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Losing A Debate: Old and New.

I love to debate.

I miss my old friends from my undergraduate years. One fond memory is going to Todd’s General Store outside of Boone, NC, listen to bluegrass, while eating MoonPies, and then going outside on their big back porch to smoke some cigars or pipes while looking at the stars. Sigh. It was marvelous. During those times, we’d often debate ideas. Sometimes it was abortion, small vs. big government, differences between men and women, sexuality, pornography, parenting, you name it. Sometimes it was very heated, but it never reverted to name calling. It was not personal, but it was about the debate itself. If your argument was sound, consistent, and you presented it well, you’d drive home feeling quite victorious and confident. If there was illogical reasoning to your point or if you presented it unfairly, my friends were pretty good at noticing and would jump on your argument. You then went home feeling discouraged, but not defeated. You were disappointed in yourself, but not in a shameful way. You were discouraged about your own disorganization, lack of research or insight, or misunderstanding of your own side. When that occurred, I studied more. I’d try to come back with more valid points, a more cogent understanding, and clearer insight. If I met my friends again and I won the debate, nothing felt sweeter! Not in an arrogant way, because I knew the tediousness that went into knowing my points and the memory of humiliation was not far off. In many ways, those wins and losses, especially the losses that turned to wins, made me a much humbler and compassionate person.

What’s missing?

I write this because a part of me grieves that I no longer have those friends. Another part of me is frustrated that Facebook, social media, a cell-phone-zombie culture have contributed to making the above experience a lost memory. I’m afraid that if my children were to read the above description, they may have the same gravitas as someone looking at a 1972 Jaguar XKE: “Oh, what a cool car. There are no electronics? Cool, but I can’t relate.” I’m afraid that my children will see the above example as extraneous nostalgic event—something that their memory cannot relate to, but only imagine as “good.” The art of debate seems gone. If a post comes up and I question the logic of the argument, I’m either deleted, shamed, unrepresented, blocked, or worse, I’m guilty by associating with the “bigot.” No back and forth. Just an assumption. There is often no true debate on social media, because while there’s a feeling of disappointment in myself, it’s not because my argument was invalid, but because I was misrepresented.

Oh, how I long for the day to debate again.


I suppose in some ways, I long for a true friend.

Comments

  1. What a well-written, thought-provoking article, my friend. I agree with you; embodied, personal dialogue inclines both sides to a mutual attentiveness that is absent on social media. The great irony of social media is that it is not social. Further, as you mentioned, the polarization that occurs on the internet stifles hospitable dialogue.

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