* Warning, you might not enjoy this post, especially if you harbor strong feelings about politics and believe that you are the sole arbiter of truth. In fact, just skip to another blog right now while you have a chance. Go ahead and clickity click…
You stayed? Okay, good, because I didn’t really want you to move on. Well then, let’s get to it.
I simply want to propose a challenge: write out an argument on a subject you feel passionate about (such as taxes, government shut down, immigration, the affordable health care act, etc…), but instead of constructing your position, focus on the opposing position. Try to formulate the opposing side’s argument. What are the premises? The evidence? The projected goals? The concerns?
How much of your view is attributed to your place of birth and your parents? What if you had been born with parents of a different economic status? What if you had been born with a different language, religion, gender, level of health?
“If you don’t understand the other side’s argument, then you don’t understand your own.” I can’t recall the genius behind this quote. I can, however, recall when I first encountered it. My senior year of high school one of my teachers wrote this on the board before we were to embark on researching for a debate about affirmative action. Not understanding the quote, I drew up an argument I thought was solid and absolutely right. Did I know the oppostion’s point of view? Nope. They were morons, or so my young eager mind believed.
That was essentially the extent of my research. When I presented my bold flawless argument, the other side shot me down, and with good reason. One student even dared to say, “I think you need to research the issue more. You do not understand what this is about and you are angry.” Cue the deflated ego.
She was correct. I only flaunted an idea I skimmed from hand me down rhetoric. In fact, I was guilty of what is called the strawman fallacy. As embarrassing as that was, I’m extremely grateful to have learned that lesson at seventeen.
I’m prompted to blog this topic because of some disturbing Facebook status updates I’ve read. Yes, yes, yes, I shouldn’t be on Facebook. Why do I care? I care because people aren’t talking or thinking or listening and it’s driving me bonkers. A little respect is all I ask. Some of the status updates are angry, outrageous, annoying, and fraught with the philosopher’s pet peeve, the strawman fallacy. This means recreating or misrepresenting the opposition’s argument, and then attacking that fabrication. For example, here is a post:
Dear America and the GOP,
Just GIVE IT UP. Obamacare and it’s government jobs program and over-inflated pricing for the massees is HERE TO STAY (strike the band!) and make sure that in 5 or so years that you’ve got it all set up for a Single Payer system without any recourse for debate or discussion for what is actually GOOD for America and not just your legacy and continued elected status of the current incumbents. After all, we are NOT a democratic republic. I’m sick caring and sick of hearing about this. The Democrats and Progressives are CORRECT and any conservative (fiscal or otherwise is WRONG) – we need to give EVERYTHING and ANYTHING to people who want, and the solution is SIMPLE and EASY – by taxing anyone who makes money through hard work and through success. Those people don’t deserve to keep what they’ve made, they are SELFISH and BAD (Yes, I’m talking about myself here guys – y’all finally won the battle. I’m F*cking DONE with caring. I’m now sending an EXTRA $1000 a month in taxes off my paycheck just to ensure that you all get ALL THE FREEBIES that I can possibly give you.)
I realize people are concerned about their money, their livelihood, and their rights. But, can we please not repeat what the pundits who are making mucho bucks are saying? If you flip through the media outlets like MSNBC and FOX you’ll notice that both claim the other side is out to destroy America, wants to ruin your lives, hates the middle class, and wants to take away your rights. Are you really going to let this dictate how you come to your conclusions?
I am not advocating that one doesn’t take a position at all. I myself hold views and vote, so of course I think one particular course is stronger than another. However, one must understand the premises of the other’s argument in order to understand one’s own argument. If, for instance, you found yourself in a pickle and about to go to court, and your lawyer turns to you and says, “I’ve got us covered. But I don’t know what in the world the other lawyer will say.” Run and find a new lawyer! Every good lawyer could argue both sides of a case because they are familiar with all pieces of evidence.
Now, with your politics, could argue the other side? What are you fighting for? What are you fighting against? Just please, think it through. When you do this thought experiment it will diffuse the anger in your speech, and that really is my goal by putting forth this post.
To begin, not all Democrats want to take away your money, give it away to people who could care less about work, hate religion, and abide by Marxism. (Which, might I add, please look up the definition of Socialism, Marxism, and Communism before using them to describe all Dems.)
I know Democrats dedicated to their religion, love working, and are pretty much a refutation of all the aforementioned nonsense.
Next, not all Republicans are selfish greedy bastards who love guns, are racist, and homophobic. Did I cover it all? I know Republicans who are charitable, care deeply about their family, their children’s education, their neighbors and, again, a refutation of all the aforementioned nonsense.
If you choose to only see the caricature of the political party then you are avoiding an honest discussion about how to allocate taxes , ensure justice, safety, and promote economic growth.
Find someone who enjoys dialogue and holds a different point of view. Listen. Learn. What are their concerns? Why do they come to their conclusions?
Thank you for sticking around to read. As a reward, here is a picture of my cat, an actual destroyer of things, peace, and sleep.