Posted by: dacalu | 23 July 2011

Note on Arguments

A friend of mine has recently been posting on Facebook about the relative merits of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. He asserts that as far as foreign policy goes, the two are basically the same. This really bothered me and it took me a while to figure out exactly why. Was it just that I was a partisan for Obama? Yes, I think Obama has done a much better job than Bush, but why was it an emotional issue?

As I think about it, the events of Bush’s first term were deeply dis-empowering to me. It felt as though the US had become hostile, arrogant, and reactive. We were going to war and curtailing civil liberties and there was nothing I could do about it. It took me years to start reading newspapers again – I still don’t do it nearly as much as I did before 9/11. Particularly after the irregularities of the 2000 election and Congress’s seeming unwillingness to stand up to the President, I felt very little power to change the ethos or action of the United States. We were becoming a country I did not want to live in.

Was this Bush’s fault? Partially. He took a free hand with executive power in some really dangerous ways – ways that I freely admit Obama has also pursued. I came to realize it was not just Bush, but the congress, the courts, and yes the American people that were changing. We had been hurt and wanted stability and security. Many, many people were to blame.

I think we’ve regained some of our sanity since 2003, though I still worry about our militarism and our obliviousness to opinion from other parts of the world. I could talk about that in great detail, but that’s not my intention today. Here I want to talk about how we talk about these things and how we argue.

I firmly believe that Obama is far better president than George Bush. I think he has a much better international profile and that he’s getting real things done (health care, repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, stimulus). I also worry about American militarism around the world and wonder why we’re still in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya. Nonetheless, I’ve started to believe once again that I have some influence over my country and my government.

To say that “this government is no better than the last government,” regardless of which administrations we’re talking about is defeatist. It says to me, “you can’t change politicians. It’s out of our hands.” I don’t believe that. We can change and we are changing as a nation. How we do that is a difficult matter. It has, and does, and will take work on our part, but it can be done. Fatalism doesn’t help.

So I’d ask all my readers, on this issue and on every other, to think about what you’re saying, and what message it sends. When you argue, it’s not just a matter of truth, it’s a matter of insight and empowerment. Ask yourself: will what I say encourage people to think more clearly about this issue? will it help them change the way they think and act? Communication can be so much more than the transmission of data.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: