You may be surprised if you have never met me. Despite writing an opinion column since 1972, in real life I tend to listen and observe, and rarely rant at others: especially those I don’t know. I often seek points of agreement: especially if I think we disagree a lot.
And if you think I believe anything I ever write here is “gospel,” well, I don’t. Never have.
Anyone who believes that of anything they say or write is an arrogant idiot and a dangerous fool.
Hey, I tend to be a relativist: that’s probably the best I can do, with the emphasis on “probably.”
To me how we interact, if we meet in person, on the phone, or even if you respond to one of my columns, is usually far more important than anything I believe. Though, like anyone, I won’t take abuse or false accusations.
Hence this edition of Inspection…
Does “free speech” mean “free to offend?”
Does “free speech” mean “free to say anything without consequences?”
Hell, no. While it may mean, most of the time, the government shouldn’t do anything… though try to tell the cop that the day you make an obscene gesture at him as you call him a “^%$#@ pig…” Free speech doesn’t protect you from being kicked out of a family, losing friends, a lifetime of angst regarding all you lost due to attitude, or loneliness. Nor does it prevent you from losing job after job due to that attitude, or from being the kind of idiot who blames everyone who dares to disagree with you.
For the rest of us I have an idea that may help. It’s actually not a “new” idea. Indeed it used to be quite common. Such a small thing, but if we brought it back I believe a lot “bad” could change for the better.
Here it is…
When talking with others: especially if you’re not sure where they stand, or you think they’ll probably disagree with you, why not politely, briefly, state your opinion and, then, just as politely, ask them theirs. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt, or at least back off on aggressively interrupting them.
Even better: ask them first, then phrase how you answer to firmly state whatever differences may exist, but respectfully.
Essentially: start with respect and go from there.
If we start to head down that path, as individuals, it will take a while for the nature of social discourse to change, but I believe, like opening doors for others, it could make a difference.
I understand the often stated “truism” that “respect must be earned.” But in actual practice, in normal daily human relations, that’s simply a formula for becoming too much like what may come out of the most southward portal of a moose heading north. Doesn’t matter whether you respect that person one whit: they have rights too. To be less polite: they are neither your personal “bitch,” nor your battering post. Blasting over them, insulting them, trying to “teach them” using your so “superior” wisdom, just makes you the one who is behaving poorly. Or more accurately: an ass.
That’s the way it is: matter how much of a “lib” or “con” they may be, no matter how much of a dolt you may think they are.
Asking, “What do you think,” was far more common when I was a kid, even with my father who was a dedicated, William F. Buckley, conservative, who hated FDR and was a peacenik before WWII: like Lucky Lindy. Many on the right were. In my family we even invited Jehovah Witnesses over every Wednesday after they suggested it when they knocked on our door. After a year and a half one said, “You guys aren’t going to convert, you just like to argue.” To which my father responded, “Yes, and, well, we never told you we’d ‘convert.'”
Do you think they would have come back every Wednesday for a year and a half if we had “debated” like we do these days on Facebook (not a good debate forum, in my opinion), or Volconvo.com (an excellent one, among many), or behaved like some idiot who decides the stranger pumping gas next to him needs to hear his tiresome tirade?
The content of whatever you wish to say is almost always lost during such times.
It is neither your personal mission, nor mine, to correct everyone we think has it wrong. Only an idiot would think they could. Indeed attempting to do so often does more damage than good. They either cower and hate you, or they push back: literally, or figuratively. For no matter how wrong they are the nature of someone attacked is either to ignore: if possible, or double down, defend themselves… physically if necessary.
What exactly do you think you’re achieving, other than proving what a jerk you are?
They’re not going away, you’re not going away… or if you make them go away the police, and ultimately the media, will definitely have something to say about that. During such times I usually try to, after a while, offer some mild alternatives to what they claim, and if they react poorly just let it go. If they get abusive is pretty that’s when I may unload: only because at that time all’s lost anyway. I won’t tolerate bullies. But most of the time the best you can do is offer something that slight varies with what they claim while showing you understand their concerns.
But if you participate in this aggressive kind of nonsense I mentioned, or someone you know does: do me a favor. Cut back on the ego, the self righteousness, give it a try. Maybe it will be like opening doors for others: something I started doing years ago and seems to have become fashionable.
Then, respectfully, ask them…
“What do you think?”
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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