I have noticed a trend in the media, on Facebook, and during face-to-face confrontations. When people have genuine discourse about the issues of the day, the argument inevitably turns into what I call the argument by lowest common denominator: where people attack others rather than their ideas. I have seen more of this of late, usually between media bloggers, especially if it involves anything remotely related to politics. But that is understandable, it is THE media.
The same thing also seems to happen on Facebook and general discussions. Many of my law school classmates post about political or religious issues, and often times, someone’s first response will be to label the person who posted the material as someone who hates Christians, or hates liberals, or what have you.
I always try to remind people that we should be able to discuss every issue on any sort of medium with a modicum of civility. And that if you must attack, you should go after the idea and not the person. This is especially true if you are wanting to change someone’s opinion and make them see your side of the issue. Nothing shuts people down quicker than labeling them prematurely.
I have seen more of this lately, but it didn’t really register until it happened to me. One of my Facebook friends (someone who I’ve had one conversation with in my life) said I was sexist and trying to put women in their place because I posted pieces from that Atlantic that: a) questioned why the country would subsidize birth control for all (by all I mean even those women who can easily afford it); and b) faulted the political parties for calling the birth control and Ann Romney issues the “War on Women” and “War on Moms,” respectively.
Now those that know me know that the reason I reposted the birth control article is because I swing libertarian, which means I pretty much question every dollar the government spends on anything. But although I question the amount of money we spend fighting foreign wars, I’m not anti-military. Although I also question whether we should subsidize viagra in our health insurance plans, I don’t think that makes me anti-men. And since I question the amount of money the government spends, that doesn’t necessarily make me anti-government…okay, you got me there! But you get the hint.
And my views on labeling policy preferences a “war” stem from the fact that those terms should be reserved from something actually comparable to war. I absolutely hate when sports figures say they are about to go to “war” because I think it demeans the seriousness of the term. We are at war with those in the Middle East where people on both sides are being slaughtered. Women are being slaughtered. So are children. The comments made about Ann Romney are nowhere near what that word “war” actually means. Nor is the policy debate over birth control. And I would bet my next decade’s worth of salary that the women in federal prison locked away for decades from the War on Drugs don’t find those terms and conditions comparable.
I digress. The point is that people shouldn’t be so quick to place onerous labels on others. We should be able to talk about issues like adults. Otherwise, what happens is that we don’t talk about them and the misunderstandings go unchecked. And then nothing changes but our level of hostility.