Sunday, September 30, 2012

Apparently You Need Definitions

If you're here, you probably followed a link I posted in response to something you said that relates to one of the words defined below.  I've collected them here as a courtesy to save you time in looking them up.

I've created this post because I keep falling into these arguments where someone is behaving badly (in my opinion), and treating another group of people like something the cat dragged in.  Sometimes I am part of said group (and therefore consider myself to be acting in "self defense") and sometimes I am not. If the latter is true, I try to make it clear whether I am defending someone else or trying to determine the validity of your treatment of that group.  (Sometimes I fail at clarity.)

But I find that most often, after laying out my case, someone gets mad - and rather than basing their rebuttal in any kind of logic or reason, my opponent tries to counter with an ad hominem... defined below. (See - this is useful already!)

If you have just questioned whether your behavior (or mine) is bigoted, intolerant, or is demonizing someone else, this should help answer your question.  If you're confused about my uses of doubt and faith, this should clear it up.

Enjoy! (And scroll down for a post script.)

ad hom·i·nem  (hm-nm, -nm)
Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason:Debaters should avoid ad hominem arguments that question their opponents' motives.

big·ot  (bgt)
One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
obtuse or narrow-minded intolerance, especially of other races or religions. — bigot, n., — bigoted, adj.

de·mon·ize  (dm-nz)
tr.v. de·mon·izedde·mon·iz·ingde·mon·iz·es
1. To turn into or as if into a demon.
2. To possess by or as if by a demon.
3. To represent as evil or diabolic: wartime propaganda that demonizes the enemy.

doubt  (dout)
v. doubt·eddoubt·ingdoubts
1. To be undecided or skeptical about: began to doubt some accepted doctrines.
2. To tend to disbelieve; distrust: doubts politicians when they make sweeping statements.
3. To regard as unlikely: I doubt that we'll arrive on time.
4. Archaic To suspect; fear.
To be undecided or skeptical.
1. A lack of certainty that often leads to irresolution. See Synonyms at uncertainty.
2. A lack of trust.
3. A point about which one is uncertain or skeptical: reassured me by answering my doubts.
4. The condition of being unsettled or unresolved: an outcome still in doubt.
faith  (fth)
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belieftrust.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
6. A set of principles or beliefs.

ob·tuse  (b-ts, -tysb-)
adj. ob·tus·erob·tus·est
a. Lacking quickness of perception or intellect.
b. Characterized by a lack of intelligence or sensitivity: an obtuse remark.
c. Not distinctly felt: an obtuse pain.

tol·er·ance  (tlr-ns)
1. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.
a. Leeway for variation from a standard.
b. The permissible deviation from a specified value of a structural dimension, often expressed as a percent.
3. The capacity to endure hardship or pain.
4. Medicine
a. Physiological resistance to a toxin.
b. Diminution in the physiological response to a drug that occurs after continued use, necessitating larger doses to produce a given response.
a. Acceptance of a tissue graft or transplant without immunological rejection.
b. Unresponsiveness to an antigen that normally produces an immunological reaction.
6. The ability of an organism to resist or survive infection by a parasitic or pathogenic organism.

zero-sum game
A situation in which a gain by one person or side must be matched by a loss by another person or side: "It's not a zero-sum game in which either youth or pensioners must lose" (Earl W. Foell).

Assuming you're really curious about how I tick, you are welcome to read all of the things I have posted previously.  They are publicly available for that very reason.  To save you time, here are some posts that may show my approach to earlier situations in which I might have used the above list:

Using Your Brain Is Not a Team Sport

How to Tell if You Are a Bigot

In Defense of Friends

Pot and Kettle: Former Facebook Friends

Friday, September 28, 2012

In Defense of Friends

So, this happened:

Someone on my friend list posted a link to a small blog post by "Carlos" claiming that Satan is using the media to convince us all that there are "lots" of gays, when really there aren't that many, and we should all just pray for them when we see or hear about them. When I called him on the illogic and inconsistencies of his position, he denied that gays are demonized (which is odd, because his POST did that very specifically) or that the issue is about equality.  After a lengthy discussion involving others, he tried to close the thread with a prayer which, in my opinion, arrogantly tried to blame all of us for being intolerant of his faith and asking Jesus to heal the hurt and pain and make the gays not gay any more.

Then I said:

If you really wanted to heal hurt and pain, you would take action to stop causing it. Which was my point in responding to the link you posted in the first place. The point is not "Dan [whose take on this is here] and I are right about the interpretation of the Bible and you are wrong" but rather, "there is more than one correct interpretation of the Bible, and even if there weren't, you don't get to enforce your Biblical 'rules' on everyone else because the U.S. is not a theocracy."

