Torture

It’s one of the reasons I’m not voting for Donald Trump!

Actually, while that’s true, that’s not exactly what I mean to write about. I mean to write about this election season, this society, this… inability almost everyone has to open their minds to anything they didn’t learn or come to believe before they graduate high school (or, for many Trump supporters, not).

If you can’t open your mind, of course you can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone whose views differ. Of course you can’t keep it respectful either, since you don’t truly respect the other person’s opinion. Although I do believe the latter can be accomplished by those who care more about people than about being right. For instance, I frankly no longer respect opinions that deny (and no, that is not meant to connote anything, see Brian’s brief defense of the word’s applicability here) climate change; but when I have those awful conversations, I think I’m able to keep it respectful because I do realize that a person can be wrong about one thing and still be great, valuable, and even intelligent.

Everyone who opposes Trump should realize this about Trump supporters too. And even though I might’ve made a swipe about many of them having a poor education, the truth is there’s probably more to it than stupidity and bigotry. Probably. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. My mom supports Trump–she’s not a serial murderer, ya know?

Anyway, so what’s behind the inability or unwillingness to sincerely truly really genuinely honestly fa real tho consider new and different facts, evidence, logic, and perspectives? My emphasis on those synonyms is due to the fact that I think we all see people pretend to engage in such conversations all the time. Everyone wants to feel like they’re being mature and fair and open-minded, and so they make half ass efforts at appearing so. Sometimes people make an honest effort to understand others’ views on a divisive issue, but usually this turns into a shit show (both in person and on the Internet) when the people being asked a question–a perfectly innocent question, mind you–get defensive because they feel the views they’ve been holding onto for so long, if called into question, might prove to be not so worthy of holding any longer.

It’s not that often a person openly asks, and another person openly answers. People are always reading between lines, often filling in blanks with implications that were never there, and trying to protect themselves (subconsciously) from that dreaded experience of not only admitting to yourself you were wrong, but, Oh Goodness, admitting it to someone else!

That’s the rub. We don’t want to be wrong. We damned sure don’t want others to see that we’ve been wrong. Why is it so hard to admit you’ve used a logical fallacy? Are you afraid people will think all of your arguments in the future are also fallacies? Are you afraid that you’ll find your other, more important beliefs are also based on fallacies, and WHAM! existential crisis will hit?

These are possibilities.

Is it that I am proud and I hate to be reminded, let alone shown publicly, I am imperfect? Ooh, here’s the juicy question in these days of equating nearly every criticism as some form of shaming. Also a possibility.

Perhaps it has always been this way. I wasn’t alive a hundred years ago, after all. It’s just torture having so few people to talk to about serious matters. When I was much younger, it seemed better than now. We were old enough to be thinking about politics, philosophy, and religion, but perhaps we had yet to be fooled into believing we had to be part of some school of thought (or lack thereof, really). It isn’t only people who disagree that have trouble speaking critically. It is sometimes people of the same opinion who fail to do it too, to look at what they agree on and say, “Let’s reevaluate this,” or to consider new evidence. I have a friend from my ship with whom I agree on many issues, but when we talk online, he frequently misses the forest for the trees, makes a disagreement where there wasn’t one, and…. gives a lot of people the impression that he really just needs the last word for some reason. (We love him anyway.)

It isn’t all about the fragile human ego though. There’s another piece, that is, not knowing how to debate. My mother does this. We’ll be talking about whether colleges should be free. I will start to make an argument. She will say, “Yes, but what about…” and it will be something like bilingual teaching in elementary schools, a tangential issue at best. It is her way of changing the subject when she does not want to pay attention to my argument. Other folks tend to go for emotional appeals, logical fallacies, and references to “evidence” from sources that would make any librarian, scientist, or English teacher shake their head. Yet others will attack reputable news sources like the New York Times or a university publication by accusing them of being part of some conspiracy that’s been going on since the Cold War Era. Okay?

My point is that all of these are things you can learn not to do. It’s part of critical thinking. It’s what every discipline besides P.E. is supposedly trying to teach. Not, “How do I memorize the answers to everything?” but rather, “How do I develop a system for finding correct answers to yet unforeseen questions?” This is the question of all science, of philosophy, and of most English and humanities courses I’ve taken and books I’ve read.

Yet most people graduate high school still not differentiating “they’re” from “their,” and deciding that “You’re a libtard” is a reasonable response to a criticism of the Iraq War. Were they all sleeping?

Perhaps I might’ve titled this, “Reasons I’m Not Going To Be a Teacher.”

I don’t know. But wouldn’t it be nice if those unwilling to listen weren’t always so happy to talk?

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