Thursday, May 5, 2011

Showdown at the Church Corral

The Fight - Sia (mp3)

God I love a good argument.

“Good arguments” should be defined this way: people of relatively comparable intelligence, relatively well-educated on the issues at hand, who disagree about some portion of said subject, carry forth with laying out their differences of opinion in something akin to an informal and short-form Lincoln-Douglas debate/dialogue.

Wednesday was a wonderful day for good arguments. First, Bob carved a beautifully-written reaction to all the MLK-bastardized reaction to the Death of OBL. Three people whose intellect I highly respect offered their difference of opinions, and I entered the fray with my own verbose if moronic thoughts.

I loved it.

Then, four of the six commentators on the post met Wednesday after work for “Church.” Early on, we had the requisite follow-up debates to yesterday’s BOTG post, but we quickly downshifted into work-related banter, about promotions and salaries and people who win stuff and people who don’t, about scandalous daughters of coworkers, and about retirees who spent their whole life supposedly caring about students but who somehow stopped giving a shit about anyone but themselves in home stretch.

And it saddened me. I had entered church full of energy and vigor, because Big Ideas were being debated by people I respect, but we had found a way to remind me of how much is screwed up in the regular hubbub of our daily grind. In the fight for our work souls, you have The Daily Grind in one corner, and Inspirational Moments in the other, and it's a Goliath v. David kind of fight. The Daily Grind is heavily favored.

But then Church got really good again, because we argued about conspiracies. Bob is a Conspiracy Man. He questions. He probes. He doubts. He suspects. Anything government-related gets this treatment. Even things I completely take for granted, like 9/11.

Bob has the audacity to question how planes could have so easily taken down those towers. To me, the story is so obvious and clear that he might as well be asking why tripods were designed with three legs. Who decided a tripod should have three? Who was the assassin who killed that fourth leg??

Were it just any random person whose intelligence and deepness of thought I didn’t know and respect, that conversation would last all of about two minutes. I would offer a counterpoint, see they weren’t budging, shrug and shut down. No point arguing with idiots.

Please don't misunderstand. Arguing just for the hell of it isn't fun. While I might abuse hyperbole in the hopes that someone reevaluates their stance, I'm not looking for a "swordfight" to feel better about myself or remind myself how friggin' brilliant I am.  Anyone who believes in sportsmanship wants a good fight. You want a close match, a nail-biter, a dramatic finish. It’s true in sports, and it’s true in debates.

Sportsmanship longs for political debates where decent and respectable minds can differ. Lately, you are hard-pressed to find anything of that sort in Washington or on television.

Every year when I step out onto the ocean-side deck in South Carolina to hold court with my uber-conservative in-laws, we have such debates. I mostly respect their intellect, and I’m well aware of how deeply they read up on conservative-leaning opinion and philosophy, all of which, when combined with healthy amounts of alcohol, guarantee us staying up ‘til the wee hours of the morning yelling and coaxing and counterpointing ourselves into oblivion.

I’m a loud person. When I’m excited, or agitated, or enervated, my volume skyrockets. Apparently some people misinterpret this as anger when it’s usually not. Usually, it’s just excitement. Passionate excitement. OK fine, once in a while, like when my good pal insulted my school one too many times at a bar, it turns into anger. But 95% of the time, it’s excitement.

My mother-in-law hates debates and heated discussion. It makes her sad to hear her children and children-in-law yelling at one another about politics. I’ll never understand this, because it’s not like we’re gorillas throwing feces at one another. Granted, we ain’t gonna change one another’s minds very often, but on many occasions, I’ve found opportunity to land on common ground or compromise, and those are exquisite, beautiful moments.

Compromise, however, is not the prioritized goal, at least not in the short-term. The goal in the short term is to force your opponent to explain and defend himself or herself against all assaults and at all angles, and to force yourself to use every idea and perspective possible to honestly and sincerely defend your opinion. More importantly, the more you engage in this exercise, the better you are at recognizing the moment when you have begun to defend out of pride and stubbornness rather than out of sincere conviction and belief.

And trust me, that happens a lot, to intelligent (and stupid) people on any side of any argument.

Yesterday, Wednesday, May 4, 2011, stirred my brain, my passions, my vocal chords, and my respect and love of colleagues and friends. Ergo, it was an exquisite, beautiful, wonderful day.


Bob said...

And what a perfect day to challenge the motives of our government! The 42nd anniversary of the day the American government opened fire on and killed American college students.

John said...

Billy, great take on yesterday's spirited Church; I'm in awe of your and Bob's ability for such immediate turn around reflection of events. Where do you find the time?!

Daisy said...

I love this post and yesterday's as well. I too love a good debate and thought about throwing some of my own conspiracy theories into the ring, but didn't want to sully the great conversations. I don't think I qualify based on "relatively comparable intelligence" factor.

troutking said...

I can't say much right now because I think some shadowy arm of the government is reading the comments on this blog. So I'll just say, "church" sounds fun. Wish I'd been there.