Death Of Discussion

Yesterday, I stumbled across this flowchart designed to help someone determine if he or she is having a rational discussion or not, and more importantly when to cut one’s losses and walk away.  It made me wonder how many political and personal debates would be stopped immediately if this model was utilized.  I know that debate and discussion are not necessarily synonyms, but I don’t see how you can have a civil debate without a foundation of respectful and fact-based discussion.

image source:  http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/how-to-have-a-rational-discussion/ 

Last year 12 representatives from both the house and senate (six from each party) were mislabeled as a ”Super Committee” and tasked with finding ways to reduce the nation’s budget deficit.  Democrats had previously agreed to spending cuts in some of the programs that the party traditionally supported, but it was not enough to satisfy the deficit reduction requirements.  All six republican representatives had previously signed Grover Norquist’s ATR pledge never to raise taxes in any way for any reason, so the possibility for revenue increases was impossible (unless they put the good of the country over their pledge to a lobbyist, but c’mon).  That committee was doomed from the start. And because it was a stupid idea to begin with, maybe it should’ve been.  But if they had referenced the very first box in the above flowchart, they could’ve stopped pretending and gone home to their families for all of those weeks.  Failure was inevitable. 

What is the goal of these people that run for public office on the promise that they will never compromise on anything?  What is the goal of the voters that support that attitude?  Does any one party honesty think that they are eventually going to convince everyone in the country to agree with them?  Or do they think that people with opposing viewpoints are going to miraculously disappear?  To answer “Yes” to either of the last two questions is to admit delusion.  And admitting to simply not care at all about people of differing opinions is perhaps too honest.  Everybody knows that honesty will get you nowhere in politics.

We can’t split the country in half again.  Sorry, but we can’t and we’re not going to.  Besides all of the political reasons why we can’t, the current cultural differences are not conveniently separated along geographical lines.  And we’re not going to do it. We are going to have to get along.  We have to share this country, this world, and this planet.  How are we ever going to do that if we can’t even share a simple conversation?  What are we supposed to expect from representatives that can’t even share the same reality, much less a rational discussion?  The public gets different politicians spouting off contradictory facts on issues ranging from economic policy to scientific study.  I don’t understand.  Does “fact” even mean the same thing anymore? 

Hell, there hasn’t been a Planned Parenthood discussion in years that accurately portrays just how little of what they actually do is related to abortions.  A year ago, during a budget debate that could’ve potentially shut down the federal government, Jon Kyl of Arizona lied on the Senate floor that abortions were “well over 90%” of what Planned Parenthood does.  And when corrected that it was actually about 3%, do you think he consulted the second box of the flowchart, stopped and corrected himself?  Nope.  He just admitted that he wasn’t trying to make a factual statement in the first place. 

Is that better?  He lied.  He was corrected.  And he basically just said, “Yeah. I know, but it served my purposes.”  And this dedication to dishonest discourse in politics was rewarded with an appointment to the doomed Super Committee later that same year.  A fine American indeed.

On Sunday, some dipshit preacher in North Carolina suggested interning homosexuals in electrified fences until they eventually go extinct, as a solution to “the problem” of homosexuality.  You know, because “they kaint reep’rdoose.”  He suggested internment camps!  Are you serious?  What country is this?  What decade is it?  What century are we in?  Why not just burn the witches?  

I guess that medical-genius forgot that all of those “lesbians and queers,” he thinks Jesus wants him to hate so much, were actually born to the heterosexual parents that would still be free to birth more of the devil’s work.  I’d explain it to him, but I’m guessing that science isn’t his strong suit.

You can’t fix stupid. But I still have hope that we can outnumber it if we try.

