Thoughts on the Presidential Debate 

Watching the presidential debates, it occurs to me that Donald Trump either cannot or will not answer the question as asked. 

He talks in whatever direction he wants to talk about, rambling on, repeating the same points and going over the same lines again. 

When asked about his earlier comment that Hillary didn’t have the presidential “look,” he claimed that he’d said she didn’t have the stamina to be president. 

He literally ignored the actual question and his actual (sexist, inappropriate)  comment. He pretended it didn’t exist. 

Clinton was specific and knowledgeable, going into detail. She went after Trump for being vague. I doubt that will hurt him much, but eventually he’ll have to give some details. 

Trump didn’t come off as a mad cartoon like he had in some interviews and soundbites.

But he was evasive, as if he either didn’t know the answers or didn’t want to answer the questions.

And sometimes he outright lied. Like how he repeatedly said he was against the Iraq war from the beginning, when he actually said in 2002 on the Howard Stern Show,  this: 



But revisionist history is pretty much a part of the Trump game. People are quick to buy that he’s the pro-life candidate, but he only “became” pro-life once it was time to run for office as a Republican. Before that, he was in favor of partial birth abortion being legal:

For the record, Clinton said she could support a ban on partial birth abortions so long as it had an exemption for the life and health of the mother. 

That’s more pro-life than Trump’s old position,  but less pro-life than the position he is vaguely but vociferously taking now, I think. 

Honestly, I’m worried. Trump sounded more reasonable and sane than I’d expected. 

I feel like we’re one step closer to having a bribe paying, scam college runningtorture advocating, warmongering, strip club owning, misogynist, unqualified, alleged child rapist as our president. 

Sigh.

I don’t want to sound like I’m trashing Republicans in general. I’m not. The GOP presidential field was pretty weak this time, but someone like McCain, Kasich, or even Romney would probably do a good job in the White House.

I know I’ve moved to the left quite a bit since I was younger, but Donald Trump really seems like the worst human being to run for president in my lifetime, maybe longer. I think he’s dangerous in a way that no nominee I’ve ever seen had been.

And it frightens me that so many sane, functional, good,  intelligent people disagree. 

It really frightens me that he may be leading our country for the next 4 to 8 years. 

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Argument Is War

St. Nicholas punching Arius as the Council of Nicea, 325 AD

St. Nicholas punching Arius as the Council of Nicea, 325 AD

I’ve been talking about Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (you can read my first post here). It’s been an eye-opener, seeing how (largely unconscious) cultural metaphors can shape the very way we think about topics.

The very first conceptual metaphor they discuss is: “ARGUMENT IS WAR.”

They back this up with the following phrases: (pg 4)
“Your claims are indefensible.”
“He attacked every weak point in my argument.”
“His criticisms were right on target.”
“I’ve never won an argument with him.”

This is how we speak of arguments. We don’t think we’re talking metaphorically, the way we would if we said something colorful like, “Man, I lost that debate big-time. I was Bambi, and he was Godzilla.”

But our unconscious metaphors are powerful, and they put limits on how we think about certain concepts. If we think argument is war (or similar to war), even subconsciously, then we think in terms of winners and losers. We think in terms of weapons and tactics. We think in terms of winning at all costs.

We certainly don’t think in terms of vulnerability, humility, and opening oneself up to the possibility of learning something new.

That’s why a person can be very educated, have witnessed or been a part of many debates and arguments, and still have a narrow, unchangeable set of views. I’m not just talking to conservatives, here. I’ve seen it from friends from both sides of the aisle.

Even before I started reading Metaphors We Live By, I’d been wondering if there was anything worthwhile in ‘winning the argument’ or ‘defeating our opponents.’ Especially in the sense of Christian apologetics (or worse, doctrinal debates between Christians).

I’d been wondering if all this verbal conquest and victory and domination wasn’t just as much a tool of Empire as physical conquest and domination were.

I’d been wondering whether it ever changed people’s hearts, or whether it just engendered enmity.

What if we could look at argument through different eyes?

What if we could see an argument, not as a war, but as a dance? (pg 4)

What if we could be grateful to the person we’re arguing with for taking the time to talk to us?

What if we could view an argument as a journey?
Could an argument be a path to travel from our current disagreement and separation to a place where we understand each other, even if we don’t agree?
Could an argument take us to a place where we understand each other’s positions much better than we did before?

That would require humility.
That would require that we lay down our need to be seen as the smartest person in the room.
That would require that we lay down our false certainty, and admit that we may not understand everything … even in areas of faith, which are deeply personal.

That journey requires patience, on the part of both parties.

It won’t work if somebody’s trying to “win.”
It won’t work unless both parties are listening, not thinking of their next riposte.

That journey requires that we re-humanize our opponents.

Argument isn’t war. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

But we who were raised to glorify warfare, to think in terms of conquest, have made the very exchange of wisdom a form of violence. The opportunity to learn has become an opportunity for ego-gratification and domination.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.