The Quest for Quality Quarreling

     Quakers know how to quarrel. Perhaps that is how they can be pacifists. According to a good brother of mine, Friends table their disputes until the next day of the meeting (every meeting is more than one day). If the dispute still exists, then the two Friends at odds participate in Two Men Standing. This involves standing beside each other for hours in silence, usually in a very public place. One person eventually cracks or comes up with a compromise/solution, and the dispute is solved without violence and without bitterness.

     If it’s one thing our country’s politics need, it’s civil discourse. Barack Obama has repeatedly voiced his stance for civil discourse, and to the extent that he and other candidates have engaged in such discussion throughout their campaigns, our nation has seen a much more respectful campaign trail. While it is important that our politicians civilly disagree, it is even more vital that we as Americans discuss common issues with respectful dialogue. “Illegal alien,” “welfare queen,” and “terrorist” are all incendiary terms which do little to progressively engage the issue but do much to inflame opinions and summon the worst in human biases. Lou Dobbs, I hesitate to mention his name for fear he might use it for further publicity, is solving our nation’s disputes about as well as a border wall will resolve our border insecurities. Such bombastic hate-speech separates us from our neighbors much more than a border wall, and it further discriminates those legal immigrants from the countries which have been targeted as chief senders (ex. Mexico).

    People are people, and to peg them as issues is to divest them of their sanctity. Civil discourse does not judge an entire race or gender or subculture on the actions of a single individual. Civil discourse does not try to beat one’s opponent but seeks eventual harmony between both sides. I wonder if shock speakers like Lou Dobbs would take up my challenge and stand beside me outside the U.N. Building in New York, agreeing to wait in silence until we had some words of peace and reconciliation for each other. Our country, I think, could do more with these standing disagreements than with a standing army.

2 Responses to “The Quest for Quality Quarreling”

  1. Brent Bill Says:

    I am a Quaker and have never heard of the method you dscribe above. While some Meetings for Worship for Business extend over several days (usually annual board or committee meetings), I have never heard of, or witnessed, the “Two Men Standing” way being used by Quakers. Not that it might be a good idea. But instead, we all sit in silence and speak only when we feel a leading coming from God that would direct us away from what we want and show us what God wants. In that way, perhaps, we are more peaceful in our conflict resolution that some other groups.

  2. mpw160 Says:


    Thank you very much for your comment. I will look deeper in to the validity of this statement, but even if it turns out to be a falsity, it hits upon the very real truth of nonviolent conflict-resolution. I greatly respect the ways in which Quakers have continually campaigned for nonviolence, and I look forward to dialoguing and working with Friends as our nation seeks to truly reform its inadequate immigration policies.

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