Tuesday, August 28, 2007



Today I had my once-every-four-weeks haircut. I’ve having it cut by the same nice woman for the past 15 years. Usually we talk about child-rearing or movies or something harmless. We talked politics for the first time today. Well, not really – she just expressed the determination that she would take her family to Canada if a draft was re-instituted in order to protect her young son (and possibly daughter). This was followed up by some brief expressions about how “wrong this war is.”

She’s probably in the majority here in Moscow on the Willamette. So I cautiously expressed a few alternate opinions about the complexity of the situation, worded in an open-ended fashion that invites additional contemplation. And as with most other verbal interactions I have with people, it is only afterward that I come up with what I should have said. This is not to say that my desire is to win a verbal argument, but to invite the other party to examine things from a different point of view.

On the way back from my appointment, I came up with this one: “One is always free to choose whether or not to fight. But a fight always involves two adversaries. And your adversary, facing the same choice, may just choose to kill you regardless of your choice.”

Then I came up with this one: “Would it be better for your son to be forced to believe in a certain god than it would for him to be drafted?”

The problem I have is that both of these statements, while very obvious to me, are not so obvious to most of the people I encounter. I often feel like nobody even considers such things to be possible in modern America. Sadly, I can’t make people go take a class in World History or Western Civ to learn how truly unique and recent our condition of personal liberty and self-determination is. Even more sadly, the hardest and most important lessons are learned first-hand.

Those statements I make are often met with hostility – either because the other person completely disagrees with the statement, or more perhaps because any statement that is outside of the person’s world-view is automatically met with hostility. Perhaps I should be clearer in such discussions by saying that it is not my intent to force somebody to believe as I do, but to ask that they see the situation from a different viewpoint.

Am I that bad in the art of verbal persuasion? Or are the people I correspond with so unwilling to hear another viewpoint that polite discourse isn’t possible?