Debate, Engage, or Namecalling: Only One Results in Results

Debate, Engage, or Namecalling: Only One Results in Results

By Don Hall

I've been thinking a lot about the rationales that Obama had for bipartisanship, my experience with the Republicans in general, and various discussions here in the CyberSpace High School Parade. I'm certainly a fan of the throw down. I don't apply the Oh, We're All So Much More Grown Up to Call Names because I'm not prepared to pat myself on the back so aggressively for simply learning to read and write — less my own achievement and more of the free, public education I received as a kid combined with my mother's insistence that I not be an illiterate boob.

As time passes, the Obama Administration both looks pretty idyllic (when showcased next to the past year and change of the Reality Star Dickwaffle, the administration of Warren G. Harding looks pretty special and productive) and an overly compromised journey through Healthcare Reform (kind of) and Drone Strikes.

Say what you want about our one and only black president, he was a staunch advocate of bipartisanship and finding common ground with those on the other side of the ideological fence.

Sitting on the perch just on the other side of one of several screens as well as bumping into actual human beings (WHA??) in the world of sounds and smells and uncomfortable pauses, I see three very different approaches to communication but only one of them accomplishes the goal of, you know, communicating.


Debate is the polite way of saying “Argument.” I'm right, you're wrong and we will spar in order to hone our points of view. Will Dan Schafer and I ever convince each other to see the world our way? Unlikely. Will Kyle Kizzier and I completely agree with one another when it comes to guns? Nope. But we learn about our own points of view by bandying back and forth the intellectual nuances of our positions, fencing with words. Honing the knives, as it were. For this to work effectively, a mutual respect has to be present. No respect and it just becomes a brawl.


Don throws out the idea that art is not a job and that, given the fact that the vast majority of artists do not, in fact, make a living as artists supports this idea.

Rory disagrees. He believes that art can be a job and argues that there are artists that make a living albeit a small slice of the population of artists.

Don responds that while art can be a job, that does not refute the fact that it is not one currently for most.

Rory comes back that he makes a living in the arts.

Don retorts that Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding is only just barely art and mostly a parade of broad stereotypes on display for drunk people eating pasta.

And the two of them continue to debate the issue as the sun sets upon their perch on the Mounts of Olympus, and the cyprus trees weep.


This is more about finding ways to work together. Looking for common solutions and making little compromises in our own system of beliefs to find common ground. Noticing that while we're on different pages, we're in the same book. Sometimes debate can morph into engagement once it's discovered that your positions aren't that distinctive. Again, mutual respect has to be demonstrated — agreement sought after and a focus on the similarities of position rather than the differences.


Don exhorts everyone who feels entitled to sympathy for their plight in life to stop making excuses.

Bilal agrees but feels it is important to remember that certain groups — specifically racial ones — need to remind society of past grievances as a part of that idea.


Don agrees with the qualification that not every aggrieved group (like Incels and asthmatic) really need to remind society about how shitty it is to be them.

Bilal agrees with the qualification that most significant groups have legitimate complaint.

Common ground. Now the two go get coffee and hold hands. And the cyprus trees weep.


No persuasion in this approach. This is strictly for those too thick to do either of the other two. Once it devolves to this, it is apparent that the only law worth following is to demean your opponent in every way. It's a bloodsport — fun, but ultimately just a pissing contest. Nothing wrong with a pissing contest — just as valid as football or NASCAR. This usually starts with an obvious indication that there is no mutual respect present and escalates from there.


Seriously? Just look at 97 percent of the political comments on YouTube, Faceborg, Twitter or any other opportunity people take to shit upon one another. Look at any status that “calls out” someone from the limited perspective of someone aggrieved to see the litany of “garbage-fire of a human” labeling, the “racist, misogynist, xenophobic, Nazi, Feni-Nazi, queer, weasel-fucker” rants, and the hordes of mere digital bystanders throwing in their names to call on people they don’t even know.

Of these three, only Engagement accomplishes a specific change in behavior. Debate has a chance as it is a mental exercise but if all you have is the clever insult, the witty blow-off, the Laughing Until I’m Crying enmoji, all you are accomplishing is the Theater of the CyberStage.

I like debating. I’m good at arguing and I like honing my information by crossing intellectual swords with people. I used to really excel at namecalling but after seeing how little it accomplishes and careening closer and closer to my demise, I don’t have the time or the inclination.

Engagement is the only one that gets things done in a bigger way than self-improvement or self-aggrandizement. Compromise. Tolerance of differing opinions. Respect for the Other. Finding solutions rather than superiority.

Debate can become Engagement so it becomes a gateway drug to potential change. Namecalling only makes you a pugnacious, Rage Profiteering, thin-skinned, dipshit with bad skin and a face like a closed fist, you suicidal, alcoholic, self-aggrandizing shitstain.

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