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A place to "talk about these things"

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You ever read some of the nasty stuff written in comment sections online? Maybe there's a serious article posted by a black man, and someone writes, "Monkey." Or it's a Fox News interview, and someone writes, "Megyn Kelly is a dumb bitch" -- followed by hundreds of likes.

The sad thing about this to me is not the comments -- haters have existed since the dawn of creators, and as long as there are a bunch of good individuals in the world there will always be a few lousy bad ones (trying) to tear them down. What's sad is that a subtle form of such empty attack is becoming mainstream. For instance:

--If you are a Christian Conservative who strongly believes that life begins at the instant of conception, then it is OK to call those who disagree with you ... "murderers".

--If you are a Liberal Democrat who strongly believes that the earth is warming at a destructive rate, then it is OK to call those who disagree with you ... "science deniers".

--If you are someone with strong beliefs but who is offended when they are challenged, then it is OK to call those who disagree with you ... "ignorant".

In these cases, a label is used to smear someone's character, and sometimes that's enough to take the focus away from the actual content of the person's article or speech. For if someone writing or speaking is a baby killer or anti-science or just plain uneducated, why read or listen to any of his arguments? Ultimately such name-calling, if not exposed for what it is, ends in one of two ways -- someone is booed into silence or beaten into submission. That is unless we choose a third route: respectful dialogue.

What got me thinking about this is a clip of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson from back in 1967 (via YouTube). Carson had on my favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, who had a lot of controversial things to say during the interview. At one point, Ms. Rand commented that it is immoral to force men to go to war (re: the draft in Vietnam). After she said this, it seems a few in the audience expressed their feelings quite disrespectfully, not so unlike those today who like to call people names. Carson handled the situation with class:

“Now we had a few boos there. Which is to be expected. Any time anybody has any views that don’t go according to the norm, you’re going to have some antagonism. But that’s why we want to talk about these things.”

I love that! "But that’s why we want to talk about these things.”

Cheers to the late Johnny Carson, and to all those like him who, rather than attempting to smear and silence speakers, cherish civilized discussion -- even about topics that can potentially rile us up.

Jesse McCarthy is the founder of jemslife, an educational resource offering personalized teacher and parent coaching.

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