I assume I’m not in a unique position, but it feels like it.
On any given day, either directly or indirectly, I get one or both of two kinds of inputs regarding serious topics; an anecdote about something bad, stupid, or illegal said or done by someone on the left and a corresponding anecdote about something bad, stupid, or illegal said or done by someone on the right.
I might chance upon something shared by my Facebook contacts, read a comment on a blog (or a whole blog post), get forwarded an email, or I’m outright asked about said utterances or actions.
What’s frustrating about that?
I’ll tell you . . .
In each instance, I’m presented with an example purported to represent the totality of the position of a given group, but — most often — it’s just some asshole speaking in a manner no reasoned and reasonable person would, and I’m supposed to react to it.
“He’s just an asshole,” I say.
“Oh, yeah? How come no one on his side is criticizing what they say?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing people have better things to do than to react to every asshole who speaks or acts like one. Plus, people are entitled to their own opinions . . . and we are under no obligation to listen to them, let alone act on what they say, especially when they don’t reflect reality.”
Understand, it could be a well-known asshole, even one with some influence, but they are still assholes, and the only reason you’re aware of what they said that has you so upset, is because someone either pointed you to it, or you went looking for it.
It’s a common tactic on both sides, you see. They don’t actually want to discuss the issues. No; they just want to talk about what the assholes are saying.
To be clear, this is only frustrating if you want to actually discuss the issues with a mind to resolving serious problems.
And, let’s also be clear of the following . . . if you are going to go out of your way to only find assholes to quote, you are part of the problem.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:
Imagine that on any given day, you might be called upon to enter into a debate about a given subject.
It could be wealth inequality, or race, or abortion, or gun control, or any other important topic. The topic doesn’t matter; what matters is that you don’t know what side of the debate you will be on. You could be called to argue either side and it’s your job to win the debate.
Crazy, no? It means that you have to be well versed in the issue you might debate. You have to not just know the arguments for both sides, but understand the motivation, the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s argument, know the facts, data, and everything that pertains to making a winning argument, and be able to present it as if it were your argument.
Do that, and I will guarantee that you will find there are no easy answers and that any solution to complicated issues involves recognition of competing goals and the need for adaptable compromises.
I mean, I get it . . . it’s much easier to point to an asshole and say “See!? They are all assholes! Why should we listen to them?!” than to actually engage someone who can put up a reasoned argument for which you don’t have good — or any — answers.
Arguments that require a breadth and depth of knowledge you can’t get from blurbs, headlines, and talking points. Arguments that highlight the difficulty of issues and that require compromise and flexible paths to long-term solutions.
Trust me on this . . . if you have simple views and simple answers to complicated issues, you have nothing, and you are most certainly wrong. Often, spectacularly wrong . . . and when you speak as if you have a simple answer, you prove the truth of Maurice Switzer’s saying.
The thing is, people pointing to assholes are the people driving the totality of what passes for discussion these days. And because of it, we are so royally fucked.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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