The Art of Arguing 1/9/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

She was actually very attractive. Long blonde hair, but with some kind of unidentifiable tomboy quality, and I think she found me attractive. In fact, one night she called me, afraid because she was feeling suicidal and thinking about taking pills. That’s the first and last time a woman slept with me while I was in college, but to be fair, when I say we slept together, I mean we literally slept together. I was a virgin when I graduated college, so it was indeed sleeping.

She was also quite outspoken I remember sitting with her in an office (she must have worked there) with another man who I think was trying to get her into bed but not just to sleep with her. The two began arguing, a kind of “friendly” argument over what I don’t recall but I know it was relatively insignificant. Her argument style, though, was domination.

As I sat silently listening, every time he would start to say something or make a point, she would cut him off and basically shout him down. She would finally draw a breath, he would try to say something, and she continued. At one point she looked at me and made some kind of statement about what how great she is at debate and asked my agreement that she is winning the argument. Even then I was probably too honest, because I pointed out that she was neither winning, nor arguing, since all she was doing was shouting him down.

A lot of “political” arguing these days are pretty much like that. People seem honestly afraid to hear any discourse that disagree with their point of view, and I’m not just talking about conservatives.  Every time a conservative is invited to speak on a college campus and is shouted down or protested out, it’s an action of refusing to even hear an alternative opinion.  This is especially prevalent today on social media as everyone seems to have entered into one of two camps, those who support the insurrection at Congress, and those who point out the disparity between that insurrection and BLM protests. Many of my friends (with whom I obviously agree) are pointing out the excessive force used in peaceful demonstrations last summer to protest the unjust and routine killing of minorities by authority, while two days ago the police had not only failed to prepare, but also seemed to allow the rioters into the building. Meanwhile, others are pointing out that there were never any mass killings of the BLM marches, and they are asking why so many of us are so angry that the push back against the rioters wasn’t more extreme.

Quickly these arguments devolve into name-calling and, basically, a complete breakdown of the discussion. There’s a distinct difference between arguments and fights, though. To argue implies a back-and-forth, where the discussion can be heated but is at least based on some semblance of fact. A good argument should be an attempt to establish a reasonable position and convince the opponent that this is the correct position or, at least, that their position is flawed.

In my head right now I’m seeing that skit from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. “I came here for an argument!” “Oh, I’m sorry, this is abuse!”

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been in arguments with opponents holding completely contrary opinions caused me to reassess my own position. For example, a former colleague was a racist. Yep, a racist. He held that there was bias against white nationalists in our society. Obviously, I argued against this, but he made an interesting point. He said that people are allowed to express their opinions, and are afforded the right to free speech, but only if it’s inline with the current political correctness. It was an interesting point, actually. He’s still racist which I disagree, and he still believes that there should be regions where only white people live if that’s what they want which I also disagree with, but in a nation where speech is supposed to be free, he could never say this publicly without getting shouted down by others. I disagreed with his stand, but I have to admit, I now do believe his right to express it provided, of course, he doesn’t incite violence or make threats to others (those restrictions that the Supreme Court has already ruled is not covered by the right to free speech).

In my friend’s post about the hypocrisy of those supporting the insurrection but not the right to protest, one of the people commented that there are no great piles of body bags from the BLM protests. And he’s right. Yes, there have been deaths, just as there were on Monday. But to simply argue about the failure to have slain BLM protesters is a disturbingly narrow view of the response. The national guard was called out for protests that were simply anticipated during the BLM marches, but additional help was actually turned down when it was known that there were plans to disrupt the count on Monday. Peaceful protesters were shot with rubber bullets and hit with tear gas to clear the street for a photo op, while on Monday the police seemed to actually open up the barricades for the rioters. A fascist style unmarked police force descended on the BLM peaceful protests to kidnap random participants who were doing nothing but walking while most of the arrests on Monday were for the relatively minor violation of curfew. People were killed in the BLM protests, and on Monday. He was right in this point, but failed to address the still uneven response to the BLM marchers versus the largely white rioters who invaded our capital with handguns, assault rifles, and pipe bombs.

It’s time we all step back, stop screaming, and start actually listening to one another.

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