The nature of debate

One of the things that really bothers me about the current nature of debate in our country is the fact that so many people declare subjects that are otherwise undeniably part of the debate taboo and, therefore, not open for discussion. As a result, important subjects like the nature and justification of the use of force or the startling similarity between the behavior and beliefs of some groups and historically abhorrent movements cause someone who brings them up to be drubbed out of the discussion.

One of the ways people create this nature of taboo is with the faux-intellectual declaration that no intelligent person believes such things, so there is no need to discuss them. Yet, this self-righteous belief means that most people who declare it spend very little time thinking about what those taboo subjects might look like or mean, and the result is that they often throw legitimate ideas and concerns under the prohibited discussion bus along with the bad.

It is this kind of reductionism–reducing subjects and ideas well below their natural complexity for the sake of personal comfort–that has been the leading cause of the ridiculous and increasingly violent nature of our national discourse. When people see what they believe lumped in with terrible and loathsome ideas simply because someone else refuses to understand the difference between a legitimate idea and an illegitimate one that superficially sound the same, those people tend to respond with frustration and anger, and if provoked in this way for long enough, violence.

The best and most direct way we all can blow the doors open on this whole debate, then, is to end the prohibition and taboo. As a nation, we need to talk about things like the role of government in our personal lives, the appropriate use of force, and the tendency for some people to become radicalized toward ways of thinking most of us reject. Unless we are willing to be open and honest with each other, and thereby understand where each of us is coming from, there can be no agreement. At the point where the possibility of agreement fails, all that remains is conflict and whatever such conflict might bring.


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