On losing the patience to argue…

I was going to write a bit today about guns and violence or maybe about the Dow taking a 700-ish point stumble. I’ve covered it all before. It’s well trod ground and I’m not sure I have any particularly new insights to offer up for the discussion.

Then again, I don’t suppose having new information or insight is what having an opinion on the internet is about. It seems too be about determining who can shout the loudest and gin up the most favorable ratio. Mercifully I was born into a world where I don’t rise and fall based on my ratio and it’s not what drives my positions. If it were, God knows, I’d tighten up the focus around here instead of letting it just be a free flowing blast of whatever’s knocking around my head four afternoons each week.

I have friends on nearly every side of every policy position. As hard as some might find this to believe, I’m a bit like Switzerland. When it comes to who I choose to be friends with, I’m the soul of indifference about their politics, who else is in their circle of friends, or most any other discriminator that people use to decide who they want to spend time with. It’s historically also why I would never even consider putting more than about three of my friends in the same room at the same time. It feels like a brawl would be just about inevitable.

So here I sit, comfortable in my on positions, but always willing to entertain new evidence and adjust as needed – without feeling any need to jump up and down, screaming about whatever the new issue of the day is. As I’ve gotten older, the need to convince other people of my rightness or their wrongness has diminished considerably. It’s not so much that I’m not passionate about certain issues as it is not being interested in expending the energy necessary to cover the same ground three or four dozen times.

It turns out, in my advancing middle age, I rarely have the patience to argue… but don’t let that fool you into believing I’ve changed my spots or that I won’t rise like a sleeping giant in defense of my principles if needed.

Argument nullification…

Although I’ve been disengaged from most of the week’s news and social media content, I haven’t been able to completely avoid the plethora of posts that insist “you can’t be a Christian if you do or believe ‘X'”. I also observe that this kind of comment is posted often by people who decry the influence of religion in government.

Maybe you see where I’m going with this. Arguing that elected leaders should “act like Christians” and in the next breath insist that religion has no role in government tends to nullify at least one if not both of your positions. If you’re going to criticize intellectual inconsistency from a place of intellectual inconsistency I’m going to struggle with your argument. But maybe that’s just me.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Accusations of negativity. I don’t think of myself as a person who dwells on the negative. I certainly recognize that negativity abounds, but I don’t dwell on it. I feel like there may be some that have the impression that I walk around in a black cloud, but I find that to be far from the truth. Just because I find the world to largely be a shitshow, I still manage to take my pleasures where I find them. Cold beer and a dozen steamed crabs on a Friday night? Bliss. The 6AM sun cracking through the leaves and the forest sounds of early morning? Heaven. Quiet night with a good book and two snoring beasts at my feet? Nirvana. The vast majority of my troubles begin and end with people… or rather because I have expectations of people. You might think that my expectations would be low, but the opposite is the case. I have no higher expectations of the man in the street than I have of myself – that the work I perform is mostly right the first time, that when I say something will happen at a given date and time it will happen, or that as a grown adult I know how to behave and speak while indoors or in a public forum. It’s setting the bar higher than “capable of walking slowly while chewing gum” that seems to get me in trouble, because despite relentless disappointment at the hands of the public at large, I still have my expectations and my standard. And those are not up for debate or compromise. So fear not, for what you perceive as negativity is simply a day’s worth of disappointment seeping out of my brain and back out into the universe.

2. When in charge, take charge. The number of people wandering around in the wild incapable or unwilling to make even the simplest of decisions is, quite frankly disturbing on almost every level. Anything from “where do you want to eat tonight” to “what should we do in Syria” seems to be out of the grasp of so very many. I will never promise that I’m going to make all the right decisions all the time, but I will, by God, make a decision based on the best information I have at hand and move out smartly in what I think is the right direction. I’m not the least bit bothered by having to change course when more or better information becomes available… and I’m damned well not going to sit quietly and wait for perfect enlightenment when there are things that need doing.