His argument fails almost every part of the flow chart.  He’s just clueless and clearly anything but civil.  But my question is the same.  What is the motivation?  Does he really want to do that?  Does anyone really want to sequester every person that doesn’t share their views?  Where would that policy end?  What would society’s reaction be if someone said that they wanted to round up all Christians and put them into an electrically charged fenced-in concentration camp?  Just trying to keep unfounded religious beliefs out of school science classes is being called a “war on religion” by some.  This guy wants internment camps.  What should we call that?  

And before someone tries to say he was joking, remember that jokes are supposed to be funny, and that congregation wasn’t laughing.  They were agreeing.  It’s disgusting. 

After my previous blog spilled out as much more of an angry rant than I really intended any of these posts to become, I’m glad that this flowchart found its way to me as a reminder to try and stay civil. I would be lying if I claimed to have never violated these simple rules myself.  Anyone who has been kind enough to read some of my earlier blogs knows that I have strong opinions about certain issues and in different moments of weakness I have involved myself in conversations that could never possibly benefit me or anyone else.  For instance, I see absolutely no reason to limit the civil rights of homosexuals and I don’t know what could possibly change my mind about that.  So by the rules of this flowchart I really should never discuss it and maybe shouldn’t have written my previous blog (are blogs technically discussions?).  What can I say?  I’m flawed. 

But what I don’t do is lie to make a point.  Have I been wrong?  Oh yeah.  And I was quick to go to the second block and stop using that argument.  I don’t like being wrong.  But I hate liars, especially when they’re being paid to affect national politics.  And unless the people of Arizona are collectively a bunch of liars, they should’ve been outraged with their supposed representative Mr. Kyl.  I wish congresspersons and senators were sworn under oath to tell the truth before speaking on the floor.  Maybe they’d at least attempt to research their point and stick to actual facts. 

I’m also so assured of the possibility that I could be wrong, that I’m generally reluctant to speak in absolutions or to rule out another’s argument before allowing myself to fully understand it.  I appreciate civil conversation.  I wish I saw more of them.  I wish I was better at it sometimes.  But a quick glance into the comment section of any online news article is enough to make you want to store some canned goods and ammunition and just wait for the revolution.  The anonymity of online communication may be part of what is murdering civility of conversation in the real world, and it gets more unsettling every day. 

And finally, I can assure you that I do not want to intern, sequester, or incarcerate any non-violent law abiding person(s) simply because we don’t agree.  I just don’t.  Truth be told, I want many of the people already in jail to be freed.  I worry about how comfortable people are becoming with simply locking away or hiding people that they are not comfortable with. For example, there are way too many non-violent drug offenders being very expensively housed in jails and prisons right now and you never hear any of the budget hawks trying to reduce those numbers. 

But that’s a blog for another day. 

If you have to lie to make your point, you don’t have one.  If facts don’t support your argument, you’re probably on the wrong side of it.  And if making invisible those people you disapprove of is the only thing that can stop your hatred, then close your eyes.  It will be easier on everybody.  And it’s free.

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I’m Guilty as Hell

I could not be more embarrassed, disappointed, and angry that my home-state of North Carolina decided to ADD discrimination and bigotry to our State Constitution.  I’ll ignore the politics of putting a state constitutional amendment on a primary ballot, in effect guarantying a low voter turnout and making such a significant change easier to affect.  I’ll ignore it because I suspect that the outcome would’ve been the same during the November election.  But wouldn’t it be nice if the seekers of such significant changes would seek out a higher level of participation, not lower?  Cowards.

What I am wondering is why we don’t just ban marriage to any and all non-Christians?  Why are we beating around the burning bush on this issue? I am not implying that homosexuals cannot be Christians or denying that many in fact are Christians.  But there is no secular reason for this restriction and if the restriction is based on religion, then it violates the separation of church and state.  People cannot force their religious beliefs on others.  They shouldn’t even want to.  Is “forced faith” even possible?

Marriage is a legal contract between two adult citizens that has absolutely nothing to do with any organized religion. People of differing religious beliefs can legally marry.    Atheists can marry.  Pagans can get married.  In some states, with parental consent and a judicial waiver, even children as young as 13 are allowed to marry.  Read that last one again.  Wow.

