Recently, I received a comment to one of my posts, consisting of the single sentence, “The only thing your article lacks is logic. :)”. As I considered responding, all I could think of was what Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac might say. Of course, his famous nose soliloquy came to mind, which begins:
Is that all? … Ah, no, young sir! You are too simple.
Why, you might have said — oh, a great many things!
Mon dieu, why waste your opportunity?
And if that’s too oblique for the simple-minded, Cyrano made a more pointed remark:
My wit is more polished than your mustache.
The truth which I speak strikes more sparks from men’s hearts
than your spurs do from the cobblestones.
So, I wrote out a reasoned response to the comment, which I attempted to post on my blog. But due to a glitch, I accidentally deleted both comment and response. (I recently have had some technical problems due to my lack of acumen in the area of computer software.) But it turned out for the best in the end. I considered the source, realized the comment had no more merit than the snorting of a pig, and therefore decided not to cast my pearls in that direction.
But this experience got me to thinking about the larger picture. I’ve noticed that in the realm of comments, short, argumentative sound bites that pigeon-hole one’s opponents into some derogatory category are very common. Far more rare are comments that actually engage the topic under discussion. In the midst of our highly developed communication technology, society is losing its ability to communicate. We have lost respect for those with whom we disagree. There is no longer a spirit of compromise; no thought given to the possibility that the Truth is something bigger than all of us. We don’t seem to care to understand one another, or examine our different points of view in the hopes of discovering something we can all agree on.
Instead, we stay in our own camps — “communities” that supposedly epitomize diversity — hiding behind the bulwarks of our group identity, pelting outsiders with our shouted slogans. In effect, civilization is reverting to a form of street gang tribalism, the absolute opposite of E Pluribus Unum (“Out of many, one”.), another pearl that has been tossed to the swine and trampled underfoot. The very idea of so-called “diversity” contradicts the concept of American unity. When we still thought of ourselves as one people — the American people — we already understood that to mean the inclusion of pluralism, the notion that we are free to be different within our unity. Because of that, Americans were already a diverse people, long before political correctness gave us the “diversity” that currently divides us.
To use a hackneyed phrase, “We’ve come a long way, baby.” Now we are to respect a diversity of cultures, a diversity of languages, a diversity of lifestyles and a plethora of categories pertaining to human identity and allegiances. But, when it comes to government and politics, there is no respect for diversity of thought, particularly as liberal and progressive camps now view conservative political philosophy. Like stone-throwing gangs, all they can do is spew contempt and mockery. They will not engage in discussion with conservatives on the merits of an issue. They simply paint us with the broad brush of any convenient fault that pops up, such as the comment I received.
I would ask that in the future, if you choose to send me a comment (or to anyone, for that matter) because you disagree with what has been written, support what you say by giving some reason, some evidence that makes your point and gives it some substance. If you just toss off some clever jab, why should I care? God knows there’s a lot of disagreement in the world. Saying so doesn’t add anything to the discussion. There are reasons why people take certain positions. If you’ve ever read a review, then you know that intelligent arguments can be made to bolster opinions. No one really cares what your opinion is unless you can back it up with reasons why it matters. Just blurting out that an article lacks logic is a pitiful comment. There is no thought behind it. It’s just a reflex reaction stemming from the habit of prejudging a hated enemy.
If you wish to say that an article lacks logic, then the only way to get anyone but your own cronies to take you seriously is to specifically point out the illogical statement and show just how it is not logical. Anyone can make a broad generalization, but without specific examples, such generalizations have no merit. You have to give examples to support your point. You have to present some evidence of critical thought, something that raises a simple opinion to an arguable position of respect. But none of that was evident in the comment I received. Even the smiley face at the end screamed of condescending derision.
As conversation and debate go out of style, and intelligent communication lies abandoned on its death bed, fewer comments demonstrate a willingness to listen, consider and rebut, using tools of reason in a respectful way for the purpose of sharing actual thoughts with other human beings. Rather, more and more comments come across like headlines — just the title of the story without the story behind it. Just an abbreviated sound bite. Just a slogan. Just an epithet. There is no real attempt to communicate any thought of substance. Comments like that don’t address the idea of an article, but rather are designed to taunt the enemy.
But is this a battlefield or a market place? I don’t want to be treated like an enemy. Wrong ideas are the enemy, not human beings. If you don’t like my ideas, then prove them wrong. But don’t limit yourself to mere labeling. If you insist upon acting as if you are on the battlefield, then devastate falsehood as you fight for what’s right. Don’t devastate the people who oppose you. They’ll come to your side if you can win them over. And you do that by proving your points, not by demonizing your opponents. And if your ideas are crushed, instead of theirs, don’t hate them, for they helped lead you to the truth.
The market place of ideas is a place of mutual benefit; a place where everyone can be satisfied. And, as you would in any other market place, behave respectfully, if not friendly. When you go there, you shouldn’t act as if you were a school yard bully or a gang banger in some back alley or an out-of-control fan at a sporting event. Remember where you are, and behave appropriately. The market place of ideas is no place for group-think and no place for street mentality. Its a place where if you don’t buy what I have to say, then bring your own ideas and see how many others buy what you have to say. Don’t make comments no more worthy than a drunk, screaming in the crowd. And don’t knock someone down just because you reject their message. You wouldn’t have the guts to do that in person, would you? Or maybe you would, if your gang was there to back you up.
I say, let’s honor freedom of speech and maintain civility in the public square. How about you?