My List

After another frustrating online conversation wherein I allowed myself to roped into a debate with a person who turned out to be a complete wacko, I've come up with an invention that I think might save me a lot of time and trouble in the future. This is just my first crack at it, but I'd like to post a list of specific lies which, if believed by the person with whom I'm conversing, officially shut down the conversation. Now I can simply say, "Wha? Nope, sorry, that one's on my list." Then I'll add a link to this post and be done with them. Nut-jobs can then find their misinformation on the list, and read the rules about how they should respond below.

So, here's the list as it currently stands, in no particular order:

1. The moon landing was a hoax.

2. Global warming is not a man-made phenomenon.

3. President Obama is not a natural born citizen.

4. President Obama is a socialist/ ultra-leftist.

5. President Obama is a terrorist/ terrorist sympathizer.

6. Saddam Hussein was involved with the attacks of September 11th.

7. The Earth is six thousand years old.

8. The Bible is entirely consistent and inerrant, requiring no interpretation whatsoever.

9. God favors America over other countries and Americans over foreigners.

10. Fox News is a legitimate source of objective journalism.

11. The holocaust didn't happen.

12. Human beings are not the product of any evolutionary process.

13. The Republican Party is consistently the party of fiscal responsibility.

14. The Republican Party is consistently the party of moral/ family values.

15. People from rural areas are inherently more moral than people from cities.

16. Cities are inherently dangerous/ more crime ridden than small towns/ rural areas.

17. People who are pro-choice want abortions to be more common/ numerous.

18. Gay marriage would diminish the value of heterosexual marriage.

19. Homosexuality is a choice of a perverse/ hedonistic lifestyle.

20. There is no more racism in America.

21. White people suffer regularly from reverse-racism.

22. Feminists all believe women are superior to men and should be in power over them.

23. All Muslims are radical extremists/ terrorists who wish only for death to America. (added 8/02/09)

24. The Quran says "death to the infidels" which means Americans in code language. (added 8/02/09)

25. People can be "turned" gay or straight. (added 8/02/09)

26. Illegal immigrants come to the U.S. to collect welfare. (added 8/02/09)

27. The American health care system is the best in the world. (added 8/02/09)

28. The Confederate States were the victims of Northern aggression and had a right to have an economy based on slavery. (added 8/02/09)

29. The Founding Fathers were Christians and the U.S. is officially a Christian country. (added 8/02/09)

30. The official language of the United States is English. (added 8/02/09)

I expect that I will have to add to this list, perhaps frequently, as I come across more of these lies and expressions of ignorance. As I do so, I'll date them. I'm also accepting recommendations for more items to add to the list.

Now, there are certainly beliefs which I disagree with, which bother me, and which may even offend me deeply, but which would not be included. I'm limiting this list to the kinds of beliefs which are simply not grounded in any evidence, which are demonstrably untrue, and/or which shut down any possibility of further civil debate.

Because the fact is, even when someone voices one of these beliefs, I try to be civil and explain why I disagree. I find evidence to disprove these ridiculous claims. And people who hold these beliefs, in every case, simply deny the evidence or refuse to acknowledge the sources I provide.

Now, so that we're clear, here's what I want from someone who violates the prohibition against stating claims on the above list to me or around me:

1. The First Amendment grants you the right to free speech. I don't. Stop talking to me, writing to me, irritating me, and generally wasting my time.

2. If you cannot abide by rule #1, the onus is on you to support your claim with, if not proof, at least enough evidence that the item on the list is called into legitimate question, at which point I will remove it and a genuine, rational debate can begin.

3. If you are incapable of providing the evidence mentioned in rule #2, but continue to espouse these beliefs, or even hold them privately, you will forgive me for thinking you are, at best, a naive, overly-credulous, ignorant person, and at worst a dangerous idiot. Furthermore, you heretofore acknowledge that rational people, who believe that truth claims should be supported by evidence, are intellectually consistent and correct to think of you as such.

Dog Poo in Motion: A Political Fable

My sister- and brother-in-law are down visiting, and, much to our cats' dismay, they've brought the dog. Tonight, when I stepped out onto the back porch to smoke my pipe, I found a medium sized, curled up dog turd off to one side. I made a point not to step on it, but otherwise ignored it while I smoked, until I realized it was moving. It turns out that a dark brown slug had decided to change course, and had curled around himself, obscuring his antennae and inadvertently masquerading as something else entirely. As I watched the slug straighten out and choose a new path, I realized there's a political moral to this story.

Large groups of people, like political parties or entire nations, are like slugs in some ways. They move slowly. They are bloated. Politically speaking, they are basically shaped like slugs, with a few people on the far right and far left but most people spread relatively evenly on a spectrum in the middle. They choose their directions slowly, ignorantly, and greedily. Once they get moving, they are basically propelled by a combination of momentum, some undetectable undulations, and slime of one kind or another. And, most importantly, when they can't decide which way to go, they begin to look like something of a mess.

I think both our country and both its major political parties are at such a point right now. I have my preference about our direction (universal health care, gay marriage, a genuine response to global warming, a more moral distribution of power and wealth), which incline me to want the Democratic party to figure out a unified direction and start heading there. Frankly, I think the Dems, especially in Congress, are so indebted to moneyed interests, so focused on being nice and bipartisan, and so fearful of hazy, vague taunts of "socialist" and "liberal", that they can't inspire. However, I also know that real debate is essential for a healthy democracy, so I'd like to see the Republican party choose a new direction, even if it's one a don't agree with, rather than circling around leadership like Governors Sanford and Palin and contributing about as much to the national debate as Jon and Kate Plus Eight. Both parties are spiraling around themselves, and, as a nation, we've curved into this fetid, unsanitary shape. We should acknowledge what the slug is teaching us: From a distance, one could be forgiven for mistaking us for a dog turd, so we'd better get moving somewhere fast.