Sunday, June 24, 2007

On the Rights of Damaged Goods to Speak Freely

I'm not fond of people telling me that I have no right to speak, or that my opinion is somehow not valid because of my age, my sex, my upbringing, my appreciation of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as comedians, etc. I'm even less fond it when someone tries to tell someone on my short list of people that.

My little sister and I were talking over the weekend. We were talking about a mutual friend -- B., a young man with a good heart to whom I also think the term zealot could be applied. B., as best I can tell, is a hard-core conservative, Bible literalist, creation science advocate who believes in editing out scenes of films and skipping chapters of books if he finds the content doesn't match with his worldview. I mentioned something about how I'd like to get B. alone in a room and have a long chat on respecting the right of others to believe as they choose, the legitimacy of other beliefs, and the reasons why I believe what I believe (and maybe if I'm in a bad mood, some of the research on what first century Christianity probably looked like before it was cleaned up). She said something about how she'd had a number of conversations with him over the past year -- they're both art students in the same high school graduating class. She said the last straw for her was when, in the course of an argument, he asked if she disagrees with the church (CofC) because our dad died. My sister said she couldn't think of a good retort and just said something that she had thought about these things for herself.

Of course, my blood promptly boiled to my brain, and I suggested that the next time B. tries pulling something like that to tell him the same argument could be made about Jesus and he was only convinced there is a Heavenly Father because of his intense grief over the loss of Joseph. Yes, obviously, the death of a parent at a young age is obviously going to have a profound effect on a person's personal theology/philosophy. I doubt age even matters in that equation. But to attempt to use something like that to discredit a person's beliefs and values is perhaps one of the lowest ad hominem attacks that I've heard of. No one should ever, ever tell another person that they have no right to think or speak because they are "damaged." Everything that happens to a person effects their theology and philosophy. It is impossible to think in a vacuum devoid of experience as a person! And while events in a person's life can rightly been seen as influences on beliefs or perhaps even explanations, a person's history does not invalidate the beliefs they are formed as a part of that experience.

End rant.


Dw3t-Hthr said...

What a horribly nasty thing to say to your sister. I fume with you.

One also gets the fun of people whose argument goes, "Only damaged people disagree with me", gets the response, "I'm not damaged and I agree" and reply to that with, "And that just shows how damaged you are -- you don't even know it, you think that's normal."

Fume, fume, fume.

WordK said...

Thanks. I console my little self by thinking that arguments like that are are cases of people sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting rather than listening. Especially the second case you mentioned.



Zan said...

I grew up the victim of Fundamentalism and I can tell you, they resort to things like that because they can't think of a better argument. They literally cannot imagine that people have motivations they cannot fathom.