So how are we possibly justifying limiting consenting adult homosexuals’ access to this legal institution?

Easy.  Because some Christians call homosexuality an abomination and some non-Christian intolerants just think it’s gross.  Therefore they have decided that because of their own personal beliefs, homosexuals are not allowed the freedoms allowed to all other citizens, both believers and non-believers.  It is indefensible. 

I know, that the bible says “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (Lev 18:22).  But it also says “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”  (Lev 20:10).  No one is trying to put adulterers to death, so we clearly accept that our government laws are not required to align with the bible’s instruction.  I’m glad we got that cleared up.

No one’s superstition or prejudices should be allowed to limit the freedoms of another person.  Homosexuality poses absolutely no threat to anyone in this country.  It really is that simple. 

People can talk about the sanctity of marriage, but we all know that heterosexuals, including some good god-fearing politicians that support this discrimination, ruined whatever sanctity there was in marriage a long time ago.  And if allowing homosexuals to marry somehow sullies your own marriage, then there was a serious weakness in that union to begin with.  In reality (whether people choose to live in it or not), allowing gay marriage will have absolutely no affect on heterosexual marriage.

People will talk about the negative effects on the children of gay parents, but it could be argued that society’s open discrimination is more the cause of trauma than the loving union at home.  Not to mention that the lack of conclusive evidence of these negative effects.  Some recent studies have indicated that children with lesbian and gay parents show more empathy for social diversity.  And we all know how negatively viewed empathy is these day. 

Stop being assholes to my friends.  They have asked for nothing but the exact same rights and freedoms that every other citizen takes for granted.  They should’ve never had to ask for it.  We should be ashamed that they have to fight so hard for it now.  I know I am.

This ban will not stand the test of time.  Even the N.C. State Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis said “I think it will be repealed in 20 years.”  But at some point the federal government will legalize gay marriage for all citizens.  And when it finally does, all of the “liberty defenders” out there that sat silent during this and the other twenty-nine states’ attack on the freedoms of homosexual will all start to cry about state’s rights.  Bullshit!  So far, thirty states have gotten this one dead wrong.  There is no way to defend such clear discrimination towards innocent and nonthreatening American citizens.  It is bigotry.

Bigotry is the state of mind of a “bigot” a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance or animosity toward members of a group.  (wikipedia)          

Bigotry:  noun, 1. Stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.  2.  The actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot. (dictionary.com)

And I’m guilty as hell.  I am completely intolerant of bigots.

Self Made Fantasy

 

 

By now anyone that pays any attention to what the Presidential candidates are saying has heard about Mitt Romney’s ridiculous assertion that young people should just “take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.” This advice makes perfect sense to him since, in his fantastical reality, all people are born into families affluent enough to bankroll their kid’s every wish, whim, and dream. But if his chauffeur ever takes a wrong turn into a working class community, he might see some of the people that are working hard every day just to pay their mortgage and feed their kids. He might see that there are hardworking Americans out there that are stretching every dime just to get by. And he might note that very few of them are complaining about it.

 Of course if his chauffeur ever takes the wrong exit into one of those low income/high crime neighborhoods that he’s heard about on television, all he’d see is a reason to fire his chauffeur. He likes doing that.

 Mitt Romney suggesting that young people should just borrow money from their parents is just further proof of his inability to connect to the reality of the American working class. But that disconnect is already so clear that to debate it any further would be like debating the roundness of the earth. Anyone paying attention already knows it, and far too much of the extreme right will deny it despite clear evidence.

 What his statement reminded me of was just how many so called “self-made” men and women truly believe that they did it all on their own. Why doesn’t everybody just borrow 25,000 dollars from their dad, after graduating from prep-school, and start a company like Jimmy John Liautaud did? Clearly the answer is laziness and over-dependence on the nanny state.

