Why Can’t We Debate Honestly About Today’s Political Morass?
[There is absolutely no business case for me to write this article, flaming the political debate in this country. But the debate rages on even if I try to ignore it. On FB I occasionally stick my progressive viewpoints in on some misguided posts, like the example below. My hope is to foster honest and well-supported debate. Name calling will not be acceptible here on this blog, or anywhere online. If you can’t support your facts, STFU, don’t call someone a nasty name, like “liberal” or “left-winger.” It’s not a debate strategy it’s a “shutdown and go away” strategy. Let’s talk amongst ourselves as informed and articulate individuals. I support your right to disagree with me. Just don’t write me off with comments like “You didn’t read the article,” or “You obviously don’t understand FB.” That’s just trolling. Or is it baiting? Perhaps I’m the bear that’s being poked. Well, “friend,” you just woke my ass up.]
I’m amazed by some of my conservative friends. Not all of them are Trumpettes, but many of them are. What amazes me is that most of us came from the same background, many of them I went to high school with. And I am one for a vigorous debate, I’m saddened when one of them drops off, unfriends me, or in some other way limits our conversation about something that they seem to hold so near and dear to their hearts. It is my belief, however, that many conservative values fall apart when you try to back them up with facts. If you try and show the impact of Trumps amazing 2018/2017 tax cut for the rich and how it’s not all unicorns and fairy tales, they seem to overheat, regress into childish name-calling, and at some point you’re going to hear them blame/drag out the old “Clinton(s)” troupe.
Here is a typical well-meaning, if not unsupported, political debate starter on one of my conservative friend’s wall.
My friend, bless his conservative heart, makes the statement “There are racists on both sides of the divide.” He’s asking for discussion in the comments. I’m the first commenter, “He is amazing.”
My friend doesn’t back up his statement on racism, he attacks my statement as if I’m uninformed or merely a troll with no backup. Part of his response is correct. I did not read the Coates critique on The National Review (a conservative opinion site). I do know Coates well, however, and I was less interested in the “The Left’s golden literary idol has feet of clay.” statement and more in the debate over Coates’s perspective.
The “debate” quickly turned south, however, and we digressed into a discussion of racism and the quotes that the NR writer lifted from the Coates’ piece. And, in fact, the writer of the NR piece also misses the actual heart of the Coates’ article that’s lighting up the political debate nationwide. My friend took the NR writer’s blush on the Coates’ article at face value and did not actually read the article under scrutiny. His comments and defense of said comments reveal that he is actually just arguing the NR perspective, without reading the source, or thinking for himself about the debate. This is typical in heated political discussions: we pick up a viewpoint of the opinion sites (Fox News, NPR, National Review) and make them our own, without fully understanding or exploring the actual substance of the debate.
I’m going to leave the big reveal until just a bit later, so you have the same “ah ha” moment I had when I actually went back and read the Coates’ article from The Atlantic.
Here’s how the debate digressed into its logical impasse (where we agree to disagree and retreat to our respective corners and either sulk or gloat depending on how we think we did in the debate.)
So to show up my debate partner in this matter I shared a screenshot of copy from the NR article.
And I followed on with this explanation, “You are wrong. I recall a famous writer talking about the virtue of eating children.”
And my friend responded, “Shapiro is right. The bright line drawn by Coates places “whiteness” always on the side of evil. That is as racist as placing “blackness” always on the side of evil.”
At this point, several other thinking people entered the debate to point out some of my friend’s errors in logic, policy, and historical recollections. So here is my friend’s summary of his position on the NR article. (Mind you, we are now debating the NR article, not what Coates’ said, and not even the substance of the original article which is part of the great “miss” reveal, coming right up.
“You’re not compelled to agree with NR’s take or mine. Here’s the full quote: “West calls his struggle the right to be a ‘free thinker,’ and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own; not the freedom of Nat Turner, which calls you to give even more, but a conqueror’s freedom, freedom of the strong built on antipathy or indifference to the weak, the freedom of rape buttons, pussy grabbers, and fuck you anyway, bitch; freedom of oil and invisible wars, the freedom of suburbs drawn with red lines, the white freedom of Calabasas.” And, to me, it’s racist.”
There it is.
