Monday, August 20, 2007

212 and Counting

Sorry, Nance, you're getting a lot of airtime here today.

In regard to my post "212 Degrees, I Believe?", Nancy said, "In general, I agree about offering solutions when criticizing or complaining...yet I see (rather frequently) that it is not always possible. We are ALL guilty of that. I don't think we shouldn't complain if we don't have a solution. Sometimes we just know that something is not working.

I don't want to ever give the impression that I don't complain or criticize. Believe me, those things make up way too much of my activity in life. I feel safe when I go off on one of my tangents about inept drivers, and criticizing lousy road-mates because I do believe I offer constructive criticism in that I say, "pay attention, know the rules of the road, obey them, hang up the cell phone and drive." I firmly believe that when I spout out against them, I'm offering a viable solution, so it's not a matter of not criticizing, it's a matter of offering what my opinion states to be constructive criticism. I see a problem, I offer my take on what to do to fix it.

Sometimes, when one doesn't know what to do...doing nothing is best. So true. I complain about the weather, especially when it rains on weekends. I think we're all better off with the fact that there is nothing I can do to control or change the weather, trust me, because Mother Nature knows best. Or at least better than me, so at times it is better to do nothing.

I'm often hesitant to comment in your blog because I know you are looking for people to back up what they say...and I can't always do that. But despite that, I do have opinions...and they're not always "wrong", any more than they are "right"

I just happen to like it better when someone offers an opinion that's followed with some reasoning. The beauty of opinions is that, by definition, there are no "right or wrong" opinions, but if I, as a Cleveland Indians fan, state my opinion that Red Sox fans are idiots simply because they don't root for the Indians, I'm trying to make my opinion your opinion,(after all, disagreeing would make you an idiot, right?) and without very much sound reasoning. No one who is a Sox fan is going to read my opinion and decide that I'm right, and discard their Sox loyalty. If, however, I state that my opinion is that the Indians are a better team because...and then fill in my interpretation of various statistics to back it up, at least my argument might have some credence.

Years ago, two boxers, Tommy Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler, put on a show that boxing historians agree were three of the best rounds in boxing history. Hagler outlasted Hearns, fought off Hearns best attack, and won the fight. I happened to be a big fan of Tommy Hearns, but I had to concede that, at least on that night, anyone whose opinion was that Hagler was the better fighter, had some reasoning to back that opinion up, and while I didn't like it, I had to agree that their argument had a lot of merit.

My problem isn't with people's opinions. I'd never tell someone that she isn't entitled to have an opinion. I love to debate, and the root of debate is initially opinion, a personal opinion, one that a good debater goes about defending with solid argument.

My problem, in that article, is with Maher. He is a comedian who has moved from the comedic stage into the political arena. He has ordained himself a political expert, but one whose sole strategy is to condemn the current body politic. He doesn't offer any alternative ideas, he simply rips up the status quo. He has a nationally televised forum from which to spout his opinions, and he wants his opinion to be your opinion, but he doesn't offer any sound reasoning to back up his claims of superiority. He tells those who might not agree that they are stupid. He tells us that people who base any decision on religious beliefs are fools, but doesn't have anything solid to back that up. Maher stated that Faith is flawed because you can't prove what you believe. Now, my argument with him is that he obviously doesn't understand the concept of "faith", and that people who don't believe in the existence of a higher power can't prove that it doesn't exist either. He says, agree with me or you are an idiot.(And yes, he actually said that) In my opinion, that doesn't form the basis of any reasonable debate.

Suppose I said, "I'm a Catholic. Mary is a Mormon. Mary is an idiot because she is not a Catholic." Where is the room for debate there? It's a statement that is not backed with any sound reasoning, I'm simply passing judgment on someone, and I'm not offering any good ideas as to why my religion is superior. I'm simply stating that it is what it is. Would you buy that from me?

I believe that there is a major difference between me offering my opinion and solutions on what I believe is wrong with a lot of drivers out there, writing in a blog that's read by barely enough people to fill Maher's studio audience, and Bill Maher taking a national stage and offering his political criticism. I don't believe for a minute that Maher should be silenced. I believe he is extremely intelligent, and he has a gift of humor that I don't possess. I watch him every chance I get because I want to hear what he has to say. My frustration as expressed in that article is that, "Hey Bill, you've made it clear that Bush is bad, our foreign policy is bad, and that this country is currently in a hand-basket headed for destination unknown. You've ordained yourself an expert, and said that everything we do is wrong. So, then, what in your expert opinion should we do?" That wouldn't necessarily sway my opinion, but it would make for a much more intelligent debate.

Part of the reason I rarely take the Iraq War decisions to task in my writing here is that I really don't know what the hell we should have done, or should do going forward. My head tells me, "let's just bomb the bad guys into oblivion". My heart tells me that that is not a very rational position. For one thing, I don't know if we can even identify the bad guys at this point. I believe that any solution I would offer would be based on bigotry and prejudice, and violence. That's not going to help anything much.

Let me ask you a question, maybe to help clarify what I was saying. Suppose you're in the middle of doing a sculpture. You've never quite tried a sculpture of this type, and maybe it's not going so well. Two people come into the room. The first says, "Nancy, that sculpture sucks. It's ugly and doesn't look like anything," and then he leaves. The second says, "Hey Nancy, your sculpture sucks. But I see what you're trying to accomplish, I think. Maybe if you pick up this chisel and use it to form the outline a little better by doing this or that, you might be on your way to a better sculpture." Now both people said your sculpture sucks. But whose opinion are you at least going to feel somewhat more inclined to engage?

Just my humble two cents.


  1. I don't think there's an easy solution to any war. Problem is, it's been way too politicized; too many politicians making poor assessments. Let the military do it's job; let the generals fight the war....after all, they have the experience and expertise--not a bunch of empty suits in D.C.

  2. Sorry, Jimmy, but I've tagged you:

    talk more know, 4 year olds really can tire you out....


  3. Not enough time now, to respond as I'd like...but...just 2 points.
    1) Maher makes good money with his ridulous (and rude) statements. Sad fact of our world today.
    2) Not all opinions, in MY opinion, need to be backed up nor debated. Sure it can be fun, but not always warranted nor necessary.
    3) OK, one more. I do agree that blanket statements or beliefs..."just because" do not hold much validity. They also rarely make me think.
    I work w/ this little 8 y.o boy who proudly states that he's a "Republican"...yet when asked what that meant...he had no clue. That's usually how it all begins...for all of us.

    Gotta run, James!


  4. ok, ok, so I'm just now catching up on posts. I love these entries. They are well thought out and explain things that I have been trying to put into words for months. I think I'll just copy and paste them and take credit for them over at my journal - LOL

  5. Kelly, feel free!

    Shash, I'll get on it!

    Nancy- I think my point applies to people who present their opinions as fact, or who offer "being an idiot" as an alternative to their opinion. In MY opinion, political opinion in a public forum is an invitation for debate. you're very tolerant of me.


I love comments. I won't lie about that!