29 October 2006

More of the Same

Typical controversial BYU political discussion over at Katherine's blog. What interests me is not the issue at hand, but the attitudes taken by the participants. The statements in particular that bother me:

Anonymous #2: Instead I hear a young BYU college kid that is more concerned about being trendy or rebellious than actually standing up for what you believe.
Katherine: . . . For many (most?) people saluting the flag has become a thoughtless act. I'm not convinced that the numerous people I passed who were flirting and giggling or engaged in full conversation while standing with their hands over their hearts were respecting and appreciating the symbolism of the flag and the anthem any more than I was.
I have two problems with these statements, which I view as the same attitude just in different clothing. First, the actions of the crowd have little bearing on whether a specific action is right or wrong. A#2, I know from reliable sources who you are, and you don't know Katherine. Until you know if she belongs to said group, the actions of that group are irrelevant to her personally. Same goes for what Katherine says. Whether or not those people are appreciating their national symbol has no effect on whether it is moral or not for you not to do so. Both of these are arguments based on what other people are doing, which we should have learned in elementary school has little impact on what our standards should be.

Problem two is these two attitudes represent the most unconstructive stereotypes of Mormon liberals and Mormon conservatives towards each other. Noticing these stereotypes was one of the things which caused me to start blogging in the first place. As Katherine shows, liberals have the idea that all conservatives are airheads who are simply following what their parents taught them and can't think for themselves. Equally bad is A#2's attitude that all liberals at BYU are only liberal because they want to stand out and rebel from their parents, that their beliefs are based on social pressures not understanding.

I've been put into both holes lately, and let me tell you, neither stereotype is justified. Yes, there are people on either side of the block who don't care, but they really aren't the ones you should be addressing, are they? I continue to advocate that until we drop these stereotypes and consider the opposition as real, rational people, there will be no progress towards the truth. We must act as though our opposition has the same information we do and has put exactly as much thought into their position as we have. Then and only then do we have a true basis for discussion. Even if it appears they don't, there's no use arguing with someone who doesn't have a level of thought to their opinions anyway. We must combat the ideal enemy if we want truth. Combating the enemy's flaws only wins the debate, not the heart. (And if the heart isn't your goal, I have no help for you.)


Katherine said...

Liz, Liz, I knew that statement would come across wrong. Perhaps I should have qualified it more or just not said it at all. I didn't mean at all to stereotype--I merely wanted to make the point that whether or not one stops for the anthem does not necessarily say anything about one's actual feelings. That goes for the liberal and conservative, the cynical and patriotic, etc. The act of acknowledging the symbol can be a meaningful thing, but it carries no inherent meaning. It may or may not be meaningful to the person who continues walking, the one who stops but doesn't pay attention, or the one who stops and stands quietly. There's no way to know, and it shouldn't matter anyway--patriotism/rebelliousness shouldn't be just a show.

Katherine said...

I meant to say, *it carries no inherent meaning without some degree of mental or emotional engagement.

Liz Muir said...

I have to point out the paradox in your statement. You say stopping for the anthem doesn't say anything about one's feelings, yet your main argument against it that stopping would be an incorrect portrayal of your feelings about the country. Clearly, there is some innate meaning in stopping for the flag. It's definitely not all, but I think it's there. The position of the body has a lot to do with the reverence of the heart. Think about prayer: there's a reason we kneel and fold our arms. It's not just an empty symbol.

Not Too Pensive said...

Well, I've thrown my 2 cents in here.

I've probably strayed from the original argument, but my statements are more general as is. I'm not trying to stoke a mini flame war here.

Good luck with the novel!