The Art of Argument, Part 1

I was just thinking how moving back south has really changed the way I analyze and put together an argument and that it actually may have changed how I argue and discuss issues more than law school and lawyering have.  Before I moved back here, I was always in fairly liberal settings, and never had to think about my argument’s structure from A to Z.  “X” was right and good and true and correct because I and everyone around me *knew* it to be so. However, since moving back here (well, and becoming a lawyer, which is really just trying to become a highly skilled arguer), I have had to learn how to discuss and explain and prove what, to me, just seems like obvious universal truths.

Why is it good to help out other people? Why is it bad to allow corporate profit to trump individual well-being? How can I believe that racism still exists when everyone says they are not racist? How can I say that christian ethics are not the most important quality in a candidate? Why do I think the military and military actions profit corporations at the cost of the middle and lower classes? Etc etc.

I also have to remember to always try to discuss my feelings and opinions in a neutral and civil tone, since most people around here and certainly most of my family are very conservative and very vocal in their opposition to everything I believe. I take great care to stick to the issues and facts, never say derogative things about a person, characterize my assertions in the most general terms possible, and talk ONLY about facts that I personally have verified. I also take care to ALWAYS find something to agree about, praise the person I am talking to for having a thoughtful opinion, and actually listen to what they are saying. I never jump on them when they throw out radically erroneous facts and I never demand they defend their assertions.

Though I am beginning to wonder why I bother, since (a) no one on the other side of these discussions ever notices and doesn’t appear to even be listening and (b) it certainly isn’t reciprocated.

At any given chance, these people will say utterly outrageous and just awful things about me, “liberals,” and the people I respect, support, admire, and work with/for.   Ad hominem stuff, things about their family. To my face, to me, as if this appropriate. If an issue comes up in conversation, and I, after carefully examining my words, voice an opinion, they will jump my shit, attack ME and deride my thinking and my sources and claim that I am attacking them, and that all (my “group”) just clearly hate (America, christianity, hardworking Americans, etc.).

None of these people ever take the time to think about how disrespectful or rude or unfair or ridiculous this is. Not once have they noticed the care and respect I show them and their opinions.  I NEVER would say such things to them about the people and issues they support and I NEVER criticize them personally, or deride their thoughts, or accuse them of being a part of a group/engaging in mind-think/being closeminded, etc. EVER. And I certainly would NEVER instigate a fight about politics with my parents right before they went in for a colonoscopy (yes, for real). And it just saddens me that they don’t even notice this.

And these are usually the same people that get deeply personally offended if I simply state an opinion on an issue with which they disagree. For example, relative X goes on and on about how terrible Michelle Obama is and how she has 22 personal servants while Laura Bush has 1 and Michelle Obama is costing us money and much money she spends on clothes and how she is pimping out her daughters to Gap and what an awful mother she is and is so fake and a bad American.

I then pointed out – correctly – that Laura Bush had between 15 and 19 members in her personal staff and that all First Ladies have had roughly the same number, the differences being dependent on how active the First Lady was AND whether or not there were minor children in the WH. For real, that is more or less verbatim what I said.

Relative X then jumps my shit for accusing Laura Bush of not doing anything and how dare I and how awful I and all the liberals are because we were always making fun of the Bush twins and talking about LB’s car accident and how disrespectful and how we are all about the First Amendment until someone says something we don’t like and at least LB was a “real” American.  And so forth. And somehow I was the bad actor in this “discussion.”

And like I said earlier, I am about to the point where I am DONE being the only one abiding by basic rules of decency and respect. Why should I worry so much about offending people that clearly don’t give a shit about my opinions and don’t even think twice about offending me?  I just don’t know how much more I can bite my tongue.  That is one of the reasons I started this blog, so I could work through some of my frustrations with this and perhaps let off some steam that I cannot vent around the people I love.

But for now, I think I am just going to have to leave the room the next time someone brings up politics.  Because if this doesn’t stop, I am going to have to leave the state.