Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How To Debate

There is a time for debate and there is a time for violence.  Typically, violence starts after the debate stops: once debate has completely failed to resolve the conflict, violence becomes the only remaining option to settle the dispute.  This is not the desired outcome.  If you walk around every day hoping to get into a fist-fight, you are doing it wrong.  In some situations, violence is the only appropriate answer; also, it’s better to avoid it if there’s an alternate means for solving the situation.  Hopefully you’re on board with this idea from the outset.  If not, I’m not sure why you’re reading my words instead of out punching people in the face.

For the reasons outlined above, memes like these are criminally stupid:


The person who made this meme is a believer in gun rights, and so am I.  I’m against what’s going on right now in this country with regards to gun legislation, and so are they.  The similarities end there.  The picture above has nothing to do with debate.  This picture is a threat, and you will not win this debate with threats. 

Imagine the following conversation:

You:  My favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate
Them:  pulls out knife.  Say it’s rocky road, bitch, or I’ll cut you!! 

Congratulations, you’re now officially done with your ice cream flavor debate.  The only conclusion you’re going to walk away from this encounter with is the impression that all rocky road ice cream aficionados are bugnuts.

Everyone, regardless of whether they come down on the side of gun control or gun rights, believes this is an important issue, and for once, everyone is right.  This is really important.  This is too important to be fucking around like this.

First of all, please understand this: The Vast Majority of people who are for gun control support it because they believe that gun control can prevent things like Sandy Hook and the Aurora Movie Theatre shooting.  They honestly believe that gun control will make this country a safer place for them and their children.  They really, truly believe this.  Are they right?  I don’t believe they are, but that’s not the point.  These people, the majority of them, aren’t monsters.  These people aren’t evil.  They want something we all want: safety for our families. 

“But Obama wants to confiscate our guns in preparation for a fascist state”.  We can debate that if you want.  It’s going to be a lot harder to debate whether or not that the Smiths down the street want a fascist state.  I’m 99% certain that what they want is to stop worrying about sending their 6 year old to school.  At worst, the Smiths are misguided.  They aren’t communists or werewolves.

Here’s how way too much of this debate has looked so far:

Liberals:  We need gun control right now.  We have to do something to stop these mass shootings!


I’m a supporter of the second amendment, because I think an armed populace provides a defense against tyranny.  I’m about as libertarian as it’s possible to be.  You know who I’d really prefer didn’t own guns?  Someone who is this casual about introducing violence into a debate.  Do these people understand what civil war would actually mean?  Some people like to fantasize about dying for their country, about fighting “the man”, about becoming a hero, about learning kung fu.  The Last Psychiatrist explained this point better than I ever could, but I’ll sum up: if you think that, in the case of a massive civil war against a fascist government, you would finally get the chance to become a hero, to realize your full potential, to have your life imbued with meaning, you’re terribly mistaken.  You are not the main character in a movie about future civil war.  You are one of the extras.  So is your family.  Your sons and daughters could die in this kind of civil war.  The uncle who’s always going on about how great Obamacare is may be annoying at Thanksgiving, but do you really want to have to shoot him in the face?  Do you want to face your grandmother after you do?

“You’re such a coward”.  No.  I’m realistic, and you’re vainglorious.  If the time ever comes in this country for violence, and I hope with all my soul that it never does, I’ll fight however I can.  You know what I won’t be doing?  Talking.  Because if the time has come for war, then words are worthless, words are a waste of breath.  When you post things like this, you are either bringing threats to a debate or you are talking when you ought to be shooting.

This is still the time for debate.  If it was the time for war, the government would be indefinitely detaining citizens, instead of passing laws that indirectly authorize it and taking no action.  If it was time for war, the government would be confiscating guns without debate or due process, not banning assault weapons and attempting to compile a gun registry.  If it was time for war, you wouldn’t be allowed to openly discuss succession or post pictures like these.  I know we are not a fascist state yet because people are posting these pictures on Facebook without penalty.

“So what, I’m just supposed to roll over and hand over my guns?”  Absolutely not.  DEBATE THIS.  Debate it whenever it comes up.  Debate it on the internet, debate it with your friends, write your congressmen and debate it with them.  By debate, I mean, offer reasons which are more than sound bites.  Really consider the opposition’s points, empathize with them, and then try to explain why they’re wrong.

Here are some examples of the right way to do this:

Gun Control Supporter Says:
A Possible Answer:                   
A Wrong Answer:
We have to do something about gun violence in this country!
It’s definitely a problem, and I’m really concerned about it as well.  But wouldn’t you agree that doing something that makes things worse would actually be worse than doing nothing?  We have to be sure that gun control laws will actually help things more than they hurt them.
You’re retarded—haven’t you read the constitution?
European countries that have banned guns have much lower gun homicide rates than America does!
That’s true, but America isn’t Europe.  For one thing, guns were never part of most European cultures.  Additionally, you’ve probably seen the raw numbers: remember that European countries have much smaller numbers of citizens than America does.  Even though gun-related crime is very low in these countries, many countries in Europe that have banned guns have much higher rates of violent crime per 100,000 citizens than America does.
Maybe you should fucking move to Europe than!
Less guns means less gun-related violence!
Will gun control laws actually be effective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals?  It’s easy to cross the border into Mexico and Canada and buy guns there.  The Canadian border is very porous—unless you can convince Canada to ban guns as well, a United States gun ban isn’t going to mean much.
I’ll show you gun-related violence if you try to take my Glock-40 away with your stupid fascist laws!
Is your right to hunt deer more important than keeping our kids safe?
The 2nd Amendment isn’t about protecting anyone’s right to hunt deer.  It’s in place in case there ever needs to be armed resistance against a tyrannical government.  Look, I’m not saying that’s happening now, and I hope to God it doesn’t happen, but it’s happened across the globe throughout human history.  Ben Shapiro explains it really well in this clip (around 2:15).
The 2nd Amendment isn’t about deer hunting, it’s about fighting back against fascism!  Didn’t you hear Alex Jones school Piers Morgan on this issue?
I think you’re just a warmongering fuckhead who wants kids to die!
Excuse me?  I don’t want kids to die either.  The only thing we’re disagreeing on is how we can best ensure that American kids have a future in this country.  If you're going to be rude, I'm going to leave.
Fuck you, hippie!!

