War of Words
By SGT Awesome
When people think of debate they often think of a bunch of rich lobbyist mouthpieces at podiums giving canned non-answers as they attempt to gain political office.
This is not what debate is, nor what you should think of it as. Debate is simply a form of discussion that in no way need be arbitrary or argumentative. Instead, think of it as a tool to gain understanding at the least, and to perform change at best.
Often you will hear people tell you never to talk about religion or politics as they will simply lead to arguments and bad feelings. This may often be true, but the blame is not on the topics themselves any more than you tripping over a stone is the rock’s fault.
If you were to get a view of inside the Rhino Den headquarters, you would see that we writers – who come from a wide variety of backgrounds – disagree quite often on a multitude of topics. We have long, vigorous debates on virtually everything without ever walking away wanting to punch each other. How do we accomplish this? Isn’t it against the laws of debate?
Nay. We are all veterans and understand that the ability to adapt and change on the fly is integral to survival. This leads to our ability to accept being wrong and assimilating new ideas. If you enter into a debate without the understanding that you may be wrong, you will accomplish no more than if you were talking to yourself in the mirror.
We also all respect each other and understand everyone has a right to their own opinions, but not their own facts. We don’t use ad hominem attacks in an attempt to win points, nor to fluster our opponent. This is because we don’t view the debate as something to win, nor do we view each other as opponents. We see each other as a means to flesh out ideas from differing perspectives to bring out truth and understanding in each other.
One specific way the “professional” debaters try to conflate their status as supreme rulers of truth and justice is to use labels to define others.
No liberal, conservative, or member of political party X believes exactly the same on every topic as everyone else who might also identify under the same label. Yet you will see politicians throwing these terms around as though they do. This is painting people into preconceived boxes in which they don’t necessarily fit. It works well when you’re trying to fire up your base to hate your opponents, but when trying to actually have a civilized conversation, it has no place. Do you like it when people make all-encompassing assumptions about you based on one small fact about you? Unlikely.
It is also the primary tool used to create something called a straw man fallacy. A straw man fallacy is when you create a false impression of your opponent’s argument/view (the straw man) and then you counter that instead of the actual argument/view. It is also very easy to use accidentally and you should watch yourself to try and catch yourself before you use it.
The point here is that when you get into a debate and someone starts yelling, don’t blame an inflammatory subject—blame one of the debaters for coming in already on fire. Once you understand that your objective is to work together towards a goal of understanding, rather than trying to prove a point, you may just find real change happening.
Anyone, on any topic, can accomplish this. My prior platoon sergeant was a Young Earth Creationist who thought that the craters on the moon were caused by Noah’s flood 4,000 years ago. I am an anti-theist who thinks religion is the single most poisonous thing on Earth. Contrary to what everyone else in the platoon expected, he and I were able to have amazing religious conversations because we went into them with respect for each other and without trying to conquer one another.
Just imagine what it would be like if Congress actually talked about issues in an attempt to achieve a solution to our problems as opposed to just debating on who to blame for them. Just imagine if Congress was more interested in working for America and its people instead of just for themselves and their parties.
Just imagine if we changed all of the stupid political division in this country, and switched it to multiplication.
Just imagine what will happen when this generation of veterans start taking over Congress…