The state of the debate |

The state of the debate

Tom Wessel
Vail, CO. Colorado

I just finished a conversation with my mother in which we discussed our concerns about the current state of argumentative debate. I made the point that the 21st century is unlike any other, as far as media.

With so many conduits for information to reach the masses, we are living in a proverbial three-dimensional informational chess game.

We are living in a world of sound bites, minimal-to-no context, and continuously changing subject matter. These three factors, combined with a seemingly insatiable appetite for the latest “hot button issue,” provide a perfect recipe for that which we see everywhere today: relatively uninformed masses.

Contemporary meaning of the phrase “issue of the day” is as polar-opposite from the phrase’s original meaning as matter is to anti-matter. In the contemporary world in which we live, the phrase is very literal.

One can scan the major headlines and each day find a brand-new issue to debate with friends and foes alike. If a “hot button issue” like illegal immigration is the talk of today (insert today’s date here), but you are not in the mood for the debate, fear not. A new “hot button issue” will plaster the headlines in less than 24 hours.

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Go walk your dog, take a jog, or call your mother-in-law and I guarantee that when you are done, there will be some new issue to discuss, like the morality (or lack thereof) of those scoundrel pirates.

In the days of old, our powder-wigged predecessors locked themselves in rooms for hours, even days and weeks, debating not as many issues as there were days in their gathering, but one single, solitary issue.

Our founding fathers were not inundated with new information from the coast of Somalia, the summit in South America, and Susan Boyle’s latest fashion faux pas all in the same day. They gathered to debate something meaningful (not that pirates and Ms. Boyle’s hairstyle are not both worthy of our attention), like the degree to which government should be involved in the lives of private citizens, or the meaning of taxation without representation not as a simple catch-phrase, but a matter of principle with great implications.

Simply stated, there is not enough time in our days to be made aware of, research, understand and argue every issue with authority. Instead, find your favorite ideological opponent (perhaps it is your mother-in-law, who knows?), sit down over a cup of coffee, some lunch and maybe even a 15-course dinner and begin to lay out the facts of one chosen issue.

Then tomorrow after your jog, taking the kids to school, doing the laundry, cooking dinner, and working for eight-plus hours, you can begin to actually discuss the facts.

Tom Wessel


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