U.S. law and the Constitution used to be discriminatory toward a lot of people who had to fight to get it changed. Slavery was preserved for far too long in the name of protecting the rights of slaveholders; women were prevented from voting in the name of protecting the rights of men; and now gays, who have historically & traditionally been banned from openly existing (let alone having the nerve to marry and act like normal citizens) are asking that we fix the laws that discriminate against them.

You do not lose any rights by allowing them to enjoy theirs. There is no harm done to you or me, or anyone else by [our friend and his partner] ... getting married, so that they can run their lives in a way that my wife and I take for granted.

It is offensive to me, personally, that this is up for a vote. I plan to vote for Maryland Proposition 6 because it's only fair. But as I said before, these people should already be protected from laws that prevent their marriage because we have the 14th Amendment. 

... your lack of awareness that they were and are harmed by the ban on gay marriage does not change the facts. They are. It needs to change. There are only three reasons people give for justifying the continued ban - two of them are irrelevant and one is a lie:

     * My religion says it is wrong - irrelevant. You practice your religion freely whether this is legal or not.
     * I think gays are 'icky' - irrelevant. I think football is 'icky,' but I can't ban it.
     * Gay marriage harms traditional marriage - lie. If you claim otherwise, the burden of proof is on you - and if any proof existed, it ought to have shown up by now. However, the judge in California's Prop 8 case asked for it, and the defendants were unable to produce any. It turns out the only real reasons to keep it up are irrelevant.

So, ... - I'd like to point out that I did not attack your faith or try to belittle it in any way. In all honesty, I used to be a born again Southern Baptist, and in those days I would have thought it perfectly acceptable to demonize others and call their existence a "distraction from satan"... but as I grew up, I learned how immoral and un-Christian that attitude was. (My eventual departure from faith is well documented in my blog, if you have any desire to pursue that discussion elsewhere. It isn't really pertinent to this thread.)

As far as I am concerned, you're welcome to your faith - as long as you don't try to impose it on others. Your post showed me that you clearly think that your faith is challenged by the political attempts of a group of people to claim their rights under the law; I would prefer to educate you to their actual plight and explain why I - a straight man with no actual "dog in the fight" - feel so strongly in their favor.

I think if you were better acquainted with the facts, you would see that we are not motivated by any desire to change you or your beliefs, but rather by the necessity of making our country's legal practices match our stated, mutual values of liberty, and individual freedom.

Needless to say, he did not take it well, and I will have one less bigot cluttering my Facebook feed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Dare You

I am on President Obama's mailing list.

It's my own fault - I wanted a free bumper sticker.  And now I get a constant stream of nearly panicked email signed by him, Michele, Joe Biden, and a cast of campaign characters telling me how Mitt Romney and his shadowy array of anonymous donors are outspending the President and asking me to chip in a few dollars.

It's sad, because while it's still true that money buys ads and access to mass media, it's also clear that the vast majority of the audience being targeted neither likes nor trusts ads and mass media.  So why should the huge amounts of money matter any more?

A lot of my friends and people I follow on the web complain about the money in politics.  Whether they are griping about Sheldon Adelson, George Soros, or joining in Lawrence Lessig's #rootstrikers campaign, they all claim to want to "take back" our democracy.  Some seem to think that by donating to one cause or another they are nobly attempting to buy it back.

I say, enough.  

I say, we-the-people need to start running for office ourselves.  And we need to start doing it with donation-free campaigns.  

Think you've got ideas?  Pick an office.  Run for city council and watch for openings in statewide offices.  You will be surprised how many of the crazy loons you read about got into local and even state office by running unopposed.

And I dare you to try it.

I dare you to stay independent.  I dare you to run on ideas (not ideology), and do it without becoming financially beholden to someone else.

Still need money to register? Start an Indiegogo campaign.  

Need exposure? Tweet and blog regularly, get business cards with your URL and twitter handle on them, go door to door talking to your neighbors. That's important.  Listen to what they say, figure out how to match up your ideas to their needs - and incorporate whatever makes them passionate into what you write.

Make your own campaign videos.  Post your "platform" online and encourage your commenters to make their own videos based on that.

There will be trolls - use their antics against them.  Humor and good nature have a way of making you look good next to them.  Use that conflict to generate attention for your ideas, and focus on them.

Stop complaining about having no voice, and exercise the one you have.

I say, if people really want to make their democracy work, they will be looking for you.  People like me will test you.  We'll throw stones at your ideas and quiz you on your credentials. Don't confuse us for those trolls. You will have to learn how to take criticism without crying about "conspiracies" or the "system."  

But be out there.  Be patient.  Be visible.

A lot of us want to find someone moderate, stable, independent, and willing to do these crappy elected jobs.  We talk about wanting change, but we really just want people who are willing to do the job - that would be remarkable enough.  That would be a change from the current crop.

If you can be that person, stand out and tell us.  Let us organize around you.  Let us call local TV and talk you up.  Let us share your videos and posts.  Let us get excited about you.

And let us keep our money.

I Dare You.