Most of the regular readers on this site are fairly open-minded about a lot of things. Either that or they like to watch me like I’m some liberal Punch and Judy show. Either way, this article is geared towards people who may not share this point of view. I don’t want to say it’s geared towards “conservatives” because not all conservatives need to hear this. In fact, several “liberals” need to hear some of these things as well, so enjoy, and if someone you know could do with reading this article, just point them in this direction.
March 24, 2010
I had a very interesting conversation with someone a few days ago regarding the Texas educational overhaul. When I mentioned that Thomas Jefferson was going to get taken out, he said that it was a good thing.
A good thing?
As the conversation dragged on and we discussed the merits and flaws of both liberalism and conservatism, his arguments became more and more incoherent. Yes, there was alcohol involved, but he finally admitted that he had no idea what “conservative” and “liberal” meant. He didn’t even know what Jefferson had done until I brought up his achievements. I had to stop right there.
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This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered someone passionately arguing for something he didn’t understand. Some time ago, a student wrote an argumentative paper that said we should not use nuclear energy because it was dangerous. Fine, I said. However, once we started reading over his evidence, I quickly discovered he had no clue, no working idea, on what nuclear reactor did or how it functioned. Essentially, his whole argument relied on pop culture references of what nuclear reactors did and how they functioned. To put it another way, he would have been better off saying we shouldn’t use nuclear energy because we’d create another Godzilla.
At least that way we could have talked about giant monsters.
Over the last several months, we as a country have had agonizing debates, and I hesitate to call them that. They’ve been shouting matches. The town hall meetings were interrupted by protestors with nothing more to say than what they’d heard on the news, the radio, or what someone had told them.
Basically, we have people mad, fuming even, over changes that are going on in the government, and yet they really can’t explain or don’t understand why they’re mad.
This is the problem with both sides of the political spectrum. We keep calling this a debate, and yet we’ve been deadlocked for months. Am I saying one side is 100% right and the other 100% wrong? No, but one is more right than the other. However, both sides should come to the table with relevant, accurate information, not talking points. There’s a reason smart people don’t usually go into politics. They can’t stand the illogic of it. Someone who has to resort to illogic and outright lies to make a point usually has an agenda.
In other words:
Recent studies have shown that many liberals have a college education. Whether they were liberal before or after they went to a university is beside the point, however, since this means that a lot of people on the left are taught critical thinking and analysis. They can see through straw man arguments, circular arguments, bad citations, bad sources, or quote mining, and will jump on them like Rush Limbaugh on an OxyContin tablet.
Okay, cheap shot.
The point is that if you want to argue with a liberal, a well-educated liberal, make sure you know what to expect. It is, at the most basic level, a scientific, rational debate. Or at least it should be.
There is a time and a place for emotion. Emotion works best because we can feel it. It taps into the oldest, most primal parts of our brain. Intellectual arguments based on reason are solid and difficult to “feel” unless you’re a hardcore fan of reason and logic.
However, once you’ve laid out the logical groundwork, you’re more than free to engage in emotional arguments. Tell a personal story. Mention the hypothetical consequences of our liberal actions to your heart’s content. You might sway some people if you actually have a grounding in reality. That’s what scientific minds look for. A grounding in reality.
At least in my case, if someone has an argument to make, I’d like for that person to at least make the effort to bring rational thought to the table. I may change my mind. If you can show facts and present a clear understanding of the concepts, show how my interpretation of the available data is flawed, or if you can put forth a new hypothesis or proposal that works better than my point of view, I’ll go with it.
The problem with the right is that it’s allowed its most vocal, most hateful, most irrational members to become its representatives.
Limbaugh. Bachmann. Beck. Palin.
If these are the examples, the leaders the Republicans look to, the party will die. People will start associating conservatism with these vacuous fungi with suits and, in the end, conservatism will die on its own.
Much of the anger I’ve heard over the last several months stems, I firmly believe, from some conservatives’ inability to align their world-view with reality. We have a black president. We elected Democrats to a majority in both houses. We passed health care reform. These things aren’t supposed to happen, so they come up with wild ideas, conspiracies, and soon the lie becomes the accepted reality. You can’t disprove a conspiracy, so it becomes the perfect explanation. Their world-view isn’t wrong! It’s reality that’s become corrupted!
It’s a mass delusion for many. If you are a conservative and you don’t fall into this group, if you’ve gone through your beliefs and know why you believe what you believe, and you can make an argument for them, I applaud you. I would be more than happy to discuss these things with you. New data makes for new understanding.
I would also encourage you to explain your points of view and your justification to fellow conservatives who are not as enlightened. In the end, conservatism, which is not inherently a bad thing, will die out in the political arena because radical elements in this country will have tainted it.
We still have people who believe the Earth is flat. They’re on the outermost fringe of society, a joke. They simply became irrelevant, like Zeus, Hera, and the rest of the gang, and so conservatism may be gearing up for an apocalypse when, by its own hand, it will die in a whimper.