Well over two years ago I noticed a man on my route stretching his own legs. We nodded good morning. After several such encounters I introduced myself. John, not his real name, was retired and seemed to have read extensively on several subjects and had an inquiring mind. He expressed his opinions with force and length. I gave him some of my scientific journals once I was finished with them.
One day the subject of climate change arose. He didn’t seem concerned a bit, stating it wasn’t much of a problem, if it was a problem at all. He explained it would affect at most only a few areas such as Miami and China. Miami and China! I saw the writing on the wall regarding future interactions, but that day I merely recommended he not buy property near water or woods!
For some time I was discretion itself as I avoided what I was sure would be divisive subjects, wondering how long I could keep the ruse up.
Eventually the inevitable occurred. John said something that triggered a heated political discussion of the type now defining our country. It led to the following exchange.
Me: “Do you think Donald Trump has broken the law?”
John: “Look at what Hillary Clinton did.”
And there you have it. What this rant is all about. That type of exchange often occurs in a marriage.
She: “You left the front door unlocked.”
He: “So did you just last week.”
Similar repartee occurs over and over in one’s life from the playground to the senior center.
Let’s consider the response to the first statement in each of our pairs. What is it saying? I think three things.
First, it negates the significance of the opening remark.
Second, it’s saying the first statement is invalid because of another wrong.
Third, it diverts the conversation from the intended subject.
How do you suppose this makes the first speaker feel? Probably not too good.
Perhaps the following illustrates the fallacy of this type of response.
He: “You killed Joe.”
She: “Well, you killed Alice.”
Is “she” saying it was okay for her to kill Joe because “he” murdered Alice? That’s just not the case. Her action is deplorable, as is his. They are separate statements not related. And this gives a clue how to handle such an argument.
What did I do with John? Having gained some perspective from long marriages to two philosophy majors, I said to John, “No, the question I asked is whether you think Trump has done criminal acts. That has nothing to do with Hillary. If you want to talk about her, we can do it at a different time.”
The ensuing discussion didn’t go well. I don’t believe John knew how to handle it because he was so used to success with his diversionary technique and I kept insisting on no linkage between the statements.
John and I still see each other. He tries to walk past me with head lowered. I brightly say, “Good morning, John” to which he replies in a lowered voice, “Good morning, Bob.” Before Christmas one year I handed out candy canes to those I met and gave him one. I think our encounters make him uneasy.
So why do I continue them?
Because I’m really not all that mature.
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My first posting on this forum occurred on December 10, 2017 and today’s is the 218th edition. I’ve had a lot of fun and feel grateful to you, my faithful readers over the years. You haven’t been many in number, but you have stuck with me, and I appreciate it. Unfortunately, the pressure of preparing a weekly post no longer appeals to me and I think the quality of my writing has suffered. I considered halting the operation completely, but I’m not yet ready for that. Because it’s still exciting, and sometimes events like the murders at an elementary school in Texas anger me so much I may be forced to hit the keys. At any rate, what I’m going to do is post much less frequently on no forced schedule. I will continue to mention new posts on FaceBook. I will send an email announcing each post as I always have done. If you are already on my list to receive such emails, you will continue to get these announcements. If you want to be added to the list, please drop me a note to that effect at email@example.com. If you are on the list and want off, let me know at the same address. Thank you for being willing to read me. That’s a real high.