The Lack of Debate

By Paul

March 31, 2023

Dana and I listened to the podcast, “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling”. The podcast features interviews with Ms. Rowling and people who protest her views on the protection of women and children. I hesitate to wade into the debate between what Ms. Rowling is advocating versus what certain members of society have condemned her for, except to say there are arguments on both sides that bear hearing out.

Other than that, I totally agree with J.K. Rowling. (You didn’t think I was going to be that milquetoast, did you?) Does that make me a TERF (Trans-exclusionary radical feminist)? No, it doesn't. With the exception of my friends (and you know who you are), you don’t know anything about me. So if you’re prepared to judge me on one statement, have at it. I’ll take your judgement at the value it's offered. But I'd be happy to have a lively discussion with you over a cup of tea about it.

By declaring my solidarity with Ms. Rowling, I am now likely dead to the trans community. That’s a risk any time you take a position on something. You risk being canceled, told you’re scum, that you’re anti-something, that if you don’t agree with someone’s position in its entirely, you aren’t worth living.

With one statement, I’m cancelled. No one asks why, no one wants reasoned debate, no one wants to ask legitimate questions around issues because they’re deemed to be indirectly bigoted. Indirectly bigoted? For asking questions? Let’s lay to rest the ability of asking questions about anything then. Why does the sun shine? Am I therefore anti-moon? Am I pro sun at the expense of the moon? I’m just asking questions.

With the increased polarization of society, with everyone needing to take “sides” on issues, with the declaration of “I’m right and you’re wrong”, there’s no room for debate. It’s a miracle that Joe Biden was elected president of the United States. Joe is the ultimate negotiator, able to take issues and find common ground to get things done. He's passed many pieces of legislation that would have been unthinkable by his predecessor because Joe knows how to get things done.

What got me thinking was J.K. Rowling’s desire to engage with her critics, look for acknowledgment of her points of view and try to understand the objections of her opponents. Further to this is an opinion piece in the New York Times by Pamela Paul where she relates a story when she attended Brown University in the early 90’s. Brown is traditionally a left-leaning campus, and when the students learned that Antonin Scalia, the right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court justice was speaking on campus, they were prepared to grind him to dust. At this event, Justice Scalia spoke, then the students lined up to the audience microphone to ask questions. In Ms. Paul’s words, 

Once Scalia finished and we the righteous had a chance to speak truth to the evil one, we would rip apart his so-called originalism, his hypocrisies, his imperiousness. We were champing at the bit to have our say.
And then he wiped the floor with us. In answer to our indignant questions, he calmly cited rebutting cases. We fulminated and he reasoned, and when we seethed he lobbed back with charm. Within the hermetic bubble of my liberal upbringing and education, it had never occurred to me that even when finally presented with The Truth, someone from the other side could prevail. I’d been certain we would humiliate him. Instead, I left humbled.

Of note, the students allowed him to speak. These days, speakers get shouted down while they speak. Or they don’t even get to the dais.  Administration offices get protested and speakers don’t come to campus if their views don’t align with the vocal minority.

What we’ve lost, especially on university campuses (campi?) is the ability to debate. If there was ever a place for wild, radical thinking outside of the box, revolutionary and heretical to be offered, it should be a university campus.

But now, there’s no debate. There’s no discussion. Someone reads a few words on Facebook or Twitter and makes up their mind. Rage rages. There’s no thought, just knee-jerk reactions. “My argument is the only one that matters and if you can’t get that through your thick skull, you shouldn’t be walking on this earth.” 

I have no idea how we’ll get back to honest, calm debate. Everything (mainly social media) is geared to whipping up the masses, enraging people for clicks for advertising and view counts so the system is against debate. There’s more money in rage than understanding.

I hope to get to the 2023 version of these games.

1993 World Series tickets


March 31, 2023
Be sure to check out Dana's blog, Time to Write. I like to think I'm a pretty good writer. Dana is an AMAZING writer.
  • I don’t offer read much of these things. But one obvious observation is that when you disagree with an activist obsessed with his/her (can I say that?) opinion, it is not debate that happens, but rather it becomes attack upon the person, not dialogue about the issue. Good article Paul. Couldn’t agree more!

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