This is the premise of the NR article too. That Coates’s hyperbolic rhetoric is racist, attacking whites for historical atrocities. I believe this is what my friend is reacting to. I believe this is the heart of the NR “feet of clay” damnation of Coates’ writing and elegantly expressed platform. But here’s the HUGE miss.
The quote from the NR article is NOT Coates’s viewpoint. The article that NR is responding to is about KANYE WEST. The block of copy my friend quotes, and the NR writer quotes is used to damn the article for being racist against whites. However, the blurb is a direct paraphrase of Kanye’s perspective. And it’s a reflection based on some observation of Michael Jackson’s 2001 movie Moonwalk.
Here’s the full paragraph quote.
What Kanye West seeks is what Michael Jackson sought—liberation from the dictates of that we. In his visit with West, the rapper T.I. was stunned to find that West, despite his endorsement of Trump, had never heard of the travel ban. “He don’t know the things that we know because he’s removed himself from society to a point where it don’t reach him,” T.I. said. West calls his struggle the right to be a “free thinker,” and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own; not the freedom of Nat Turner, which calls you to give even more, but a conqueror’s freedom, freedom of the strong built on antipathy or indifference to the weak, the freedom of rape buttons, pussy grabbers, and fuck you anyway, bitch; freedom of oil and invisible wars, the freedom of suburbs drawn with red lines, the white freedom of Calabasas.
I’m not sure what Calabasas is, but I’m open to learning. Google didn’t inform me much to Coates or Kanye’s use of the vegetable as a metaphor.
Now, here is the quote as quoted within the NR article.
So the NR writer, David French, is clear about whose perspective Coates’ is revealing, but he’s damning Coates for the perspective. And the conservative media is furious with Coates rather than Kanye (since we can all write of his extremist views) for putting forward such an example of “innate racism.” Really? Look at the quote. Now, look at the entire quote from the original Atlantic article. The part that Mr. French leaves out of his dubious extraction of his “white shaming” language,
West calls his struggle the right to be a “free thinker,” and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom, freedom without consequence,
is actually WEST and not COATES. And this GEM of TRUTH, “championing a kind of freedom.”
Is Coates saying this rant is valid? In some ways yes. The outrage is real, the imbalance is real, the injustice of power and influence is real. The racism and white supremacy permissiveness of our current government is real. But the pushback to condemn an amazing black political writer is not an accident. NR and Mr. French would love to put some arrows into this young writer’s back. But they are misquoting and taking a big rant from KANYE and attributing it to Coates. Is that a miss, or am I making too much out of this?
And I’m sorry to say my friend took the “agree to disagree” summary to shut down a debate he could not support with facts or references. And while the debate raged on for a number of hours, here’s my summary of the entire discussion.
What is threatening you about his article? That the masses are getting ready to rise? That we’ve painted the white man as a monster, murderer…?
I guess Newton’s 3rd Law comes into play here, ” When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.” I’m glad his article upset you, though I was surprised you suggested I had not read the article because I praised him.
Is this dialogue a form of understanding on another, or as suggested, about coming to an agreement? I think it’s about a dialogue. Have you responded to any of my questions, or are you merely agreeing to disagree about the original article which you call racist and I call necessary for balancing some of the imbalance of power.
And that’s how debate happens or doesn’t happen on a public forum like Facebook. And it was shortly thereafter that my friend dis-invited me to play tennis at his country club next week. (Privately, on Messenger, of course.)
And thus, often we agree to disagree, but the facts by which my friend tried to support his “racism” viewpoint did not hold water. In fact, both the NR writer and my friend we misrepresenting the article from The Atlantic and who was speaking their “truth” or as Coates’ framed it, “he is championing a kind of freedom.” And, I think, the real reason the media went nuts, is it’s in support of Kanye West who crowed like a victor after the article came out. And his post was joined by several liberal pundits as the calling out of a TRUTH about the racial divide in America.
Yes, there is a racial divide in America. Unfortunately there are many white people, like the NR writer (who does this misdirection on purpose) and my friend (who simply believes his viewpoint is correct and mine is incorrect) who believe that white power is being threatened by the uprising of intelligent and articulate writers of color, or god forbid, black rockstars like Kanye West.
DISCLAIMER: I am an upper-middle-class white man who lives in the middle of a deep south red state, Texas. And I stand behind my progressive (not liberal) views as expressed in this post.
