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Stop the Steel Cage Death Match

January 29, 2007

“Screw calls for bipartisanship. Call for respect.”

Just as lusty love affairs can create a great deal of ill will, so too does politics. The solution to such hostility and divisiveness is not an empty call for bipartisanship. The solution is a call for a cup of respect and perhaps a lump of deference or humility.

Respecting a political opponent who, when presented with the same set of facts, arrives at a diametrically opposed conclusion to your own is the epitome of challenging and yet, when that basic respect is eroded through word and action, effective political discourse grinds to a halt. It’s not a lack of bipartisanship that paralyzes our government. It’s a lack of respect for intelligent and well-meaning adversaries.

If you don’t respect someone’s opinion, then it’s a waste of your time to engage it and truly consider whatever merit it might have. An opportunity for dialog and compromise becomes a forum for mockery and humiliation. Radical ideas are stifled and the marketplace of ideas stagnates with conformity and suddenly, the status quo reigns supreme as two sides scream themselves hoarse talking at each other, certain that if only those in the wrong would hear them, then obviously their minds would be changed by the inherent rightness of the proper position.

I’ve received some intel that someone is doing a lot of searching on Strange Monkey Doll- no doubt to show what an ill-mannered brute and hypocrite I am. I won’t claim to be perfect.

UPDATE: it was Tim.

Steel Cage Deathmatch

It’s actually a subject I have been giving quite a bit of thought to since right before I went back to work in July, and it has returned full force with Rob’s generous invitation to dialog face-to-face on a regular basis. Maybe it’ll become my first attempt at a series, maybe nothing will come of it more than this post.

In all honesty though, I would like to escape from this steel cage death match of partisan politics. There is precious little listening going on, very little real debate, only defensiveness and cartoonish versions of opponents views destroyed while the deeper issues go ignored. I’ve been guilty of fanning those flames as much as anyone, although I have tried to keep it out of the personal insult. Those personal insults have come to me, directly- from friends- and that is sad indeed. Basically in being called a chicken hawk (or told to go enlist) the inference is hard to avoid:

“Go die.”

<gasp>

“Seriously. Why don’t you?”

Sad indeed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to pretend I’m not some kind of conservative. I’m just tired of defending myself against positions I don’t hold. I’m also tired of having to explain personal characterizations of others I didn’t make. Perhaps it’s because my writing is unclear, or too filled with bizarre humor, but in all honesty I feel the biggest problem is those who read me with are often doing it with a set of associations that don’t represent who I really am.

I’ve dealt with this before, when I first became a Christian- having to disassociate from the TV evangelists and snake-handling types; in that I’ve gone something of a political conversion, it would make sense that questions and false assumptions arise.

But there’s something more. Perhaps it’s always been this way and I’ve just never noticed, but the political debate now seems to be especially vicious not because people just disagree, but because they see the other side as fundamentally absurd. The other side is not just wrong, but unintelligible. In my mind at least, I have striven to raise the bar of intelligibility. In that I have failed, but I don’t think that I am alone in that failure. Words fail. But I will try.

I’m thinking I will take Rob’s recent response and turn it into a series of posts with my replies. The question is whether I have the emotional space or time for such and undertaking. Writing has always been incredibly hard for me, as has expressing my deepest feelings, and the issues Rob and I go into are deep stuff. I also have my own interests, and don’t want replying to critics be the only thing I do.

I’ve had over a year of blogging. I have now been a Christian for 20 years. It’s time for a summation and perhaps a new direction. I just dont’ know if I can work that out here.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Tim C permalink
    January 29, 2007 8:47 pm

    Uh, oh…

    “I’ve received some intel that someone is doing a lot of searching on Strange Monkey Doll- no doubt to show what an ill-mannered brute and hypocrite I am.”

    Hmmm….I’ve been found out…

    (shaking fist in the air)

    Damn You TypePad log files!

    …no doubt to show what an ill-mannered brute and hypocrite I am.

    Not even a bit. I do not view you as a hypocrite or brute even in the slightest, and only very rarely ill-tempered. :>
    Just trying to illustrate specifically using direct quotes that some of your past jabs at democrats, progressives, etc…have been perhaps sharper ones that you remember. Maybe that was just venting, hard to say…maybe the words used on paper say something other than you meant them to.

    But on face value then and now such posts didn’t strike me as showing this spirit:

    “I would like to escape from this steel cage death match of partisan politics. There is precious little listening going on, very little real debate, only defensiveness and cartoonish versions of opponents views destroyed while the deeper issues go ignored…”

    Perhaps a technique of focusing posts on the deeper end of the pool initially and then later broadening out to practical, social or political implications that would lead to the more fruitful discussions you describe wishing for here.

    Your buddy,

    Tim C

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