Disagreeable Thoughts

Well, not really "disagreeable thoughts" so much as "thoughts on disagreeing". Originally this was going to be a couple of different screeds but since mine are somewhat shorter than Bill Whittle's I'm just combining them here.

In one of the forums I hang out in another member liked something I said well enough to use it as a signature. I did get happen to hit the phrasing the way I wanted on it, so I'll repeat it here:

"If you can't insult someone while still calling them Sir or Madam and while not using foul language then you need to work on your language skills."

If you want some good examples of what I mean you can either watch some Monty Python episodes or check out The LawDog Files - a blog by a very well-spoken (and often outspoken) Texas Law Enforcement Officer. There's not a thing he writes you couldn't safely read to a class of first graders but quite a lot that strips the hide off of the subject of his ire.

In real life I'm the same way I am online. Oh I cuss all right - I just do my best to reserve it for special occasions. Makes it have greater impact that way. If you have steak at least once a day then a nice juicy Porterhouse just isn't going to get your attention the way it would for, say, a soldier just back from six months stuck out in the middle of nowhere eating MREs.

I have been told by people who should know better that I'm a Gentleman. Most who know me (especially me ever-indulgent wife) would laugh out loud at that but I do try to stick with one old standard for Gentlemen: I try to never be unintentionally rude. As with cursing, it's a matter of not diluting the impact for when I mean it.

So now that I've prepped you with some hints on the best ways to argue and insult, here's the kicker:

I don't think you can change someone's mind by arguing with them.

Ok, you can change their opinion of you, but you know what I mean. If someone is in favor of the death penalty for anyone caught revealing the ending of popular new movie or book you're not going to convince them that they're wrong by arguing with them.

Now folks who haven't really formed their own opinion on a subject, them you can argue into accepting your stance (or annoy into taking the opposite view). But that's because they don't have an actual opinion on the subject. Sure, they may say they have an opinion, they might even think that they do but since they don't have any intellectual or emotional investment in it so it's more of an opinion of what their opinion would be if they had one.

Once someone has made up their mind then you can't change it, only they can. Your arguments can help them do it, but it's not going to happen in an instant. They're going to have to take some time and let your arguments sink in. They're going to have to check your facts, or at least work through the logic themselves. Evaluate all that new info you've given them. After all of that they may well come back and say "Now that I've had time to think about it..." Like the books say "Change must come from within."

In some cases they will never change their mind - they have just too much invested in their stance. Some of them will change their mind but will never admit that they have (possibly even to themselves in which case you have to ask if they really did change their mind). Sarah Brady, for example, may have gone from not really having an opinion on guns beyond the vague "they're bad" she'd been fed by the media to a sincere "they must all be destroyed" after her husband was shot to a (possibly grudging) "they're just tools that can be used for good or ill". But she will NEVER admit to such an attitude. Her entire life (not just her livelihood) is based on that "destroy them all" stance. And I'm not picking on Mrs. Brady in particular, nor am I saying she's a hypocrite, just pointing out that it's nearly impossible for her to ever change her public stance. I suspect that if someone carrying a legal concealed pistol somehow managed to stop the nuclear destruction of the free world by shooting the bad guy before he could press the button she might be able to give them a grudging thumbs up but only with strong caveats on how lucky he was that he didn't hit the button with his shot and kill us all.

So go ahead, get out there and make your case. Stand up for what you believe in, or just tweak the noses of those who need it. But realize that they're no more likely to change their position than you are to change yours. And do try to do it politely, even if they are a fetid pile of dingo droppings that wouldn't know what they were talking about even if the subject was the color of unidentifiable goo smeared across their pale and bloated carcass.

After all, you wouldn't want to be rude, now would you?

Copyright © 2009 Steven L. Van Dyke, all rights reserved

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