Saturday, July 27, 2019

Why we can't discuss politics like sensible people

This is an excerpt from recent correspondence with a friend whom I had previously thought of as a reasonable liberal -- someone with whom I could disagree and discuss our differences reasonably. I now believe I was dead wrong about that. I'm not about to violate her privacy or bore you with the entire text of our rather lengthy email interchange, so you're free to decide that this excerpt is "deceptively edited" to make her look bad because, you know, I'm a racist just like Trump.

She: "There is plenty of evidence that Trump is a racist!"
Me: "Oh? What's the evidence?"
She: “This "prove it!" thing seems to come from a place of confrontation rather than one of trying to understand the other.”

Game, set, match. I do not enter into debate with people who hold themselves free from citing evidence they've just claimed exists, nor with people who respond to a civil question by impugning my motives. "I don't have to answer that because you're just being nasty," sounds to me like the ultimate Get out of Debate Free card. I won't play that game.

You know, I don't mind if somebody says, "The totality of Trump's actions and statements leave me with the impression that he's a racist, but I'm not going to try to make a case to prove that."

That leaves an opening for a reasonable response like, "OK, that's not the impression I have, but you're entitled to your own opinions."

This "evidence" thing goes beyond that, though. It jumps from a legitimate "this is my impression" into the territory of "This is objectively true and provable so you have to accept it!"

Isn't there a phrase for that? Something like, oh, help me out here... Jumping the shark?

1 comment:

  1. I can't think of one term to describe the response. I can think of several mechanisms that underlie it. But my response would have been, "You are right. Confrontation and its avoidance is central to the human condition."

    And then taken the conversation from there.


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