is telling me about your disregard for the lives of people of color, about your opinion of women, about your attitude toward Science, about the faith you so loudly profess, and about your elemental disrespect for bedrock truth. I now can see how pliable your morality is, the kinds of compromises you’re willing to make, the ever-descending bottom you’re following into, in order to feel victorious in a war you don’t even know why you’re fighting.
That is why I need you to understand that this isn’t just a schism on one issue or a single piece of legislation, as those things would be manageable. This isn’t a matter of politics or preference. This is a pervasive, sprawling, saturating separation about the way we see the world and what we value and how we want to move through this life.
Agreeing to disagree with you in these matters, would mean silencing myself and more importantly, betraying the people who bear the burdens of your political affiliations — and this is not something I’m willing to do. Our relationship matters greatly to me, but if it has to be the collateral damage of standing with them, I will have to see that as acceptable.
Your devaluing of black lives is not an opinion. Your acceptance of falsehoods is not an opinion. Your defiance of facts in a pandemic is not an opinion. Your hostility toward immigrants is not an opinion. These are fundamental heart issues.
I am telling you this so that when the chair is empty this Thanksgiving, or the calls don’t come, or you meet with radio silence, or you begin to notice the slow fade of our exchanges, I want you to know why: it is because I have learned how morally incompatible we are. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect you or even love you, but it means proximity to you isn’t going to be healthy.
I have been disagreeing with people all my life. That isn’t the issue here.
Were we talking about anything less than the lives of other human beings, I’d be more than willing to disagree with you and, but since we are talking about the lives of other human beings — I can’t.
I believe you’re wrong in ways that are harming people. You’re wrong to deny the humanity of other human beings. You’re wrong to justify your affiliation with this violence. You’re wrong to embrace a movement built on the worst parts of who we are.
I simply can’t agree to that.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com
John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.