Posted by: joha5 | April 11, 2010

Debate Discretion

It’s amazing to me how much misinformation there is out there and yet it doesn’t actually surprise me at all.  I suppose it is only natural for people to stand by their convictions when in an intellectual discussion because which ever side somebody is arguing you can see that is intensely personal for them.  I love getting into debates just as much as the next person but there are times when you just have to stand back and not get involved no matter how much you want to. 

I went out to a barbeque last night and a situation like this occurred.  Inevitably, the topic up for debate was politics.  Politics, much like religion, has so much room for argument and discussion because not only are there essentially an infinite number of points to make but politics and religion is extremely personal.  It gives people a little window into your thought processes, your values, and the way that you approach the world.  Now don’t get me wrong.  If somebody is of the opposite persuasion of myself in these topics it certainly does not preclude me from liking them.  In fact, it makes me even more inquisitive as to why they feel the way that they do.  However, when I hear people posturing themselves rather than making a concerted effort for the sake of a good discussion I shut down almost immediately. 

I’m not going to get into the specifics of what was discussed last night just because it would be quite the paradox for me to say that I stayed out of the discussion purposely only to continue the debate, albeit in an indirect way, online.  All you need to know is that it was about race, ethnicity, and politics and it was quite inflammatory.  I think where things got heated last night was when people began to equate race with ethnicity (and later on in the evening it was sexuality with gender) when really they are separate things.  I was just about to jump into the debate when a group of people began saying things like ‘I know I’m right because I am really educated’ which only made me cringe and realize that even if I was to enter the fray it would most definitely be a losing battle. 

It seems to me that if people truly believe they are right and have real conviction of their views that saying a qualitative statement as in ‘I know I am right because I am educated’ only reinforces the opposite of what they intended.  Additionally, it tells me that even if I was to enter into a discussion with them they wouldn’t listen at all.  I like the kind of debate where people aren’t necessarily trying to win one over on the other person but, rather, they have a debate for the sake of debate and remain as objective as possible without being overly personal or offensive.  It was clear to me that this was not going to be one of those kinds of arguments last night.

I like to think that things like that don’t faze me but, in reality, it really gets me thinking.  I wonder how many hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – of people were doing something comparable last night around the country.  When you think of it like that it becomes quite staggering.  Maybe I am thinking too much about it,  maybe I should have entered into the debate last night.  And maybe my silence only allowed for the debate to get worse.  However, one of the things that I have learned as I slowly get older and wiser is the discretion of when to turn on and when to turn off and I am convinced that last night was neither the time nor the place for me to be on.



  1. Clearly the time for serious debate on topics, like say, the death penalty, should be reserved for basketball games while swilling spiked lemonade.

    • Hahaha! Thanks for totally undercutting my message in this post about debate discretion and the time and place to have them!

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