I’ve been engaged in some political debates over the past month-and-a-half. I’ve also watched more of these internet-based and real life debates go down. And, most of the time, they’re not so pretty. I find it frustrating. Instead of discussing different view points with respect, the intelligent adults that I know and admire are name-calling, playing off of their own fears and generally acting strange. And there’s a much better way to go about this, folks!
I’ve, thankfully, had very little personal aggravation when it comes to political debate. Here’s what has helped me over the past few weeks.
1. No name calling. I’m serious! I don’t care how insane you think someone is for whatever they just spouted, but referring to them as a “moron” only serves to make you look like one as well. Resorting to name calling doesn’t show off your vast vocabulary and instead places you in the uneducated camp. I don’t care if you went to an Ivy League University. If you call someone a name or have to resort to insulting their Mama, not only will your point not be heard but you come off looking as stupid as the name you just used. (And end up insulting your own Mama in the process. And she’s gonna smack you for that.)
2. Avoid sweeping generalizations. I know. All liberals believe x. And all conservatives do y. And those in the middle are all z-kind of people. Except that they’re not. Maybe you think they are. Maybe in your personal experience, those that you have encountered fall into that stereotype. But let me assure you, your sweeping generalization is not true. Go on believing it if you must. But using one to debate will only serve to make you look like a name-calling, uneducated, politically-informed-wannabe. Instead, speak personally. When debating with a liberal that believes x, say, “I know that you believe x but here’s why I disagree.” It works much better than, “OH. MY. GOODNESS. ALL YOU RAVING LIBERALS BELIEVE X AND YOUR MAMA IS DUMB.” (The previous example is to help you avoid combining points one and two.) We’re a wide and varied people, even within a specific political spectrum. Treat individuals as, well, individuals.
3. Avoid insulting someone’s integrity. This is different than name calling which is usually based on a lack of vocabulary or ability to state your point. Insulting someone’s integrity is more like calling them a liar, telling them they have no morals or generally insulting their moral fiber. You don’t believe in abortion but your debater thinks that removing the choice will create further problems? Avoid telling them that they hate children and shouldn’t ever have a family. There’s no truth in that statement.
4. Just avoid your friends and family until November 5th. That would solve most of the problems, right? Because it’s fine to debate (even when name-calling and insulting others’ integrity) online but when it is your brother, your mom, your best friend or your grandparents, well, it gets a little sticky, doesn’t it? If you can’t avoid them until November 5th (meaning, after the election) and your political leanings differ greatly (like ours with our families), I’m going to suggest this: avoid the topic. I know. You want to save the world. You want your family members and friends to realize the error in their ways, leave the dark side and come back to the light. But it is highly unlikely that you will change the mind of someone set in their ways. Now as for those undecided voters in your family or friend circle? Hit them with all you’ve got, keeping the first three points in mind.
5. STOP SENDING FORWARDS. All of you. Liberals. Conservatives. Independents. Anarchists. ALL OF YOU. STOP. IT. NOW. (This should be said of all forwards, not just political ones.) I know you think that the email gods are always right and that everything that enters your inbox is the total truth but, trust me, its not. If you think an email you have received is the truth, please research it first. Try Snopes. Use Google. And when you find out the truth (most likely that the content of your email is a total falsification), please, for the love of all things political, do not forward it. Not even to those who have the same political leanings as you. Forwards are so 1997. Please enter this millenium.
6. Know the issues. Research your candidates. Let me make that clear: research both candidates. Compare and contrast their viewpoints. Know where they stand on the issues that are most important to you. And note that I said issues. Plural. Don’t be a one-issue voter because someone will call you a name and insult your integrity and, well, they might be justified in that case only. (As long as they’re not insulting your Mama. Unless your Mama is a one-issue voter, too. Then, well, all bets are off. Sorry.) When you haven’t done your research, it’s painfully evident. You don’t have to be ready to take over any political commentator’s jobs. You just have to know the issues. Get on that.
7. Leave the racism and sexism at home. I don’t care what generation you grew up in. If you launch into a tirade about women in leadership roles or minorities in general, I’m not going to hear a word you said. And you’re probably going to have limited access to my children. I know that this election has brought up issues for this country. I know, from the words I have heard family members use, that we are not as progressive as a country as we would want (or need) to believe. But using these two issues to “prove your point” only makes you look like a hateful person. Try to avoid that… even if you are a hateful person.
I could go on and on. But I’ve kind of run out of tongue-and-cheek points to bring up. I think, for the most part, people realize these points. But politics are a deeply personal issue and everyone wants (or needs) to be right. What people are forgetting in the process is that we all are individuals with vastly different individual experiences. My political beliefs do not negate, diminish or dismiss your political beliefs. I think, of course, we’ll have bigger issues when one candidate or the other is elected and those changes start taking place. But, well, that’s a post for another day. In the meantime, get to researching the issues. That’s the biggest point of all of this, isn’t it?
Every Tuesday through November 4, 2008, we will be discussing something political here on Stop, Drop & Blog. Our weekly series is entitled “Is It November Yet” because, well, we’re excited for change, ready for the number of posts in our Google Reader to go down and overwhelmed with the wealth of information to search through. Next week we’ll be bringing you a very important reminder. Exciting, right?