3. Social media. Social media gives us all a platform to rail against whatever issue is hottest on our minds on any given moment of any given day. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that gives even the lone voice in the wilderness the ability to reach out to the planet in simulcast. Beyond the cat memes and spam bots, it really is a remarkable feat of engineering. That being said, when you take to social media to rant about how other people are using social media I’m not entirely sure you get the point of it being a tool for all of us to express opinions and ideas when they are unpopular – maybe even especially when they are unpopular. From time to time I find it helpful to step back and remind myself that social media is entirely optional. No one is forcing me (or any of us) to use it. When I read something with which I violently disagree I don’t have to engage. In fact, sometimes the most powerful thing I can do is get up, walk away, and terminate the discussion before I give it the power to annoy me further.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Christmas shopping. I know the old saying goes “It’s better to give than to receive” and while I’m sure there are some very good socio-religious reasons for that adage, my own Christmas shopping does not in any way reflect it. After a week of hitting the sales at my usual haunts, it’s pretty much Jeff: 10, Everyone Else: 0. I’m shooting to get most of my list covered down over this coming weekend. Fortunately, in the finest tradition of 21st century man, gift cards are pretty easy to find and I can have just about all of that knocked out in about an hour. I’m sure I could go spend the next three weeks carefully pondering what the recipients might want, but in the end, shopping for other people is mostly a wild ass shot in the dark. It’s better all around to take my chances with them knowing what they want instead of giving it my best blind guess.

2. Arguing on the internet. I’m a regular member of several online forums. One of the best aspects of the internet is that no matter what you’re interested in, there’s almost guaranteed to be a group of people out there interested in talking about the same thing. From investments to tortoise keeping, there’s a discussion out there for you. What I don’t understand is why so many people spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on these sites arguing with one another over nitpicky details that really make all that much difference. There’s something about having an internet connection that imbues people with the sense that they alone are the herald of the One Truth. I’m of the opinion that there is room for smart people to disagree, for there to be more than one version of the truth, without everyone being a bunch of doucheknockers. Then again, that theory depends largely on it being a discussion between smart people. Which may be the ultimate flaw in my logic.

3. Thirty minutes. That’s how much later than normal I left work on Tuesday. I signed off on it in advance and for once actually wanted to go to a meeting, but that didn’t take into account the fact that apparently leaving 1800 seconds after the end of my usual duty day approximately doubles the duration of my drive home from 45 minutes to nearly an hour and a half. If I wanted to deal with that kind of asshattery, I would have accepted the job down at Ft. Myer and not here in the sticks, thank you very much. File that one under the category labeled “Mistakes I Won’t Make a Second Time.”

Against the Constitution…

Three times today in three different contexts, I heard three different people say that something was “against the Constitution.” That’s all well and good of course, assuming that what you’re talking about has anything even remotely to do with the national user’s manual. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that nothing we were talking about today came anywhere close to that level importance. Look, “against the Constitution” is a fine figure of speech and I’m all for it, but these people were adamant that their particular issue was certain to be covered somewhere in an Article or in one of the Amendments at a minimum. I won’t cover the specifics other than to say simply that they were wrong. Not just wrong, but breathtakingly wrongheaded in fact.

It occurs to me that these are all educated people and then the real truth sinks in. Aside from knowing we have a Constitution and possible that there are amendments to it the average person knows alarmingly little about the Constitution and what it actually does. Now I’m not a fancy big city lawyer or even a passable excuse for a constitutional scholar, but I managed to follow the gist of it. I know more or less what the each Article covers and have a rough idea which amendments were added during which historical periods and the general topics they address. For those of you playing along at home, the first 12 were post revolutionary, 13-15 were a result of the Civil War, 16-21 were all about the Progressive movement, and 22-27 came along because the last half of the 20th century is when we started thinking that we needed an Amendment for things that would have been regular legislation in earlier eras.

I’ve long since given up on expecting people to know details about anything really, but if you’re going to try to buttress your argument by claiming constitutional blessing, it might help if you had at least some basic knowledge before opening your filthy pie hole. Otherwise you’re going to make me want to find a flag, wrap you in it, and then set you on fire. At least one of those two acts is constitutionally protected. Sadly, it’s not lighting dumbasses aflame.