Witnessing death of civilized debate


David Fong


Facebook is a wonderful invention that has revolutionized the 21st century in which we live, allowing us to perform such socially relevant tasks as making other people watch videos of dogs doing cute things, forcing the lives of our children and grandchildren down one another’s throats and rewriting our past history (“No, seriously, I really did win the Heisman Trophy”) in an effort to impress people with whom we attended high school.

Oh, and arguing. Lots and lots of arguing.

I’m not talking about the kind of arguing that escalates quickly to someone getting punched in the eyeball. That would be far too simple. I’ve found that any argument that involved someone getting punched in the eye usually also involves the puncher buying a drink for the punchee and everyone moving on with their lives.

No, Facebook arguments — the really good ones, at least — often end with people ending friendships, both online and in reality.

Whatever happened to the good-natured argument … or, for that matter, the civil argument? We grew up in a country of great debates and lucid arguments. Those days are gone. Lincoln vs. Douglas has been replaced by Tom vs. Jerry. The ability to hide behind social media and be a keyboard warrior seemingly has turned everyone into an expert, while at the same time turning them tone deaf to the opinions of others (unless, of course, those opinions happen to coincide directly with their own).

No one is willing to concede the other side might have a point, let alone admit they might actually — gasp! — be wrong about something.

One only has to look at recent hot-button topics to find out just how much intelligent discussion and civil debate has vanished from our society.

A child falls into a gorilla pit at the local zoo. In order to save the child, zoo officials are forced to kill the gorilla. Clearly, the mother is unfit to take care of her children — or this could happen to anyone with rambunctious toddlers. The zoo officials did the right thing, painful though it was, in order to save the child — or they should have shot the child and let the gorilla live (no, seriously … I actually saw this argument on social media). We should have zoos. Zoos should be banished.

There were all sorts of scenarios — and the only right one is the one being posted by that person at that very moment.

Or take the tragic massacre recently in Orlando. Guns should be banned because they caused the massacre. Guns should not be banned because they could have prevented the massacre. We should blame Muslims for such a tragedy. It wasn’t the fault of Muslims. Guns are bad. Bad people who own guns are bad. Our president is handling things all wrong. God help us all if this sort of thing happens should Donald Trump get elected.

It’s the chicken-hearted, cowardly liberals’ fault.

It’s the gun-toting, maniac conservatives’ fault.

There’s so much yelling going on back and forth between both sides, it seems as though everyone has forgot to stop and recognize the one thing we all need to agree upon — this was a senseless tragedy that never should have happened and innocent people lost their lives in a truly horrific fashion.

And maybe that’s part of the problem anymore. We’ve stopped listening to one another. Just once on social media, I’d like to see someone say, “Well, we may not agree, but you do make some very valid points” or “I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree on this point … but I still respect you as a person.”

In our race to be right on social media — and, in turn, impress the folks on our “friends list” — we’ve lost sight of the fact that we are all in this crazy mess together and the second we start tuning out others — or, “unfriending” or “blocking” them — our lives are poorer for it.

I’m sure in the coming days someone will repost this column on Facebook, just to point out how stupid and misguided I am.

And that’s fine; I’m used to it … social media has certainly taught me that much.

David Fong’s column appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong.

David Fong
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