Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Thinking By Dismissing

When I read articles like this I shake my head and wonder if the author sees what she has done. On those occasions in the past when I was grading papers like this, I sent them back to students with the demand that they argue ideas instead of impugn those they disagree with. The article I read was an opinion piece in our local paper, The Gazette, and is titled, “Sinking Feeling America Won’t Elect a Woman President.” The crux of the article is that the author believes voters are leaning against Hillary Clinton and toward Sanders or a Republican because they are succumbing to their latent sexism, and that Clinton’s primary problem is "that she lacks male genitalia."

Not one sentence about substantive issues like background experience in politics, positions on economics or foreign policy, (one sentence on gun control), or ideas being the reason people may not be inclined to vote for another Clinton. Not one inclination that the author believes that people may not vote for Clinton because they disagree with her ideas.

There are a few reasons to be irritated by articles like this, but let me illustrate one. The author of the article, a white female and admitted progressive, will not even consider voting for one of two Cuban presidential candidates or the last remaining African American candidate. Therefore, she is displaying some latent racism and a fear of people who have a different skin color than herself.

So there. Job done. Mud slung right back. And ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED.

Her opinion piece is sadly demonstrative of the low state of discourse in our culture. What she did was psychologize the opinions of people who disagree with her and label them with cruel words. She claims to know the inner states of those who believe differently and then plays God and declares them to be bad people. She dismisses substance and replaces it with the symbolic. She fails to engage in the arena of ideas by prejudging her opponents as below her and unworthy of conversation. To others in her ideological world, to disagree is akin to hatred. How convenient, and how childish!

And in the process, all she did was expose her position as weak and unworthy of serious consideration.

Our culture simply will not get out of the divisive death grip we are in until people who claim to think out-loud learn how to deal with substance and ideas, and how to treat those with whom they disagree with a modicum of charity and intellectual decency.

As an example, I sat down over coffee with a new friend and ended up talking all kinds of theological details. There were times when I knew the two of us see things differently, but he clearly came to his opinions honestly. He and his wife dove deeply into Scripture and interacted with informed people on these issues and came to their conclusions. It would have been the height of intellectual dishonesty to dismiss him has having some kind of "latent" psychological issues that prevented him from seeing the clear superiority of my view. Instead, maturity and humility teach me to take him seriously and listen to what he says. Maybe what I believe needs to be strengthened or changed.

Do you support Clinton or Sanders? Great - tell me why and tell me why those ideas and plans are needed and viable. Do you believe another candidate is better? Tremendous - show me you have thought it through and have interacted with their ideas. Just stop calling mud-slinging thinking.