I would like to try to start an honest discussion, about why we as country/society don’t seem to be able to have an honest discussion anymore. Now, as you’re probably aware, yesterday there was another notable mass shooting. I’m using the word notable, because I’m not sure we’re hearing about all of them individually, or if we’re only hearing about ones with certain death counts. Of course, along with that shooting, came the obligatory “nothing is going come out of this” discussion that you’re probably seeing on the news, or Facebook or whatever.
Whether you’re on the right, or on the left, you’re probably frustrated with these conversations because nothing ever happens one way or the other. I’ve narrowed it down to two main issues, (I suppose there’s a third if we want to introduce the financial system corrupting the political) with why we can’t seem to have an honest conversation.
Now, these two reasons, in my opinion, apply to at least most of the ‘hot button’ issues of our time, certainly it applies to abortion, and really to anything sex related. The two problems are “the no true Scotsman” nature of these debates, as well as a fundamental misunderstanding or purposeful misuse of language.
Now, let me explain the first issue, in case you’re not familiar. Basically, as I understand it, and as it happens in our societal discussion, there is an idea that “how I feel about something, is the exact right answer,” so that any variation no matter how reasonable or nuanced is a deviation too far. I’ll use sex as an example. If I’ve had sex with 5 people, anyone else who’s had sex with 5 people is normal; anyone who’s had sex with 6 is a slut, whore, player, etc.; while anyone who’s had sex with 4 people is a prude, or loser, etc. This applies with guns in that, if I believe you have the right to bear any and all arms except for nuclear weapons, anyone who believes you may also have nuclear weapons is a “gun nut;” while anyone who believes you should be able to own all weapons except for nuclear weapons and bazookas is a “gun-control advocate.” This example seems extreme, but for all intents and purposes is a fair representation. With abortion, most of us argue upon when life begins, and so that’s the starting point.
In this ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy, we’re able to discredit all dissenting opinions regardless of merit, and we learn nothing, and we make no progress. In truth, I’m aware of very few people who believe an individual should be able to own nuclear weapons, while on the other end of the spectrum, I know very few people who are opposed to gun ownership outright. The vast majority of us exist in the middle some where. I suspect Wayne LaPierre exists in the middle somewhere. The only people I can think of not in the middle are, perhaps Kim Jong Un, and actually, that’s probably it. But by seeing everyone as these unreasonable poles, we are able to do nothing, but get frustrated, even though, if we are willing to have an honest and open back and forth, we’d see that we’re mostly all in the same grey area, albeit on different ends.
The second issue plaguing honest discussion these days is language. I watched a video the other day on YouTube, in which two men did a “Statler and Waldorf” style take down of The Young Turk’s Hasan Piker’s “Takedown of Ben Shapiro,” (you don’t need to watch the whole video). In the video, Piker clearly states that the cells making up a fetus/baby are not “life” until they’re born from the mother. The two hecklers (correctly) point out that he’s full of shit. What Piker probably means to say, is that he doesn’t consider it a human until birth, which is a distinction that is very open to debate, with solid points on both sides, but because he’s likely to be regurgitating talking points he’s heard before, he uses the wrong wording, and dismantles his own argument. We can argue about what that life is, but it is life. Many things that very few people have no problem with killing are life, even if we don’t care about them. This is an incorrect argument.
This language issue is worse than just that. There is a famous quote, that “gun control means being able to hit your target,” and whether or not you like the sentiment behind the quote, it is an example of a side understanding that just because we co-opt words into terms in order to create buzzwords for those who don’t think, doesn’t mean they get to own those terms. Now with this one, I’m not sure which side misuses “gun control” more, because that quote is correct, and we now have this term that is a ‘dirty word’ on the right, and a badge of honor on the left, and really all it is is filler designed lead you to a conclusion without giving any real argument.
Another one of these ‘words’ that has been totally ruined by politics, is “assault.” Many on the left want to ban all “assault” rifles, while many on the right will argue that “assault” rifles don’t really even exist beyond a vague description. The term “assault rifle” has a definition on Google dictionary that is listed as “a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use,” while the term “assault” by itself has a definition of “make a physical attack on (verb); or a physical attack (noun).” The ‘rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic’ part is added to the term, and if we’re being realistic it is because many rifles that don’t meet that standard would be considered ‘assault’ rifles, but not ‘assault rifles.’ For example, the most talked about gun probably ever, the AR-15, is by many gun advocates considered to not be an ‘assault rifle,’ because it doesn’t qualify by the definition above, but certainly it’s not a hunting rifle. Now, I’m not saying these guns that are ‘assault’ rifles but not ‘assault rifles’ need to be restricted, what I’m saying is that our society is purposely obfuscating facts in order to sell their own agendas (and that is the truth on both sides, remember that a zygote is a life, even if you don’t consider it a human).
So what can we do about these issues in our ability to have honest discussions? We need to stop being careless with our use of words, we need to begin putting more thought into our views, and not just repeating back something that sounded reasonable to us, and we need to attempt to understand what our dissenters intend. We’re in a boat with a small whole, and both sides seem to be filling their bucket from outside the boat and pouring them in. Let’s do better, and try to understand each other. Ok?