The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Leaders: How You Say What You Say Really Matters

I was over on Facebook the other day and found an NPR notification that Richard Dawkins would be speaking for "reason" and the "delusion of religion." Now Richard is known for his vitriol and bile when it comes to Christianity. (He is also known for his gross generalizations and for harping only on fundamentalists of faith, Sorry, getting off track.) The comments following were truly discouraging to read. Both those who agreed and disagreed with Mr. Dawkins's point of view were downright nasty in their responses to each other and each others' points of view. This was followed by a Christian Left article stating that many of those against homosexuals of all stripes would like to see them in Hitler-style death camps and ovens. (Frankly, folks, when you stoop to using Hitler you've lost your argument.) I refused to even approach their comments section. I'd had enough from the Dawkins gang.

The point is, we are social creatures and we do take cues on how to behave from each other. Leaders of nations, states, churches, social groups, scientific groups, etc. all need to temper their remarks. They need to engage in civil discourse because hearers and readers do take their cues from what they say and respond in kind. Worse, while some leaders may use such nastiness to make a point but never truly take it seriously, many of their followers do. This can lead to violence in extreme cases and fraying of the social fabric in all cases.

If you want to make arguments for your cause, tell us how wonderful it is and the great things it has done for your life. Don't bombard us with invectives and accuse us of being a mindless moron (or Hitler [again you lose using this one]) for believing our point of view. You'll have a much greater chance of having us at least listen to you. Take the venom and bile approach and we will dismiss you at the very least. Get too close when you say it and you'll probably get punched in the nose.

We need to live together in society. We need to be civil to one another. We need to drop the extreme position that every discussion is a win or lose situation. We need to return to the far more humble attitude that we might learn from each other if we listen. Very few situations in this world are black and white. Shades of gray, multiple levels of complexity, and new discoveries make many things complex and in need of input from many sources. this can't happen with an "I will not only win this argument, I will destroy you in the process" attitude. This is the thinking of the provocateur, the extremist who will never listen to reason. If we head in that direction, we are going to be in deep trouble.

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