Civil discourse – Manners have their place

Recently, I had a disagreement on another site with some activists.  What had happened was their group had invited a candidate to speak to them, concerning his previous stands.  They weren’t happy with those positions, and wanted him to hear their side, as well as explain his reasoning, and any changes he has or might make concerning them.   Pretty standard stuff, right?  Except that what actually happened was that they proceeded to scream “liar” at him, hold up protest signs, chant slogans, and generally not let him say much.  He was chased off after 20 minutes.    They were bragging about doing that.  They had their “righteous grievances” and they let him know it!

Needless to say, they didn’t take it well when I disagreed with their behavior.    I understand what their grievances were.  I understand why they had cause to dislike this politician’s stands.  But their actions didn’t advance their cause in the slightest.  It was rude.   Imagine if I invited you to a party at my house.  When you arrive, I start screaming and yelling at you.  What are you going to do?  Leave, and never come back.  Not only that, but whatever I may have wanted to get through to you didn’t, except for the fact that I’m an asshole.

There’s a lot of that going on now, from both sides.  “Activists” (quotes intended) on both sides seem to feel that it’s effective to scream at someone.  Tea Party groups showed up at congressional district meetings, and disrupted them.  Whatever the politician wanted to say didn’t get heard.   Whatever debate that should have happened over what was happening in Congress, didn’t happen.  All that happened was that a group of people showed up, behaved rudely, and disrupted any chance of an honest exchange of ideas.   The group I mentioned earlier was a liberal group.  It happens on the blogs as well, as I’ve mentioned in another post.

It’s not effective.  If you’re trying to persuade someone, to make them change their mind, yelling at them is the least effective thing you can do.  They’ll immediately block out anything you’re trying to get across because of it.  Not only are they not listening to you, they’re going to actively avoid you.  They already know what you’re about:  Yelling at them.    It’s quite possible to disagree with someone without that.  There’s a time and a place for everything.  Yes, protests are useful, and have their place.   But when you’re trying to have a discussion, a debate, it’s time to argue facts and philosophy.   You don’t have to yell.  It seems that many have forgotten that, and it’s what has kept real issues from being addressed.  Yes, we can disagree without being disagreeable.   Manners count.

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