“Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt” – Abraham Lincoln
In a recent letter I posted in the “Letters to the Editor” column in my hometown newspaper one person, who I’ll simply call by his first name, Mike, asserted something in the comment section that I simply couldn’t ignore.
My letter was in regards to recent legislation – HB40 – currently being proposed in the Texas state legislature which seeks to prevent cities and towns the right to impose restrictions on where gas or oil wells can be drilled within city limits. HB40 is just one of a host of bills that seek to inhibit local control. How ironic for a state where vitriol toward federal overreach is a constant refrain.
Mike seems to think local control, at least as it relates to those of us who successfully passed a fracking ban in Denton last November, is ostensibly a bad thing. It was his attempt to make this point that raised my objections.
“Local control gave us segregation, discrimination in housing, voter restrictions and other restrictions on rights guaranteed by our constitution. Local control is usually about the taking away of rights. That is what HB40 is about. Protecting my mineral rights. That is why they are called “rights” not suggestions. guaranteed in our state constitution.”
Now I could have pointed out that he was stretching the concept quite a bit to oppose “local control” Entire states and regions were guilty of engaging in “segregation, discrimination in housing, [and] voter restrictions.” It didn’t seem to dawn on Mike that throughout history, state’s rights have never been viewed as local control. I could have elaborated too about how individual rights are a two-way street. Your rights end where your fist meets the tip of my chin. But rather than expound on the nuances in his statement I merely pointed out the obvious.
“You think by simply pointing out some bad policies that were the result of local control that therefore all local control will always effect bad policies …? Puleeeease. Comparing segregation and housing discrimination to bills that protect wealthy special interests is asinine.”
Not a tempered response I’ll grant you. I save those for people who I know will appreciate it. However I was playing to Mike’s in-your-face style, as attested to here in his reply to me:
Wow [Larry], what a thoughtful reply! Pointing out all the times that local control wasn’t about restricting someone’s rights. And you said “Puleeeease”. I just can’t ague with that. I’ll bet you convinced every eighth grader on here that you are a stud. They say that when you get old you revert to childish ways. Your whole persona reeks of “angry old man” confined to his home with nothing to do. Do you need a ride somewhere? Can you even remember when you were a decent person that someone might have liked? Try hard and work at it a little. Senility sucks, doesn’t it.
In-your-face people tend to be thin-skinned. How odd too that a man close to 70 (Mike’s FB page revealed he graduated college in 1967) would employ ageism to berate someone.
I essentially punted in my response to him but it did get me to thinking how easily people will resort to demeaning others when their arguments are not well thought out. Shoot the messenger to avoid the message.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that critical thinking in Texas is something conservatives try to avoid. The tact that many use today when caught with foot firmly in mouth is not to slowly disappear or even show any sense of maturity by owning up to their gaffes. No, they would rather continue their attempts to destroy you with character assassination. Conceding failure is not in the blood of those “sons of the South” who lost a war over slavery and it appears that when Nixon catered to and won the Southern vote, their modus operandi became part of the conservative pattern in pretty much all things, especially in politics.
I not only write at least once a week on this blog but I’m a frequent letter writer to the “Letters” column. I gather that it is this frequency of writing which led Mike to believe I was little more than an “’angry old man’ confined to his home with nothing to do.” I write frequently and I’m “old”, therefore I must be angry and confined to my home? Apparently Mike is incapable of chewing gum and walking at the same time.
By creating this persona in his mind Mike didn’t have to use any critical thinking skills or been found at fault for failing to use them in the first place. No. All he had to do was demean his opponent with ignorant presumptions to walk away and feel vindicated. The art of dialogue is not only lost on people like Mike but is to be disparaged as a tool of Satan, or worse, liberal socialists who want to take everyone’s freedoms away.
Writing never came easy to me when I was younger and I still struggle with it today. But it works for me now not only in helping me communicate with others but in sorting out my ideas before I open my mouth. Without this scribed dress rehearsal I would likely trip all over myself in expressing thoughts that go beyond gratuitous statements we routinely utter in so-called polite society.
Mike’s words were meant to hurt without realizing that writing frequently helps all of us avoid the pitfalls of fools, as Lincoln’s quote suggests, who open their mouth when silence would have concealed their ineptitude. There are likely few people who can pen words to paper and submit it for first-time publication without nary an error. I try not to say anything outwardly that I haven’t already proof read in my mind. That hasn’t always been the case but clearly age has an educating effect. Writing frequently is a mental exercise and one that would inhibit many effects of senility. Mike should have known this by now but then senility does tend to erase memory as we get older.