Monday, June 05, 2006

What Are These People Even Thinking?

For practically the first time in my life, I have--if only for the moment--completely lost my compass.  I feel as though I were floating adrift and without a sail on a windless sea.  My sense of orientation is gone, and I feel rhetorically as if I couldn't punch my way out of a paper bag at this point.  I know that my right wing opponents are still in the boxing ring, but I'm too dizzy to even keep my own balance, much less find them in the ring and land those rhetorical uppercuts they so richly deserve.

Why?  Because, for the first time, I feel myself utterly unprepared.  To understand what I mean, we need to go all the way back to the days of Cicero...

"Ad Utrumque Paratus"

This beautiful Latin phrase is, to me, the very essence of life: it is the key to the arts of debate.  It is the key to to art of life.  And it is the key to an open mind.

The usual translation of this phrase is "prepared for the worst"; unfortunately, this only captures the barest outline of the multiple meanings and beauties of this phrase.

The literal meaning of the phrase is "Prepared for Either (Something)".  It is in the vagaries of that "(Something)" that the multi-faceted meanings lie: it can mean to be prepared for either eventuality--i.e., for the worst; it can mean "prepared for either idea"--i.e., the maintenance of an open mind.

But most importantly--and the meaning Cicero intended--it means to be "prepared for either ARGUMENT."  And herein lies the key--for it is in this way that I am no longer prepared; it is in this way that I have lost my compass.

You see, in traditional debate class, one is given a topic for argumentation to prepare for; but the trick is that, until you walk into the room, you have no idea which side of the argument you will be forced to debate.  Thus it was that, in a political science debate class at university, I argued (for the purposes of debate) for the notion of invading Iran--even before we had finished toppling Saddam.

The reason for doing this is simple: one cannot begin to argue effectively for any side of a given debate without internalizing and knowing the best possible arguments of the other side like the back of your hand.

In debate, knowledge is power.  If the other guy (or girl) can spring on you facts or--worse still--arguments that you had not considered before and that you were unable to address, you are almost guaranteed to lose the debate.  As Sun Tzu remarked,

"The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory."

The KEY to winning an argument to have already, within your argument, have intrinsically countered your opponents best possible counterarguments.


And this, ultimately, is why I am lost.

Before I talk about any political issue, I first run through my head what the greatest minds and loudest voices of current conservative thought would say about it: I ask myself what George Will would tell me; what Christopher Buckley would say; what the philosopher Hume would expound; even what Ann Coulter might say [shudder].  And if I could think of an argument that any of these would promote that I couldn't implicitly and instantaneously refute, then I would revise my thinking and strengthen my logic.

But I can't do that anymore.  I can't do that because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THESE PEOPLE ARE THINKING ANYMORE.

Partly, I guess, because they themselves have given up even arguing their case.


When corporate profits are at all time highs, but still and yet ordianary Americans get the shaft, they have NO response.

When it becomes clear that our forces in Iraq are so counterproductive at this point that they are murdering civilians, they have NO response.

When it is patently obvious that one can have a progressive society without Patriot Acts and still stop terrorist attacks--and that perhaps we're shoring up the wrong border in our immigration debates--they have NO response.


Instead, we get this: the President pushing a "Gay Marriage Amendment."

Instead, we get the leaders of the right blogosphere saying that we should invade Iran--and if say they won't sell us oil anymore, it doesn't matter, because that's only an issue if we lose.

Instead, months after the facts were obviously laid out on the Haditha killings, Fox News is asking if the media rushed to judgment.  And doing a story on environmentalists supposedly calling livestock farms Superfund sites because of manure.

Instead, George Will is focused on why the House version of the immigration bill is better than the Senate's, and how wonderful it is that Alito has replaced O'Connor, so that America can make it harder for whistleblowers.


At this point, everything is a distraction for them.  They don't argue the issues--they just try to come up with the next plen-T-Plaint blinking light to distract the American people.

How the hell do you prepare for that?

I literally have no idea what they're going to come with next.

I have no idea what they're going to say next.

And for the first time, I have no idea how I would even argue their position on any issue--because I have no idea what their position even IS.

Or, in other words, What Are These People Even Thinking?


There is, however, a bright silver lining to this cloud: we may not be able to anticipate their arguments, but for the first time--WE have the opportunity to take stronger and clearer positions of strength on any issue than they do.

For the first time in a long time, WE have the opportunity to be the part of unity.

For the first time in a long time, WE have the opportunity to stand tall, and be the ones punching at a shifty, moving target, rather than vice versa.

It's true that we have no idea what shit they're going to pull next--but, compass or no compass, if we stand our ground, it won't really matter.

Because I'm not sure even THEY know what they're thinking at this point.


Blogger Lowly Knave said...

How refreshing! A lib that admits he ain't the smartest person in the room.

Just because you seem sincere, go ahead and ask me a question. Who knows, maybe, with that open mind of yours I might shed some light.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Tiberius Gracchus said...

Stunningly vague. Congratulations on an amazingly insightful post, devoid of a point and completely vapid.

That takes hard work and committment.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Eman said...

Who are these mysterious "they?"

Sound like you may be hearing voices in your head.

You should probably have that checked out.

I understand that Mohammed fellow heard voices in his head, and look at all the trouble THAT ended up causing...

5:11 PM  
Blogger Hujonwi said...

The mysterious 'they' are those with a 'clue'.
My guess would be the if 'it' met Ann his? tail would be between his? legs screaming...

11:45 PM  

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