Saturday, June 25, 2016

The terms of debate do not include profanity, at least, not for me

I enjoy political discourse on the internet, and to those of you who have seen me on Google+, Facebook and Twitter, this is no secret. I've had many debates and expect to continue those debates. In any debate, I follow a simple set of rules for the debate. I've enumerated them here in the recent past. There, I point out a few strategies that I employ to do my part to keep the debate fair and clean.

I got a great response to that post and one person in particular, who shall remain nameless, expressed gratitude for my discipline to not go on offense. She indicated that when she gets angry, she uses profanity and obscenities to make her point. I can empathize, as on more than a few occasions, I've been tempted to go there. But I don't. Here, I want to share with you why I don't go there.

In the distant past, I tried my hand at standup comedy. I recorded many events on audio, and even did one video. You can find that video here. One thing you'll notice about that video is that there is no profanity, obscenity or vulgarity. I have a supreme reluctance to engage in that kind of talk under any circumstances. This is true of me especially on stage as a speaker or comedian.

To get to that place of doing standup comedy, I took a class from a comedian. I had been taking improvisation classes for years and later in those years, he was offering standup comedy classes. So I paid the fees and started to attend. I learned many very interesting lessons, but the one lesson I learned that I never forgot comes from a discussion about f-bombs and the s-word.

What I learned is that profanity is a crutch for comedians. It is a tool that can be used to shock people into laughing. Comedians who make a habit of using profanity tend to find it hard to get on the Tonight Show, so my teacher advised against it. I had a natural reluctance to be profane, so I had no problem with it.

I carry that same lesson into my philosophy about debate. Profanity doesn't make the point in debate. Yes, there are studies that show that people who use profanity tend to be more intelligent, but to me, profanity is not a sign of intelligence. It is a sign of weakness. Yes, if I hit my thumb with a hammer, I may use the f-bomb as an exclamation. I may even use it in company with people who are comfortable with the term. I did construction for 10 years, so I'm no stranger to it. But I don't use it offensively. Profanity is deeply offensive and you can never take it back. It can in some cases destroy relationships.

There is another aspect to this point about profanity that I'd like to share with you. Profanity is deeply disrespectful and eviscerates peace in the mind body and soul. For some people, a great deal of time must pass before they can regain a peaceful state after exposure to profanity. When introduced into debate, profanity reduces debate to a pissing match. Lots of crude language with little imagination or useful ideas.

All of us want peace. We engage in debate over politics, religion and science because no one has a corner on great ideas. We talk together because we know that working together, we can solve problems together better than alone. Profanity is a huge barrier to working together. People who use profanity intend to win an argument. I don't believe there is any such thing as winning an argument, especially with profanity.

When I engage in debate, I only hope to promote peace with what I believe to be better ideas and holding people accountable when they act poorly. I don't engage in debate to win it, for this would leave no peace in the mind of the loser. I engage in debate to promote peace.

I know that to have peace, I must be peaceful. There is no place for profanity in a peaceful mind. So when I use my words in print, on the internet, between myself and anyone in my life, I follow one simple principle. Err on the side of peace.

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