Ted, this morning I encountered a thread on a friend’s FB page where a dozen people were…
St. Steven

St. Steven,

I am going to respond to several of your previous points, so apologies if this seems disjointed.

What you are describing in the first part of your response is what the logic fans call a “straw man argument” — you create an abstract representation of your supposed opposition, and you make it so exaggerated and extreme that it is easy to argue against. It in no way represents actual people or their actual views.

As a “liberal,” I know I am just as guilty of doing that with “conservatives” and “Trump supporters.” My initial essay really was an attempt to figure out who the actual supporters were, because I hoped that the caricature I had in my mind was not reflective of who they really were.

“Linguistically hugged” — love it!

As for the “semantic ghost in the machine,” another concept from research methodology that I love is the notion of “operational definitions” — before you can state a hypothesis, you have to indicate what particular terms mean for the sake of the current experiment. You use phrases like, “the term ‘blank’ will be used to refer to ‘blah’.” There is no argument about what a term really means universally, you just say that for the current activity, we are all going to agree that it means this.

This doesn’t happen in our political dialogue, and it is sorely missed.

SNORB IS PEOPLE!!! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Fight or Flight — I like to joke that I miss the time when I didn’t care much about national politics, but there is truth in the joke. There was a time when I had faith in my fellow man and the government to the extent that I could devote much less of my mental and emotional energy to what was happening in D.C. Nowadays I feel like there is a constant buzz of danger that I have to remain aware of and seek ways to make it better. In that sense the current state of affairs has made me a more engaged citizen, but it also has done a number to my view of humanity in general. I haven’t felt this disenchanted since I was a teenager.

And I agree wholeheartedly that these discussions make it better. Knowing that there are like minded folks out there who see what I see helps immensely. It is of course important to engage others who have different perspectives, but it is nice to know that I am not alone in my paradigm.

Until next time, keep those beers cold!