Tuesday, May 02, 2006

no, i can't hear you! i've got an agenda in my ear!

the janus project really came about from late hour chats between my brother-in-law and me over pretty much the gamut of what brother-in-laws might cover - careers. politics. movies. religion. cigars. theology. doctrine. beer. our kids. sports. our wives. the future. the past. whatever comes to mind. often thoughts linger, like the hazy cigar smoke that fills the dos flamingoes on a humidly still mississippi night. other times, ideas flit away as quickly as the third beer reflexes that can still miraculously catch a knocked over bottle before a single drop of nectar is spilled. often - our ideas make about as much sense as a paying $10.00 for a stoggie or $5.00 for an imported beer. we each have strong opinions. sometimes we disagree. often we agree but have a different way of arriving at the same end. more than i admit out loud, his ability to perform mental gymnastics far exceeds my abilities to follow along. without fail, i leave our conversations with food for thought - and not just a junk food, but steak and potatoes stuff. usually, i have to take a doggie-bag home with me.

several times by the light of day, my brother-in-law mentioned that some of these thoughts might be worth sharing with folks on a broader scale, and blogging provided a forum from which one could perch from one’s very own soap box or wander around the virtual wide, wide world and hear others’ mental ruminations. so - i jumped in. and i must admit, i’m hooked. i enjoy the idea of a free exchange of ideas and have been, for the most part, having a ball with the give and take in the blogosphere.

however - i am a bit disappointed in some encounters. most recently, i have been putting together a post on the illegal immigration issue, when i ran across another site that was engaging the same sort of stuff i was interested in discussing. however, in less than two post cycles, the tone of the dialogue became shrill and the exchange basically ground to a halt, at least as far as i was concerned. i felt as if there was much fertile ground to plow given the information in the comments, but in response to my comments, rarely were intellectual arguments proffered. so - instead of focusing on the issue of immigration in today’s blog, i thought it might be more instructive, at least for me, to think about the concept of statesmanship - an idea that is certainly rare in politics, but apparently is becoming an endangered species in civil discourse as well.

paraphrased from the old standbys - webster’s and the oed - statesmanship is exhibited by those who exercise political leadership wisely and without narrow partisanship and promotes the public good from the position of disinterest in oneself. lincoln said, “honest statesmanship is the wise employment of individual manners for the public good.” hubert humphrey said, “the essence of statesmanship is not a rigid adherence to the past, but a prudent and probing concern for the future.”

more often than not, i’m convinced that most folks who are not career politicians, regardless of their political ilk, genuinely are interested in the well being of others and our future. what saddens me is that the narrowness of the professional politicians and the shrillness of party politics has spilled over into our public discourse. we the people, CAN and SHOULD have dialogue and disagreements. but after we pull the lever at the ballot box, we should also be able to carry on our conversations via civilized discourse despite how the professionals conduct themselves in the public arena.


Beverly said...

Okay..in this site's, of which you speak of, defense you began your intellectual discussion with, "you’re kidding, right?" I read all the responses..I think these type of discussions become negative when some come on too strong...that's sad..try not to put the blame on the other person..take a minute and go back and read your comments and think about how you came across in print which communicates much different then in person..things are not black and white..God bless you as you search for truth...

e. l. wood said...

beverly - i have read and reread my comments and others in the aforementioned posts. i'm willing to accept responsibility for the openning of my initial comment. but wow. never in my wildest dreams did i think that "you're kidding, right?" would be the cause the discussion to spiral out of control. i have zero problem with passion, but to not engage a debate and lose control so quickly was something i have not encountered in quite some time, and to be honest, have not encountered in my limited experience blogging. the issues are tough ones and, no, i did not go out of my way to wear kid gloves, but in my mind (and in rereading the comments), do not see me bringing the hammer down either. to be frank, i considered coming back with both barrels blazing, but resisted the urge. still - i realize a lot is lost in "type" and we are at a disadvantage as far as voice tone, body language, etc. so - for what it's worth, i will just exit the conversation. no hard feelings on this end. thanks for writing though. i appreciate your thoughts and insight.

Beverly said...

What you "see" wasn't my point..
I assure you that before I even read the other blogger's comments, I was uncomfortable with how strong you came across..but it was just a thought..
What's wrong with handling with "kid gloves"...? I am called to love..in all areas of my life..
I know my experience has been, those who get defensive and strong with their words are more interested in getting their point across than to listen and understand the other's views..hey, don't get me wrong..I am guilty of doing that..
I just felt it wrong that you came back to your blog and presented a one sided view....peace..

e. l. wood said...

beverly, i intentionally put a link to the site in questions so as to avoid being one sided. i want folks to go there and read for themselves and make up their own minds. the issues are tough issues and honestly, i think passion in a debate is a good thing. so - i feel like there is a double standard here between ed’s version of passion and my own. and that’s ok as long as folks can be honest about that. also - I don’t really see kid gloves and love as being a default pair in every situation. i mean when christ “cast out” the money changers from the temple and “overthrew” their tables and chairs i’m certain that he loved those folks. i’m also fairly sure he wasn’t perceived by onlookers as using delicacies or fineness to make his point. or when he told peter, “get the behind me satan.” peter had a delicate ego, and here was the master referring to him as the prince of darkness. should christ have been a little less edgy? when ed says unequivocally, that he doesn’t like me, i don’t take offense - he doesn’t even know me. i’m not sad that he doesn’t like me, i’m sad that we can not have a civil exchange of ideas. as always, i appreciate your point of view - it does help me get a partially different perspective.

Greg Underwood said...

Although I've read my fair share of blogs; I've not posted my own. From what I've gathered, once one enters the world of the controversialist, one can expect attacks on his person as well as frequent assualts of verbal invective. Despite your hope for a high level of polite discourse, I cannot forsee it happening.

We read history not so we can avoid making the mistakes of the past, but to realize that we are hopelessly condemned to make those mistakes over and over and over.

In response to the mildest of challenges, some will respond with creativity and insight; some will repsond with righteous indignation worthy of Achilles.

Beverly said...

well...I like ya..God Bless..

Steve Bezner said...

Hmmm...I don't know the blog you're talking about, but it sounds like a fun place. E.L., can you give a few more details about the discussion? Or an address where I can read the discussion?

e. l. wood said...

sure - click on the link in the text of the post. the key word is "site". it should be highlighted.