Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

No Hesitations: The art of argument

by Natalie Knott

I own a dog.

Jesus Christ, every time I think about this fact it makes me light-headed with terror. See, I have a not-so-little problem with commitment. Forget romantic relationships: friendships stretch my comfort boundaries, and it by no means stops there. My phobia extends far into “everyday” experiences: signing cell phone contracts, purchasing items of clothing (which is why the majority of my wardrobe is black), decorating (again with the neutral colors), even what I order at restaurants. I am terrified of being “stuck” with anything.

Yet I own a dog. A small, part-Chihuahua, part-who-the-hell-knows, pain in my ass that will not leave me alone for a second. That’s not hyperbole. Given her choice she would be right next to me, probably chewing on a piece of me, every second, of every day.

For a woman who breaks into a cold sweat when she has to try a new bagel because her tried-and-true usual is gone, the fact that I am able to accept that for the next 14 years I will have a constant companion, champion and responsibility, and not have a complete and total meltdown, frankly, makes me think I can do anything: including admitting when I am wrong.

So, perhaps I shouldn’t have called Joe Just a hate monger and made a smartass remark about his “former” position as a Final Solution racist. It really had nothing to do with my argument, and diminished the substantive and thoughtful point I was attempting to make. Whatever the man may or may not have been before his single, life-changing moment that completely redeemed him as a human after over 30 years of racist thoughts and behaviors was not my point.

Funny though, that was the only aspect of my column that received any response.

So this week I would like to briefly discuss the concept of the argument. Not the screaming kind my family excels at during Dodgers v. Angels games, but the fine art of proving a well-thought-out point.

In this world we don’t need anymore knee-jerk thinkers…. I am doing my utmost to overcome the reactionary streak in my own work. I sincerely hope others do the same.

First of all, that point cannot be merely a reworked version of the very thing you are critiquing. An ad hominem attack is still an ad hominem attack, even if you change the names from Joe Just to Natalie Knott.

Secondly, you should get your logic in order. Being an agent of compassion is great, as is the desire to bring people together, but first you have to have to know what the hell you mean by that. Democrat/Republican, fine, that works. Different socio-political ideologies that have the same goal: a secure and thriving United States.

Black/white, on the other hand are racial categories, conceptual states, NOT ideologies. Now, racist/non-racist: that is a rift one to which one could apply their compassionate talents, though it must be said that compassion and the resulting compromises, in this arena, have NOT enjoyed a positive history. If you doubt this please go do a close reading of our Constitution.

Finally, when you decide to debate the validity of an argument, you should really consider the ENTIRE argument, beyond two, admittedly rage-filled, sentences buried in the middle. It is incredibly interesting that a desire for an open honest debate on a sensitive issue that isn’t led by reactionary and problematic thinkers is somehow a divisive and un-compassionate stance. But I guess that label is the peril one faces when they choose to take an actual stance and attempt to offer a substantive contribution to the discourse, instead of offering platitudes, tales of redemption that come right out of a (terrible) movie script and empty warm-fuzzies.

My name is Natalie Knott and I do not want to bring people together. I want people to be able to discuss their differences openly and logically with passion, wit and the common understanding that we are all different, but all human. I want people to celebrate their differences respectfully and constructively and recognize that on the other side of all of our differences lies a common goal, with a varied and complicated reality: simple, sweet happiness.

I want people to be honestly engaged with the issues at hand, not mentally crippled by their own subjective positioning and addled by their emotional/intellectual bias. In this world we don’t need anymore knee-jerk thinkers who think on layaway, “Say now, worry about consequences later.” I am doing my utmost to overcome the reactionary streak in my own work. I sincerely hope others do the same.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *