The aftermath of the most divisive British election for a generation is a good time to talk about disagreeing with dignity.
Last week, in response to my column asking readers to vote against the Conservatives, several people were rude to me. I stress I’m not complaining, because anyone can speak their mind, but it was an interesting experience.
“You’re an idiot, Mike,” was one comment and, to be fair, sometimes I am. However, I did think carefully about making a direct political statement and decided it was right to express an opinion on something so important.
I was prepared for the criticism, which included a letter to The Courier expressing “disgust” about me. I’m glad this newspaper runs critical letters about its content and I’ll take it on the chin cheerfully.
The thing about elections, though, is they don’t happen every day. On days when they aren’t happening, people must continue to go to work and get on buses and sit in cafes and suchlike, generally co-existing, even during a constitutional crisis. How do we do that when we’ve just been knocking seven bells out of each other? Debate can be damaging.
Two weeks ago, somebody in a large vehicle honked at my small one because I was taking too long to pull out of a junction while he waited behind me. There was significant traffic and it was dark and, having spent 10 years as a news reporter in crash-heavy Perthshire, I drive with considerable care. So I was slow, but I was safe.
Then I pulled over and called the honker using my mobile, having noticed his large vehicle bore the name of his business. We had… an exchange of views. Each of us believed we were right and neither would change.
We didn’t remain calm, but, somehow, we remained civil. We resisted swearing and personal attacks; the worst we did was interrupt each other. In the end, we agreed to disagree, grumpily.
I’m OK with that. We need to relearn how to argue, and to get along in the process. I would suggest that’s proof I’m not an idiot, but I respect everyone’s right to call me one – before we all return to getting through the day, as best we can.