Monday, September 8, 2014

A House Divided

A guest post by Seth:

I’m all for strong statements. They make a great impression, they’re eye-catching, they’re a great way to start college admissions essays. With the gumption to back them up, bold declarative statements are a political speech writer’s dream. Well handled, a strong position is akin to a rallying battle-cry, calling the masses to make a decision and choose a side. Only once the lines are drawn can the onslaught begin, because a rallying cry is not a charge, not a command to advance. It is not unheard of for a rousing speech to sway ones antagonists as well as riling the spirits of those already in agreement. Of course, this refers to good rhetoric, liberally applied and valiantly delivered. Such is not the case with Butters.

Butters is a well-known Catholic apologist whose name is completely something else. But since he is merely a case-study in an epidemic, charity would demand he be granted some anonymity, even if it is only as effective as those black rectangles placed over patients eyes in pictures of disease and anatomical abnormalities.

Butters recently saw fit to publicly share an article whose topic was vaccinations but whose subject seemed to be anger at those more affluent than the author. The article itself is negligible; poorly reasoned and even more poorly written it is simply another example of how far internet emotionalism has destroyed not only logic but basic sentence-structure. I assume it will have no lasting effect. More to the point is Butters’ statement preceding the link: “Anti-vaxxers are dangerous people who kill children. As a grandfather of two little girls, I give their quackery no quarter. None.”As far as strong statements go, that one gets full marks for aggression. Follow-through and charity are another story altogether…

Maybe Butters was having a bad day. Maybe every little thing made his blood boil and rational thoughts were hard to come by at the time. We’ve all been there and know what it’s like. But the immediacy of the internet is a pitfall not easily avoided in such circumstances; back when thoughts were written down, edited, reviewed and only then broadcast for public consumption, there was at least some hope that the slimy mud of vitriol would wear off, revealing the hard stone of keen insight (or the even denser muddy clump of idiocy) beneath. In our “need to know” “it’s my right” “just push the button” society, we bypass all that and get this. An ill-advised, angry spiel from someone who should know better. And by that I only partially mean “a Catholic apologist.” I mostly mean “an adult.”

Instant feedback gives a look at the ensuing fallout from such a statement; the comment box is full to the brim with a hackneyed debate consisting of some well-thought out and some emotionally fragile statements from various viewpoints. Unfortunately, not enough time passed for Butters to collect his own thoughts and calculate what a Christ-like approach might be. Instead he flits to and fro, pruning his rapidly withering fig tree with increasingly duller shears. Some of his comments include: (in response to another commenter) “You are a dangerous person and you have the blood of every unvaccinated child killed by preventable disease on your hands. I don't let dangerous accomplices to murder on my wall”, “…I do run into ignorant dangerous people who have the blood of thousands of unvaccinated children on their hands” and “Anti-vaxxer [sic] are helping to kill children… I don't take kindly to people who threaten the lives of my grand-daughters. Call that "selfserving" if you like. And call it "vitriol" if you like when I tell you that those who threaten the lives of my grand-children have no place on my wall”. After this has gone on for awhile he comes up with this statement: “I said nothing about non-vaccinating parents being killers. Parents may have all sort of legit reason for not vaccinating their child. What I say is that people who spread anti-vax propaganda have blood on their hands because they teach people who *should* be vaccinating their children to leave them exposed to diseases that kill them”. A nicety that in a more refined setting might not come across as splitting hairs so much as making fine distinctions. But the article he shared that began the whole debate bears the singular title Rich, Educated and Stupid Parents are Driving the Vaccination Crisis (for the record I altered it slightly; words and punctuation remain unaltered but I did capitalize some more words so it actually looked like, you know, a title).

How can we expect to evangelize when this is how we treat each other? I had a history professor who began her class informing us that while she would try to present her material as plainly as possible everyone has biases, both the historians who recorded the information and herself, the best we could do is recognize that and work around it. By assuming anyone disagreeing with our biases is either blindly (and idiotically) ignorant or criminally dangerous we do a disservice to ourselves, those we hope to educate, and logic itself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment