Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Fascist in Me

A friend of mine called me a Fascist the other night (at a dinner at my house, nonetheless!) because I said something he didn't agree with. After he left, I spoke to my wife: I felt that somehow I had offended my friend (causing his Fascist labelling of me) because of my argumentative nature, which I've tried to temper with age, but age still too-often turns me into vinegar instead of better wine, especially that evening.

Two days later, my friend and his wife were parking their car, he got out first and crossed to me. He said he was sorry what he said that evening; that I was not a Fascist. I saw his tighten his hands in a gesture of frustration, as he said: "You are just the damnedest person to intellectually categorize." I paused. "Thank you," I said. "That is the nicest compliment I've gotten in a long time."

We discussed whether I was politically Right, Left, or a Libertarian. "You are all over the map," he said. "No," I said, "I come from a single, unchanging perspective: I can't stand bullshit. From whatever the source. Today, most of the bullshit is coming from the Left. A few years ago, most of the bullshit was coming from the Right. Bullshit originates in power; or maybe it just stinks more noticeably.

"I can't stand half-truths, shallow truths, hypocrisy, political correctness; or adversary opinions put forth as objective analysis, all positions that are not well considered, desirous of balance and fairness...and open to modification by new facts and better, truer statements. I hate self-righteousness, whether in politics or religion."

He nodded and we went into our respective homes.

I continued to think about our conversation. I still felt badly about offending my friend with the force of my opinions.

I thought: Knowledge is not truth, but the search for truth. Discussion--or even an argument--is a tactic of discovery, not a tool to bludgeon.

So, to all my friends, an apology: When I tell you my opinion, I offer it as a hypothesis; not a law; a possibility, not a certainty. My utterance is merely an opening--or continuing--gambit to stimulate you to present me new facts that may modify, strengthen my hypothesis.

I argue to learn; and humbly--in spite of my loud and forcible ways--offer my knowledge to you as a stimulus to our learning. My excessive energy in debate is only my passionate love of ideas and the hunt for truth, as well as my Quixotic search to understand that truth.

Forgive me, friends: I know we are soul mates on a journey through an infinite, dark and unknown universe. I know we must learn to love and help each other learn--and survive, even in our disagreement. Death's beckoning is our shared, binding and blinding destiny. And I am mirrored in you, and you in me. We are each other. And death's loud laugh--ignorance--is our mutual foe.

I promise to be quieter next time; and less passionate. And I will try not to react so forcefully and loudly when I step in your--and my--bullshit.


Blogger Ziyah said...

Quieter? Less passionate? You? That'll be the day...

11:12 AM  

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