With this post, I hope to foster open debate without name calling and supported by facts (Not Fox News, or Breitbart). And if you don’t have a point of view but are merely spouting off Faux News talking points as your own, I might weigh in to challenge the meat behind your perspective. In this case, my friend didn’t read the original and was making his “racism on both sides” comment without knowing what he was talking about. Was that mean? Sorry.
Be healthy out there, and if you say something, know what you are talking about or link to credible references who can back you up. (Know your sources. Read the original, not just the political commentary from your side of the aisle.)
THE EDITOR: “Why do you want to write about this? We’re going to lose readers.”
ME: “Speak to the power. Speak my own truth. Suffer not the trolls or uninformed.”
Update 15 minutes after publishing: My friend used Messenger to inform me he was not happy with my use of his words without his express permission. Since he’s a lawyer, I suppose I should be worried. Well, except, FB is a public forum. And I’ve blurred his name so you can’t tell who he is. I asked if he wanted me to blur his face also. I’m expecting the UNFRIEND or BLOCKED notice shortly.
Update a few hours later, Holy Crap Jill wakes up.
Not sure what this has to do with the conversation, but that’s the way it is with Trumpettes sometimes, they see the tweeter-in-chief crowing about something and they repeat it.
Way to go Mr. President, I guess all your trash talk against our weak military has really gotten them on their best behavior. Glad you did it, sir. Glad you can claim victory for the free world. Tweet on, sir.
Update 5-11-18 Snowflake Flurries and we are unfriended…
Let me clarify just a bit who this “friend” is. We have some mutual friends from high school. He went to the local public school, I went to the rich public school/rival. We were not friends in high school. We are not friends now. We “friended” on Facebook recently over some discussions that took place on a mutual friends wall. And we struck up an easy conversation. He’s a lawyer and a tennis player. We discussed playing some tennis, since he’s a member of a very-exclusive country club with clay tennis courts. I guess that’s not ever going to take place.
Anyway, this friend loves to produce provocative posts, like the one at the top of this page. He’s looking for a fight. And he’s pretty smart, must have a lot of time on his hands working for himself, because he seems to respond to my Facebook goads within minutes, even in the middle of the day. Oh well, we all have our vices. It seems one of his is baiting conversations with “liberals” on his Facebook page. Then he enters into a debate (pseudo-debate) with them, establishing his mental superiority, or not. When he is bested he doesn’t admit defeat, he merely pitches out catch phrases about “agreeing to disagree” and “you don’t understand how FB works,” as a way of closing the discussion thread. Of course, it’s his wall, and he can delete, block, shutdown, do whatever he wants to the conversations he starts.
If he chooses to remain open, however, he cannot control the conversation. And this one, documented at the top of this story, is one that got out of hand. And today, after two other people weighed in to give him the business about his misguided position, he deftly stopped me from being able to continue questioning his authority. He sent me this Messenger text at 10 this morning.
I went back to see what had happened in the thread and
found that he had deleted me from the conversation. I guess he also unfriended me.
Yep. What I wasn’t expecting, from a lawyer, was his final parting shot.
But, methinks, he was hurt by being bested. He was called to point by several “friends.” And then he went into action to unfriend and regain dominance over his conversations and his wall. I was surprised. We were agreeing to disagree in public. We were back-channeling that it was okay to disagree as long as we kept the conversation on the topic and didn’t regress into name calling and such. And then… Boom. I’m the one with the mental issue.
Last point about who I will refer to as White-Friend. He’s rich. He was born rich. He’s a self-employed attorney. And he’s got a lot of white privilege to pass around. He couches his discussions as intelligent, rational, conversations about politics and left vs. right, but at the end of the day, he’s a scared white child. When pushed to explain his racist viewpoint, he cowers, calls names, and then blocks and unfriends his detractors. I agree, I was wasting a lot of time thinking about White-Friend and I wanted to play him on the smooth clay courts of his country club. I assume that’s not going to happen. (BTW: he was hurt that I did not check with him before publishing his words on my blog. I asked him if he wanted me to blur his face more, and he never answered. I guess he’s more pissed now. I’ll never know, I can’t see his wall nor connect with him on FB or Messenger.
Goodbye snowflake. Be well.
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