 There are too many wealthy people in this country that ignore the benefits of growing up with wealth, security, superior education opportunities, and often inherited business advantage. And judging by some of their attitudes towards the U.S. government, they clearly don’t recognize the sheer advantage of simply being born in America. The established education and infrastructure systems of this country have literally paved the way for accelerated economic growth for generations. Not to mention the overall benefits of living in a consistently safe and secure country.  Having an educated populous provides both a more easily adaptable work force to draw from as well as a motivated and viable consumer base. Our utilities and transportation infrastructures have allowed businesses in this country to focus their energy on their specific field of innovation while taking for granted the means needed to get their product (whether it be information, technology, or manufacturing) distributed across the country and the globe. Throughout U.S. history, our government has provided a pallet for success that is so taken for granted now that these self-made patriots have convinced themselves that they’ve conquered the system and made themselves into the successful people that they are in spite of it and therefore owe nothing in return. And their disrespect of the country has now become a political movement dedicated to denying the government’s past services to society and to cutting it “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

 I wonder how many financially lucrative lobbying firms Grover Norquist would have founded if he had been born in Sudan. I’m guessing none, because he would have spent his teen years trying to survive in a country torn apart by civil war instead of volunteering for the Nixon campaign in this overgrown monster of a government. Luckily he was able to persevere through his Ivy League education (note: this was before a college education was considered an elitist liberal indoctrination), and channel that determined spirit into tax avoidance and the dismantling of the systems that make so much success possible. What a patriot.

 No one is saying that none of the most successful people in America have ever worked hard, or that they necessarily had anything handed to them (though many did). Most of the successful people in this country worked incredibly hard. But the idea that they did it all on their own in spite of the country’s system of government seems to feed into the idea that the lesser successful people in this country just don’t try hard enough and therefore don’t deserve our respect, and certainly not our empathy. Too many of the upper income recipients hold their advantaged success as evidence of the vitality of The American Dream without any recognition or understanding that some people have to fight equally as hard as they did just to avoid starvation and homelessness. The finish line in America is roughly the same for everybody. It’s the starting line that varies so wildly, and for perceived leaders to deny an advantaged starting position is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst. And to go further after so much success, and attempt to dismantle the system so integral to their own success while ignoring the people still working so hard within it is insulting.

 What is more unsettling to me is the segment of true working class society that has overcome real adversity in order to achieve even a modest level of success, and upon achieving that success joins themselves ideologically with the elite (that will never truly respect them) in their attack on the government structure that allowed them their opportunities. People that studied hard in an underfunded school system in order to get the best education they could to move on to higher education and greater employment, but choose to look back at the others languishing in that same path with disdain instead of understanding. People that took a high-school education and mixed it with years of back breaking work to build a career for themselves and then choose to look at others struggling in the bog of high un-employment just to say “get a job ya bum,” as though it’s really that simple.

 Why do the richest among us automatically get so much respect from the hardest working members of our society, while the poorest among us get inaccurately labeled as non-working leaches of the system? The rich should not be demonized for being successful, any more than the less fortunate should be characterizing as ne’er do wells always looking for a handout, especially with more evidence every year that the richest among us are paying so little back into the system. Is that not a handout? They get all of the enormous financial benefits of living and doing business in this great country but aren’t expected to give anything in return. And save that “job creator” silliness.  I’m not buying it.  Everybody wants the guy with nothing to get “some skin in the game,” but doesn’t seem to mind at all that huge American corporations funnel billions of dollars out of our country every year in order to avoid paying taxes back into the system.

 It’s disrespectful to the country that made their success possible, and the more they want to deny that, and the more they want to dismantle the things that made their success possible while attacking the less fortunate, the more I disrespect them in return. The rich didn’t work harder than everyone else. The rich don’t work harder than everyone else now. And the rich don’t deserve my respect simply because they have a bigger bank account. I don’t measure human value in that denomination.