There are no stupid questions. Maybe. I know there’s a such thing as a stupid argument, though. It happens when two sides have a conflict that would likely have never started if each side had listened to the other, asked questions, and really understood where each was coming from. I’m very familiar with these “stupid arguments” because I’m all too often knee-deep in them.
The idea of “not having all the facts” the basis of the twist, if you could call it that, in the live-action Ghost in the Shell movie. In the film, the Major is hunting down a terrorist named Kuze without realizing that while Kuze’s violent methods are wrong, there’s also a measure of righteousness in what he’s doing, and she is far more deeply involved in his retribution than she realizes. At one point, the Major is separated from the rest of Section 9 and comes face to face with the criminal. He pauses the action for a bit, as it were, and relates significant information to the Major, explaining, “They did not save your life. They stole it.” The Major then confirms Kuze’s revelation as she explores her past after walking away from Section 9.
While the Major goes on to explore meaningful questions about what it means to human and who she really is, our own personal revelations in the midst of stress or disagreements don’t have to run quite so deeply. Take for instance if someone was to tell me that Cowboy Bebop isn’t that great a series (actually, my partner at Anime Pop Heart feels this way), I’d say she was off her rocker. What could become a heated argument because the Cowboy Bebop hater is clearly and obviously wrong (!) might instead turn into a better conversation about the viewing habits of anime fans today and how it’s hard to get into the series if you don’t have a fair understanding of 1980’s and 90’s pop culture.
Civil discussion? Imagine that!
But for that to happen, a bridge has to be made from what I know to what you know. As I walk across, I begin to understand that there’s so much about you that I don’t realize, and the same happens for you as you engage me. If I’m too quick to think of myself and forget that there are so many layers surrounding you that I don’t know about, I can’t begin to start building the bridge on my side; and the same goes for you in laying materials on your end when you fail to consider all that leads me to my point of view.
We don’t have the power that Kuze has. We’re not cybernetically engineered (not yet) to be “better” and more informed humans in a cyberpunk world, but we can create more thoughtful and enlightened discourse by being open. But to do so, we need to do that which is hardest for us, to put ourselves second and the person in front of us first. And when we do that, we’ll find something most unusual – that what we don’t know about each other is what can bring us together.