do not speak

Do not speak with ill intent

and verbiage to provoke

I do not like debate and foment

When I’m in a party mood

No politics at dinner, please –

Do not start on guns again, and rising crime

and Islam, and how you fear the Chinese

it turns my appetite.

I really want to eat tonight.

I’ve never been an orator, a master debater

I dislike a verbal fight

I rely on facts and figures, on data sourced and cited.

My chosen milieu is the written word

Pass me your essay’d thoughts,

writ down down in text, such to afford

a sharing of disparate views, with calming distance between.

For now, let me eat my food in peace

it doesn’t matter what I think, or what you think

or, indeed, anyone’s opinion at all. Cease!

Facts do not care about opinions

An argument is just two shouting heads

While citations lay silent, ignored on their shelves

And dinner is spoiled by loggerheads.

 

~*~

When I attended Evergreen, I would speak up in class or seminar occasionally (okay, often. Like, pretty much every class) to give thoughts or insight on the readings. Because of this, my professors and classmates would indicate amusement or disbelief when I insisted to them that I dislike debate and discussion.

I think sometimes, in college, people forget what it is like to be sucked into an argument outside of a college seminar group.

First off, there were the rules about being respectful. Sure, we might disagree — but we weren’t supposed to get personal with our insults, or cut each other off, or get mocking. We were supposed to stick to the facts — facts don’t care about your feelings.

Second, we were in college, so people kind of expect the whole thing of citing a source or a line of text when requested (I’ve learned people don’t like it when you ask them to cite a source/ claim more casual settings).

Third and most importantly is similarity of source material. We all read and discussed the same texts. Anyone who didn’t read the text was usually keeping their damn mouth shut because they didn’t want to be caught out.

Sometimes we didn’t agree on the text — I remember reading Unequal Childhoods and being blown away by it, then being stunned and disappointed by the reactions of my classmates — but that’s entirely different from not even coming from the same background of source material and knowledge.

The reason why I hate, hate, hate debating with people outside of college is because no one adheres to these rules of engagement, so the argument usually ends up going something like this:

Argument inciter: Inflammatory statement! (Guns are awesome! Marriage is a scam and no-one should get married, gay or straight! Affirmative action is a scam because I knew a guy who didn’t get a job because they hired a less-qualified black guy instead!)

Me: I disagree because of facts … (the US has more gun violence than any other developed nation. Marriage is a legal contract that offers 1,138 benefits to the signatories. That’s not how affirmative action works, and if you read some of the constitutional history around  affirmative action you might understand it better. Additionally, research has shown that so-called ‘race-neutral’ and ‘colorblind’ policies do not work, and end up favoring white people. If we want to address racial inequality, affirmative action is the clear answer.)

Argument inciter: I disagree with your facts! They are wrong! Prove them to me! I disagree with them!

Me: They’re — they’re facts. You can look them up. They’re literally facts. Like, proven over and over numerous studies, research, and data reviews … your opinion is irrelevant. The facts don’t care about your feelings.

Argument inciter: The source is biased! The media is liberal biased! I will interrupt you and cut you off and yell at you!

Me: I can look them up for you, if you would stop yelling and my phone would connect and my battery wasn’t dying why don’t I have a signal and why is this person yelling at me?!?

Argument inciter: She could not hold her own against my shouting, and she shut down and stopped arguing with me. I win! I’m right. La la la la. La la la la.

It’s so frustrating. So frustrating.

So I keep telling people, I don’t like to argue — and it’s true! I really don’t. I don’t mind a healthy written debate with cited and sourced data and research, where we can both take time and read/ respond with in-depth facts. It’s the verbal repartee that I despise, because it so often devolves to two heads shouting over one another.

What’s worse is that they assume because they haven’t read my source materials, I’m not familiar with their stance.  Its like it can’t or won’t occur to them that a person could have once been a pro-gun, anti-choice, conservative religious person and then changed their mind.

Take the gun thing. I used to love the idea of guns. I went through this whole phase in my late teens/ early 20s when I was freaking out my mom because I wanted a gun, and I was tagging along after my  big brother to gun shops and begging him to teach me to shoot.

So, what happened? People change. I grew up. My attitude on guns was a gradual shift from childhood ambivalence to teenaged fascination to adult wariness to my current stance — disgust. They don’t make me feel safe at all.

I hear people say they make them feel safe, all that tells me is that they have chosen to remain ignorant of the data. The statistics on guns are overwhelmingly against “safety” as an outcome. Consider:

According to Pew Research, 37% (more than 1/3) of Americans report owning a gun, and the average gun owner has 7 firearms. The most reported reason for gun ownership (in a modern, civilized society with rule of law) is “protection,” which leads me to assume that the average gun owner — wild-eyed and fearing for their safety — does not store their firearm in a gun safe. That would sort of be counter to the whole “protection” notion, after all.

Plus, they fucking tell me that. I’m not even kidding. I swear, gun owner after gun owner has laughed at me for being nervous around guns, and then proceeded to blithely tell me ‘funny’ mishaps about their guns.

These fall into one of two categories: ‘humorous’ misfirings or times the gun owner perceived a minor threat, went ballistic and unnecessarily escalated a situation by drawing their firearm, only to realize it was not a threat.

But the story indicates that they were totally prepared. To, you know, protect or whatever. Shoot a man. Violence.

In addition to their ‘funny’ stories about near-accidents and unnecessary attempts at violent escalation, this type of gun owner also likes to watch people like me squirm. They think my discomfort around firearms is amusing, and they enjoy the psychological ‘kick’ they get by bringing up guns or — even better — cleaning them around me.

There was one guy who made it his business to pull out his gun collection and start cleaning it whenever I came by to visit — put down his xbox controller and start cleaning his guns.

Because he saw guns as harmless, and he thought my discomfort around them was funny. This same guy had told me stories about accidentally discharging firearms while cleaning them. He had fired guns out his back window to “test them.” He had accidentally shot himself in the foot. He had shot his stepsons in the thigh at close range with a BB gun to “teach them how the pain felt” before he took them out to the gun range … and yet he was baffled at my lack of faith in his ability to safely handle a weapon.

That’s the kind of mental disconnect I associate with most gun owners. They sit there and tell me stories about waving their firearms in peoples faces, and ‘hilarious’ accidental discharges as if they don’t even realize they’re recounting near-death experiences, and I’m sitting there thinking, “You or somebody like you are going to kill me someday, and I cannot escape it because our gun laws suck.”

So when a certain, pervasive type of gun owner* tells me about their guns, or their adventures with guns (which they always seem to feel compelled to share …) I naturally make some assumptions about their safety standards. Basically, I assume these people are likely to shoot me and mine someday. Not on purpose. By accident.

Because, statistically speaking, that’s what gun owners fucking do.

*Note — not talking about the gun owners who actually do lock up their guns, and who own them not for some nebulous “protection” idea, but for hunting or work purposes. I know those people exist, and they don’t really worry me. A hunting rifle is a different tool altogether than a handgun … I haven’t actually written that possibility off yet, myself.

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