RSS Feed

Tag Archives: rhetoric

Politically Unspoken

I have stated numerous times that Mohawk Valley Girl stays off politics. However, as I sometimes write about not writing, I’m going to try to talk about why I don’t talk about politics.

Note: for the sake of this argument “talk” will also mean “post” as in Facebook or other social media (which, I confess, I know very little about).

One reason I don’t like to say what I think politically is that I am not very good at argument. I don’t think of good replies till much later. Also, I tend to believe people when they spout out spurious statistics. Again much later I think, “Where did they get those numbers?” and, more importantly, “Do those numbers tell the whole story?” As a political science professor I once had said, the facts never speak for themselves.

The main reason I don’t like to talk politics, though, is not that most people are my betters at rhetoric. It’s that they don’t use rhetoric at all; they just talk louder.

Simply put, people usually don’t discuss a political issue. They just shout bumper stickers at each other, after which they sometimes degenerate into personal attacks. “You don’t agree with me? You must be STUPID! Or worse! You probably kick puppies!”

Now I’ll argue with myself, in a quiet tone of voice.

People argue in sound bites because sound bites are pithy and often sound clever. And most listeners/readers do not have or will not take the time to listen to a lengthy argument, however well thought out and intelligently stated.

Be honest, when somebody posts a link to a scholarly article on an issue, how often do you click on it and read the whole thing? You can tell I don’t, because I don’t know whether they are in fact scholarly articles or venomous diatribes. I tend to suspect the latter and that is one reason I do not click on them. The other reason is that my computer is frustratingly slow and the more links I click on the slower it goes.

Furthermore (still arguing with myself), many people feel passionately about their views. When they call somebody stupid, they may be engaging in hyperbole, trying to get your attention.

My reply to this is that it is not a very effective method of argument. When somebody calls me stupid, I tend to get mad and stop listening. Calling me stupid just puts a big old gap between us when I had hoped to find some middle ground.

Which brings me to the final argument against me: sometimes people feel that there is no middle ground. Right is always right, wrong is always wrong. Some issues, these people feel, are black and white.

If this is the case, I’m afraid we’re doomed. My desire to bring civility and reason to public discourse is meaningless, because there is no compromise. What a depressing thought. Can Mohawk Valley Girl really believe such in a negative paradigm?

NO! Of course not! I believe people can talk nicely. I believe people can listen attentively. And I’m just going to wait till most of them decide to do so.