Update [2005-7-3 14:37:15 by socratic]: To clarify any possible misunderstanding about the purpose of this diary: this isn't a diary about the relative merits of two arguments, and I'm not writing because my feelings were hurt. This is about boundaries of debate. Quotes herein are uncredited to prevent distraction from my observation that sometimes we go too far here.Recently I participated in a thread in which the topic of SUVs came up. Now, before we go any farther, I'm going to state three things:
- I drive an SUV.
- I walk to work and drive so few miles annually that, according to TerraPass, I pollute less than a Prius.
- I can't afford to buy a new car right now, and when I can, in a few short weeks, my priorities will be servicing student loan debt and saving up to buy a house.
There. My sins are on the table. I also eat meat, own guns, like baseball, hold doors open for ladies, think "ladies" is a compliment, tell my niece to be whatever she wants to be and not to let anyone hold her back, tell my nephew the same damn thing, support gay marriage, oppose "starter" marriages, watch "West Wing", watch C-SPAN, read Tom Clancy, read Howard Zinn, and shower regularly.
I was born in a red state, educated in a blue state, grew up partly in a foreign country whose environmental policies would make even the most devout environmentalists among you look like Texas oilmen, and I now reside in a (different) red state.
I disagree with some of you about some things. I agree with most of you about a lot of things. And I always vote for Democrats (except that I voted for a Republican friend of mine who successfully unseated a wingnut in a Republican primary for a county council seat, if you can believe it).
In the SUV thread, when I confessed my sin of driving an SUV, I mentioned that I liked my SUV because it was safer for me, partly because I know how to drive one properly without rolling over and party because I have personal experience with the relative safety in an impact. Now, I don't want to get into a debate about SUV safety in here, and I'll delete the diary if it goes that way. I'm here to talk about civility. Let's just (please) leave it at this: I believe that, for my purposes and driving experience, an SUV is safer; some people disagree; I nonetheless could not afford to change cars if I wanted to at the moment.
One person said this:
I was pretty angry about that comment, because I hadn't yet discussed the fact that money prevents me from being an idealist. But, eh, it's at least a factually accurate statement: my comment to which he or she is replying was, in fact, focused on my reasons for driving an SUV. In spite of the comparative non-selfishness of my driving habits (e.g., walking to work), the poster was right to say that my reasons for my choice of cars, as far as I'd revealed them to that point, were selfish.
Another person said this:
I wasn't angry at all about this comment. Why should I be? Though the poster was calling me out, he or she made thoughtful criticism and offered alternatives, rather than engaging in ad hominem attacks. As it turned out, the poster didn't actually tell me any new information, but he or she was trying to, and that's what matters.
But then someone made the following two comments:
But selfish assholes never think of these things.
Here's the thing. The commenter offers an argument that has merit. Vehicle heterogeneity is a problem (albeit one that would not be fixed by outlawing SUVs, as there are still 18-wheelers and commercial vehicls out there, as well as bridge overpasses, cliffs, bicycles, pedestrians, and family pets to be mowed down by or mow down, as the case may be, even the most diminutive personal automobile).
I don't have a problem with disagreement. I certainly don't have a problem with being called out for a position that some might think is wrong. I don't even have a problem with being called a "selfish asshole" on the Internet. That's all in the nature of a passionate debate, and I'm not afraid of it.
The problem I have is that this is a community, supposedly with people who are working together to make a better, more progressive world. And yet we have commenters who would wish death on me and my family ... because of a policy disagreement.
Now 99.9% of the time, this doesn't happen. Even in abortion threads, the debate is passionate but rarely violent. There are, however, a few occasions when people will say too much, and this happens to be the first time I've been subjected to it. Normally I'd let it pass, but because we're celebrating America's Indepedence Day tomorrow, and because we're about to get into a brawl with a Republican Party that is vulnerable, I thought I'd take the opportunity to comment on civility at Daily Kos.
This is a community. We fight. We're also working together (most of us) to do good things in this country. All of us are imperfect. Many of us are not orthodox. None of us deserves to have someone wish for the death of our families.
So here's my Fourth of July wish:
First, have a happy, safe, wonderful holiday with friends and family. We've got a lot of work to do making the world better, but we can take a break to celebrate America tomorrow.
Second, when you find yourself in a heated debate, or when someone says something you cannot agree with, please don't wish death on that person or his or her family. Try to elevate debate, not lower it into the slop. Try to win, but try to win on the merits. Fight, but remember who the real enemy is. Be passionate, but remember to think outside yourself. America is great because we debate with people who are different and subject our arguments to the public consideration through elections. Here at Daily Kos, let's try to raise the level of debate, out of respect for our country, out of respect for ourselves.
Thanks and Happy Fourth! Can't wait to get back to the business of taking our country back starting Tuesday.