A lot can change in a few days. On December 11, Rev. Mike wrote:
I had a very interesting discussion with someone this evening regarding perceived U.S. isolationism, about how people in the U.S. react to others in the world who criticize us, and speaking hypothetically, I voiced some of the reasons why some of us react poorly to this criticism of the U.S. I was able to do this because my partner in conversation was secure enough to hear these things without taking offense. Which leads me to an insight regarding political correctness — provided I am actually interested in learning from someone else and willing to put my own views up for critique as well, is the process of dialogue well-served by dancing around each other’s linguistic limitations, avoiding the espousal of any views that might be deemed offensive to another, or by frank, straightforward talk? To those of you who indulge my direct approach, I thank you … you teach me a great deal about the world and my own limited perspective.
Then, on December 17:
…on this particular topic, we have nothing further to say to one another. On this subject, I find you morally reprehensible, even repulsive, and I simply cannot even begin to think where I could begin a constructive conversation on this subject with you. Even the most tolerant person has his limits, and I have reached mine on this matter. I have had my fill of lectures on tolerance from the intolerant.
It’s hard for me to know how to respond to this. I think I understand Mike’s frustration, but I do have some questions:
When is it right to call somebody morally reprehensible or repugnant just because they disagree with us? How can we keep a debate going, even with comments and barbs that annoy us and contribute little? Do we ever have the right to just shut a debate down because we’re convinced of our rightness?
I’m beginning to despair for the fine art of debate.