This is a serious issue.  Let's have a serious discussion.  Prove that you are responsible enough to own weapons of war by engaging in civilized, peaceful debate.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


This picture is the best illustration of my feelings on rape that I have ever seen.

While I was in the Army, a female soldier who lived in the same barracks as I did invited a fellow soldier (male) to her room, alone, at about 10:00 PM, for some drinks.  After several drinks, the man attempted to put the moves on her.  She resisted.  He attempted to force the issue: in other words, he attempted rape.  Next thing you know, we’re having endless meetings about reporting rape, lectures about responsibility and a whole lot of yelling, for weeks.  After a few days of this, everyone I know is furious…at the girl.  For being an idiot.

And she was an idiot.  Inviting a guy to your barracks room for drinks?  Alone?  When you have no intention of fucking him?  That’s dumb.  The male soldier was probably younger than 25 and almost certainly sex-starved.  Alcohol never helps these things, and an invitation back to one's room for drinks late at night is a nearly-universal code phrase for “I want to fuck you”.  Talk about mixed signals.  That girl made a stupid, terrible, almost comically bad decision.

And also, she did not deserve to get raped.  She was not “asking for it”.  This is where things break down, from both the feminist and what I’m going to call the masculine perspective, even though I know all men do not share it (any more than all women share a feminist perspective).

As a good feminist, I’m not supposed to call the girl an idiot.  She has every right to ask a man over for drinks without wanting anything more, right?  Sure, she’s got every right to do it, just like I have every right to start shouting anti-Obama slogans up and down the streets of Hyde Park, Chicago.  Free speech, right?  A thing can be both within our rights and a terrible idea.  I don’t recommend doing either thing, ever.

All my male friends got this part right—it’s a terrible idea for a woman to invite a man to your room, alone at night, for several drinks, if you’re not planning on some kind of sexual activity later.  There is no scenario in which this move does not end in some kind of unpleasantness--a fight, disappointment, awkwardness at the very least.  But a lot of them missed the second part of this equation—it doesn’t mean that the girl deserves to be raped.  The guy who cuts you off in traffic is an idiot, but doesn’t actually deserve to die in a car crash.  The rude lady at the grocery store doesn’t deserve to die of cancer.  Saying that a girl deserves to get raped for being an idiot is like saying someone deserves life in a maximum security prison for shoplifting a tube of lipstick. The punishment does not fit the crime.

Back to the picture.  This beautiful and half-naked woman is not asking to be raped.  Is it a good idea for this girl to walk around without her shirt outside of this protest?  Probably not.  But is she asking to be raped?  Definitely not.  These aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.

I like this picture because it makes people uncomfortable.  Since she’s beautiful and sexy, she inspires sexual thoughts.  “What”, say some men, “So I’m not allowed to look?”  Of course you're allowed to look.  I’ve looked at this picture a whole lot, and I’ve even thought about what it might be like to touch her, to take her to bed.  That’s fine!  You just can’t rape her.  It really is that easy.  Looking, contemplating, fantasizing is fine.  Acting without her consent would be rape, and rape is never justified.

A common response to this picture is that she’s “just looking for attention”.  Of course she is.  She’s at a protest, doing something provocative.  She is drawing attention to herself, and also to a serious problem within human cultures around the globe, including our own.  We can quibble about the exact percentage of women who have been raped in America—is it 18%14.8%16%?  Take your pick—it doesn’t matter, that’s a lot of women.  That’s so many, too many, a ridiculous number of people who have been sexually violated.  Some men seem to think that because they don’t rape anyone, because they would never rape anyone, rape isn’t an issue.  These men need to stop taking outrage against rape as a personal attack: there are a lot of men out there, and clearly some of them are rapists.  It’s a problem.  Yes, this woman is looking for attention.  Maybe we ought to pay a little bit of attention to her and her message, because no matter which rape statistic we choose, they all show that some people have clearly not gotten the memo on consent, and yes, it could be someone you know.

The most interesting comments, however, are the ones which allege that this picture is all about “shock value”.  Why does she have to be so aggressive about this?  Couldn’t she make the same point without being shocking?

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of reporting on the horrifying gang rape in Delhi.  A 23 year old student was violently and brutally raped for two and a half hours, beaten with an iron rod, and left to die.  After hospitalization and intensive treatment, she eventually did just that.

Does that shock you? 

Were you shocked when you read about that crime?  I’ll bet money that you were appalled, maybe sickened…but not shocked.  Let me spell this out: there are people who were shocked by a beautiful and topless woman saying that rape is wrong, but not by a brutal and murderous gang rape.  If you’re one of those people, I urge you to take a good, hard look at what the word “shocking” means to you.  Be shocked at the rape, at both, or at neither: you cannot be shocked at the woman but not at the rape without implicitly accepting that rape is more natural and acceptable than a beautiful woman with sharpie marker on her boobs.

Women do not deserve to get raped, regardless of circumstances.  All this girl is asking is that we, as a society, recognize that rape is a problem, and that the problem lies with the rapists, not with women.